West Dorset World Heritage Coast
West Dorset. section of the World Heritage site can be seen as these different
- Lyme Regis. Mary Anning (1799-1847) lived in Lyme Regis
and has been described as 'the greatest fossilist who ever lived'. Mary collected
fossils in the cliffs around Lyme and Charmouth as a child, working with her
father Richard and her brother Joseph. Mary Anning, with her family, is responsible
for a number of exceptional fossil discoveries. They include the first ichthyosaur
fossil in 1814, the first complete plesiosaur in 1824, and the first British
find of a flying reptile in 1828. Her story is on display a the
Lyme Regis Museum including her hammer. In addition Many of her early
finds are on display at the Natural
History Museum in London. A recent important find at Lyme Regis is a near
complete 3 metre skeleton of a Scelidosaurus, a species of dinosaur unique
to Lyme Regis and Charmouth.
- Charmouth. The rocks that make up the cliffs at Charmouth
are rich in fossils of animals that swam in the Jurassic seas. The coast here
erodes rapidly resulting in thousands of fossils being fed onto the beaches
from the landslides in the surrounding cliffs, especially after winter storms.
The remains that have been found here since the eighteenth century represent
one of the richest slices of life in Jurassic times anywhere in the world.
Charmouth is the best and safety place to look for fossils in the World Heritage
Site. Sharp eyes are the best tools for fossil hunting and it is recommended
to look carefully amongst the rocks and pebbles on the beach when the tide
is falling. Common finds are ammonites, belemnites, or possibly a fragment
of ichthyosaur bone. The Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre is an essential part
of any visit, and provides displays, information and advice on safe collection.
At Charmouth, rocks from 12 of the different ammonite zones can be found.
- West Bay is a fine example of a developing coast defence,
and is closely linked with Chesil Beach. Exposed to the full force of south
westerly storms, West Bay has suffered from the weather. The Great Storm of
1824 was particularly destructive. Esplanade over the last 140 years has progressively
lost its beach. A huge pulse of shingle moved eastwards at the end of the
last ice age and built the beach over just a few thousand years. Today, the
beach has lost its supply of shingle and is in decline.
- Chesil Beach is a good example of a barrier beach. It
is made up of cobbles, pebbles and shingle and has stood up to the full force
of the Atlantic for thousands of years. It protects the Fleet, which is the
largest tidal lagoon in Britain and is of international importance for its
birds and marine wildlife. Chesil and The Fleet are owned by the Ilchester
Estate. The beach is over 17 miles (28 km) long and increases in height towards
the east, reaching a maximum of over 15 metres near Portland. The stones also
increase in size towards the east. Pebbles move east along the beach driven
by the action of the wind and waves.
Devon and Dorset World Heritage