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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About devongeography

Head of Geography and Assistant Vice Principal at South Molton Community College, North Devon. Exeter Chiefs supporter!
This entry was posted in Curriculum, Fieldwork, General Geo, Human World, Physical World, Teachers and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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