Lyme Regis:For fossils and literary association

Lyme Regis is at the end of Dorset's bit of the Jurassic Coast as beyond here Devon takes over.

It is a town built on unstable land with ongoing efforts being made to keep the land down to the sea safe.

The most recent efforts are the installation of over 1000 piles above the beach in Langmoor Gardens. as well as new sea defences.

Getting into the town by car is a bit of a problem as the streets are narrow and there is little parking.If you are coming from the east along the A35 look for the A3052 turn off to Lyme Regis then look for the car park on the left just past the town football club.

lyme regis

Or get the Jurassic Coast Bus X53/4 which runs from Poole to Exeter.See the timetable here The views from the top of the double decker bus are spectacular.

Once parked you then walk down quite a steep hill into the town centre.You would do well to start at the Tourist information Centre located at in Church Street at the bottom of the hill you have just walked down.

Behind this is the Marine Theatre used for plays and the Jazz Festival which takes place on the first weekend in July.You can buy tickets from the Tourist Information Office on 01297 442138.

Just past the Tourist Information Office is the town Museum for which there is a £3 entry fee for adults children free.Here you can find out about Mary Annning the famous fossil collector and Jane Austin who visited the town regularly.She set part of one of her novels Persuasion in Lyme Regis.

lyme regis cobb

Crossing the Buddle Bridge you will reach the Cobb Gate and from here start your walk along Marine Parade.There is access to the beach and a view of the famous Cobb.This whole section of the town has been redeveloped as part of the land stabilisation in Langmoor Gardens mentioned above.

Alas the amusement arcade has been retained but then so have the colourful beach huts.

Keep going and you will reach the Cobb which functions as both a harbour and a breakwater.Much of what you see today was built in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries using Portland stone,

The high wall, made famous in the film The French Lieutenant's Woman a book by John Fowles then a film starring Meryl Streep, was built in 1819-20.

Watch yourself when you are on this wall as it slopes, is uneven, and often wet from the pounding waves.

Lyme Bay

As you look out to sea take in the massive sweep of Lyme Bay which extends from Portland all the way to Start Point in Devon.During the 14th to 16th centuries the bay would have been full of ships leaving for Africa and the New World.But decline set in when ports such as Lyme could not take the big ships and smuggling became common.

These days diving is very popular in the bay particularly two wrecks the Bay Gitano a 3000 ton steamer sunk in 1918 and the Rotorua a 110 ton liner sunk in 1917. Blue Turtle is one dive company that operates in the area.

Famous People

This being the Jurassic Coast it is no surprise that it's most famous figure was a fossil collector Mary Anning who spent her time on the beaches around Lyme Regis discovering a complete plesiosaur and ichthyosaur.

She helped popularise geology and was a close friend of Sir Henry De la Beche the founder of the British Geological Survey.

The best beaches for fossil hunting are Monmouth Beach and East Cliff Beach between Lyme and Charmouth.There is a museum called Dinosaurland in Coombe Street displaying fossils skeletons and models of Dinosaurs.Go to their website here for more information.

In the literary field Jane Austen visited Lyme Regis on many occasions with her family and much of Persuasion is set in the town notably when the character Louisa Musgrove jumped and fell from the steps of the Cobb.

John Fowels was a resident of the town and wrote a number of books the most well known one being The French Lieutenant's Woman made into the film of the same name.

Charmouth

The best place for fossil collecting is Charmouth to the east of Lyme Regis.You will have to get back in your car or the bus to get there.If you are fit however then take the short cut along the beach.

The best place to look is amongst the pebbles and rocks when the tide is falling.

You can hire hammers on the beach but don't start hacking into the cliff face as it is unstable.Major landslides do happen.The largest landslide in Europe took place at Black Ven between Lyme Regis and Charmouth in 1958,so watch out!

If you cannot find any fossils go to the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre next to the car park on the beach.There is a cafe on the ground floor, also a shop selling all manner of fossils,including lots and lots of ammonites.

Then go upstairs where some of the bigger fossil finds are on display particularly the lower Jurassic marine reptiles.

Before leaving the area stop and take in Golden Cap to the east.At 191 metres (614 feet) it is the highest point on the south coast of England.There of seven formations of rock strata rise from the sea topped by Upper Greensand.It's iron content has oxidised to give a distinctive golden colour.

The best place to start climbing it from is Seatown which also has an excellent pub the Anchor Inn described here.

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