After our mouth watering breakfast at Swan Hill House we set out to explore the Jurassic Coast of Dorset. Our first stop was Lyme Regis an historic seaside town famous for its association with fossil hunters. It was here Mary Anning collected and sold her ‘curiosities’ (ammonites) and made her astounding discoveries including the first known remains of an icthyosaur. “The Cob” or walkway out from the beach is also famous from the movie “The French Lieutenant’s Woman” .
Today it is also a popular spot with English holiday makers who make the most of a small sandy beach, adjacent to the Monmouth Pebbly Beach. It was fun watching the beachgoers and comparing their experience to our beach days – so different to our Aussie beaches and yet the families were having a wonderful time with some serious spades for digging their sand castles …I had beach spade envy!
The Jurassic Coast is listed as a World Heritage Area in the same category as our Great Barrier Reef. Areas along the great cliffs are being gradually eroded and landslides. Fortunately there is evidence of some reinforcement works in the area between Charmouth and Lyme Regis. The fossils, found in abundance along the coastline, provide evidence of how animals and plants evolved over 185 million years including the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods and have contributed greatly to the study of palaeontology over the last two centuries.
We spent the day visiting lots of different beaches along the Jurassic coast including Chesil Beach, West Bay ( setting for 5th edition BBC Broadchurch series ), Seaton, Beer and Sidmouth. Most of the bays are resort towns featuring pebbly beaches, bathing boxes, fishing boats and promenades where the English love to enjoy traditional fish and chips or ice-creams just as we do at home. The villages and towns feature a variety of charming thatched cottages, regency terraces, traditional English pubs and quaint shops. The laneways are windy and narrow and you really need to be very alert for approaching traffic, quickly adjusting to the need to pass on single lane roads.
Our favourite seaside village was Beer …famous not for its ale but for Beer Lace. The lace makers were Huguenot immigrants and their lace was so beautiful Queen Victoria chose their lace for her wedding. The story of Queen Victoria’s lace is found here http://www.devonlaceteachers.co.uk/queen-victorias-wedding-lace.html
Beer, like many of the other seaside bays is also infamous for stories of smugglers. The village of Beer was the headquarters of a gang of smugglers led by Jack Rattenbury, who was once dubbed ‘The Rob Roy of the West’. Suffice to say there are lots of caves and cottages where contraband was stored or changed hands.
We would love to have had more time to explore this fascinating part of the world. Hopefully we will return again sometime.