GeoText Expedition 6 – Chasing Geography Textbooks In A Camper Van: Lyme Regis, Dorset


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‘Ammon-lights’ – Lyme Regis.

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001While travelling through Dorset, I always find time to visit Lyme Regis – one of my favourite coastal towns. I used to use Lyme for a GCSE fieldwork on a regular basis, it being an excellent location to study coastal landforms and coastal management. Numerous photographs of the town and the surrounding coastline appeared in the textbooks I used in my classroom, including some that helped form a detailed case study in one of the last textbooks I used before I retired – GCSE Geography for OCR B from Oxford Press.




A wide range of management techniques that have been put into place in recent years to protect the town from the action of the sea. The Lyme Regis coastal protection scheme is well documented, and was initiated by the council in the early 1990s after Lyme has experienced over time serious loss and damage to properties, landslip and erosion of the foreshore, and breaches to its sea defences.

A summary of the management plan is available here:


AGM15_Nick Browning


I have a large photograph collection of work carried out for each of the management phases completed so far, and was keen to add some new photographs of the latest phase – phase four – which has recently been completed. It focuses on protecting homes, roads and infrastructure on the eastern side of the town from coastal erosion and landslips.

A summary of phase four is available here:

SCOPAC Presentation June 2013 Chris Hill D&D


DSCN0910A newly constructed sea wall now protects around 390 metres of coastline between Church Cliff and East Cliff for the next 50 years. In addition, up to 480 homes have been saved from damage or loss of access and major utility pipes and cables have also been protected.



The new scheme is well illustrated by some information boards at the head of the beach:

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I now look forward to visiting Lyme again in the near future to monitor the final phase of the coastal protection works for the town. This is Phase V, and will focus on stabilisation and repairs to Lyme Regis’ historic Cobb harbour.


Fossils on Monmouth Beach

After this, I headed for Monmouth Beach, to the west of the Cobb. This is my favourite fossil beach, and there are numerous examples of ammonites, gryphea (‘Devil’s toe nails’), fragments of crinoids and plant fossils to be found here – although belemnites are not commonly found. Above the beach are Ware Cliffs -the base formed by layers of pale grey limestone and hardened dark shale of the Blue Lias. These cliffs are quite unstable, and there is much evidence of recent collapse – but as at Charmouth, it is not necessary to risk the dangers of rock falls as fossil fragments can be found all along the shore.


Although I never seem to find quite as many specimens here as I do at Charmouth, there are always lots of ‘giant finds’ to discover and enjoy. Some of the ammonites here are far too large to transport away, even if it were possible to break them down a little from their parent rock. A camera proves to be more useful than a hammer while fossil hunting at this location.

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Monmouth Beach gets its name from the Duke of Monmouth, illegitimate son of Charles II, who landed here in 1685 with 82 soldiers in what turned out to be an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow King James II. Monmouth was subsequently defeated at the Battle of Sedgemoor and beheaded at the Tower of London. In retaliation, notorious Judge Jeffries ordered that 12 locals be hanged on the beach as a warning. It didn’t work, as William of Orange overthrew the King in what came to be known as the ‘Glorious Revolution’ a few years later.


If the timing of your visit to Monmouth Beach is right, you can spend time exploring the huge ammonite pavement that is exposed at low tide. Here, a graveyard of closely-packed ammonites of the genus Coriniceras can be seen. Further north, towards Seven Rock Point, a ‘Devil’s pavement’ of gryphea specimens can also be studied.

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GeoText Expedition 5 – Chasing Geography Textbooks In A Camper Van: Charmouth, Dorset.

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Unstable cliffs at Charmouth

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001At the beginning of July, we took the camper van to spend some time on the Dorset Coast. I wanted to include a visit to Charmouth, as I recall using an image in my lessons from an ‘old favourite’ textbook titled “Landforms: An Introduction To Geomorphology”, by Ian Galbraith and Patrick Wiegand.

The image was of cliff landslides in the area known as ‘Cain’s Folly’, at the back of the beach at Charmouth:


In order to make a full day of exploration, we parked the van at Charmouth and caught a service bus along the coast to West Bay – setting for the popular TV series ‘Broadchurch’. The plan was to enjoy a walk along the south west coast path, climbing Golden Cap (the highest cliff on the south coast) along the way, before arriving at the beach at Charmouth.

 ScreenHunter_01 Jul. 25 16.56I often use the ‘Strava’ app on my mobile ‘phone to record the details of my walks – it is always interesting to see how far the walk measured, and the changes in elevation made along the way. The details from this app can then be easily transferred to ‘Relive’ – another app on the ‘phone – which quickly produces an animated 3D map of the journey:


We started our walk at West Bay, where the shingle beach is backed by the impressive sheer wall of East Cliff –  horizontal beds of golden Bridport sands alternating with nodules of more resistant calcareous sandstone, which jut out giving the cliffs a serrated appearance.

IMG_2847After a quick look at the rock armour sea defences, we continued along the coast path to pass  Eype Mouth before embarked on the first steep climb of the walk to the top of Thorncombe Beacon. From here, there was a great view back towards West Bay, and further eastwards along the Jurassic coast towards Weymouth and Portland.


IMG_2865Continuing westwards, we stopped for lunch at the Anchor Inn at Seatown. I was particularly taken by this sign I saw there, and wondered if some of the beach-side cafes in north Devon would adopt this scheme. I intend to show this picture of the sign to some of the owners I know, and try to persuade them to join in.


IMG_2873After our refreshment stop, it was time to slog up the zig-zag path to the top of Golden Cap. The effort was rewarded with a tremendous view from the flat summit in both directions along the Jurassic coast.

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The name is an apt description for this headland, with the exposed upper greensand (from the lower Cretaceous) on the seaward side producing the characteristic golds and yellows of the Cap, a sharp contrast with the grey mudstones and clays of neighbouring strata.


 After dropping down to pass the ancient lost village of St Gabriel’s – once a thriving medieval community before the Black Death took its toll – we headed on towards Charmouth. Although we were able to get quite close to Cain’s Folly – the section of cliffs featured in the original textbook photograph – part of the coast path here  has now been diverted inland over Stonebarrow Hill to avoid some recent cliff collapse.

 Photo 11-07-2018, 12 46 55Eventually, we were able to reach the beach at Charmouth, which is one of the finest fossil beaches in the country. A series of mud flows and mud slides (I like the term ‘mud glaciers’) have pulled numerous Jurassic ammonites and dinosaur fossils out of the cliffs and dumped them across the beach. We started with a quick visit to the excellent Heritage Centre which is housed on the top floor of a former cement works. There are excellent displays, samples, and films here about fossils and the features to be found on this stretch of the Jurassic Coast. Throughout the year, guide walks leave from here to explore the beach, and are well worth joining. Below the Heritage Centre is a really well-stocked fossil shop, with plenty of locally found samples for sale.

IMG_4307We spent some time ourselves searching for fossils on the beach – and although I didn’t have much luck (managing to bash my thumb with my geological hammer), Mrs B soon gathered together a collection of ammonite and belemnite specimens to take back for our Grandson. Later in the year, we intend to bring him along with us, and give him the chance to collect some fossils himself.


After a short walk along the beach, I was able to take a closer look at the unstable cliffs at Cain’s Folly, and compare the present day view to the original textbook photograph.

Tired legs walked us back to the camper van, but on the way, I was amused to read this sign on a bridge over the river Char. Don’t mess with the bridges in Dorset!:

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Natural Hazards Data For The Classroom

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I came across these resources on natural disasters on a web site run by Munich Reinsurance. There are a number of documents that can be downloaded for free – and they contain a lot of useful statistical information that might be helpful in the classroom.

Link to the site is:

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Google Expeditions VR Resources

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Those of you that have engaged with Google’s VR Expeditions may be interested in this Google Doc that summarises all of the locations that are now covered by this service. More are being added all the time, and the list is already pretty impressive!



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Join In With The New Craze Of ‘Plogging’

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On a recent trip to Iceland, I learnt of a new outdoor activity – ‘plogging’. This is a new exercise trend which combines jogging with picking up litter. The activity has been promoted by the President himself, who has been trying to clean up the area around his home in Bessastadir. The trend actually originated in Sweden, but has become very popular in Iceland – with its own dedicated Facebook page where members show pictures of their efforts. Might it catch on in the UK?

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OS Maps 3D Fly-Through Tool


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The OS Maps app now contains a new feature for Premium customers – a 3D fly-through tool. This is a wonderful addition, and really helpful in visualising a chosen walking route before you actually step outside. It produces an almost cinematic overview of the selected route, along with elevation information and names of points of interest. Could be really useful for risk assessments!

The fly-through works on all of the OS Maps routes on the web site, and is currently available via your PC or your ‘phone browser – but not yet the app.

If you haven’t already signed up to this service – do not hesitate to do so. You can use a range of basic functions for free as a registered user, or you can sign up to enjoy all the benefits of premium subscription from just £2.99 a month.

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Further details are available at:

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Could One Of Your Students Be The ‘RGS Young Geographer Of The Year?’

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There is still plenty of time for your students to enter the RGS Young Geographer of the Year competition. This year’s theme gives students an opportunity to explore the geography of the Arctic, and discover what makes this polar environment so unique.

PDF Entry Form: Young-Geographer-of-the-Year-2018-Competition-Guidelines_1

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