No, the Jurassic Coast is not a theme park in which hundreds of dinosaurs come to life and terrorize Jeff Goldblum.
It’s a 95-mile stretch of English Channel coastline, located in Dorset and East Devon. It’s a World Heritage Site because coastal erosion has exposed millions of fossils from three geological periods, including the Jurassic period.
Our first day in the area, we walked part of the South-West Coast Path through farm fields and up onto a headland known as Golden Cap, which is the highest point on the Coast. We had gorgeous views over farmland
and along the coast toward Weymouth in the east
and Burton Bradstock and West Bay in the west
When we walked down to the beach, Julian was pleased as punch to dip his toes in the English Channel for the very first time.
Nearby, a family enjoyed a typical English day at the beach. Seriously. One of my earliest memories of England is my brother and me huddled in heavy sweaters on a pebble beach in Norfolk, drinking hot tea out of a thermos. These people opted for a wind break too.
The town of Lyme Regis lies at the western end of the Jurassic Coast. It’s a tourist destination – especially on the weekends when visitors descend from London.
Initially, we thought these pastel-coloured huts were for changing into your swim togs. When we peeked inside an open door, we saw a couple enjoying the lunch they had made on their Coleman stove. They also had managed to squeeze in two deck chairs. Yes, they’re as tiny as they look, maybe 4 x 6 ft. With the doors open, you get an unobstructed view of the Channel. Well, except for the masses of tourists…
Continuing the literary theme, Lyme Regis was the home of John Fowles who wrote The French Lieutenant’s Woman. Hands up if you remember Meryl Streep wrapped in her black cloak while she waited at the end of the Cobb for the return of her lieutenant. (The Cobb is the harbour wall, built to protect the village from sea storms)
Bonus points if you can name the Jane Austen novel in which these Cobb steps figured.
Here’s a hint:
The following day, we ended our Jurassic Coast tour with a visit to Chesil Beach, made famous by Ian McEwan in his Booker prize-winning novella, On Chesil Beach. It was a much nicer day, as you can tell.
Julian was interested in the beach because it’s a 29-km long shingle (or pebble) beach, which has been the cause of many shipwrecks. Behind it is a hollow area that is filled with brackish water, called Fleet Lagoon. Julian had read that “wreckers” used to lure ships onto the beach where they could be easily plundered.
I’m told that the difference between a wrecker and a pirate is that pirates plunder from boats.