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Sunday, 16 October 2011

Holiday on the Jurassic Coast

Just got back from a week in Lyme Regis, gorgeous little town with that scary sea defence The Cobb, (of French Lieutenant's Woman fame!) I managed to walk all the way to the end and back, (chickened out last time we visited and climbed down half way along). I really don't like high places and this is not just high, it slopes towards the sea too!  we stayed in a part of Coram Tower, named for Thomas Coram who started the Foundling Hospital, walked a lot and learned about the famous and historical figures associated with the town.
'Granny's Teeth' old steps leading to the high part of the Cobb

This shot was taken in 2009 in December. High and sloping!

This part of the coast is famous for the archaeological finds along it, there are hundreds and thousands of fossils, along the beaches and some  significant finds have been dug up here over the years.

We finally gave in and bought a rock hammer and went along the beach cracking pebbles open, mostly didn't find anything until we got right to the end of Monmouth Beach. There's a large area of limestone pavement here and sections of it have so many fossils it's astonishing, you can't step without treading on an ammonite.

These three photos show part of the pavement, every circular bump is another ammonite fossil!

Lovely bivalve shell fossil which forms a heart.

Fossil of a chambered shell.

We managed to chip a couple of fossil shells out of the smaller rocks and part of a crystal filled ammonite. I was really pleased to manage to chip two small sections of crinoid from one rock, this is also called sea lily and is related to modern star fish.

These two pictures show Crinoids, the top is a boulder covered in fossilised Crinoid remains, the star shape fascinates me, and this lovely clear single section is great.

some of the ammonites are huge and I wouldn't fancy running into one in the sea.

Four ammonites or fragments of ammonites.

Some of them have been covered with iron pyrites, or fool's gold, as the fossilising process has occurred, we found a large section with fool's gold on it, but the light was a bit rubbish for my little camera to take a good picture unfortunately. a lot of these fossil shells end up with quartz crystals in the chambers, very pretty.

When we weren't on the beaches or the harbour we spent a fair bit of time in the Town Mill area, a lovely redeveloped area with a working flour mill, a gallery, cheese monger, little craft galleries and individual designers shops. Among the cafes and restaurants is the Town Mill Bakery, this is a fabulous place, the cafe is a help yourself affair, two long tables with benches either side, the food is laid out on a third table and the plates are flat wooden boards. Bowls of butter and jam are left on the tables to be passed between the customers, along with jugs of milk and bowls of sugar.
 Behind the food table is the working bakery with busy people kneading, rolling and baking. All the food is either eat in or takeaway.
 Loaves to buy are laid out on a side table, regular sized loaves in a lovely variety, and giant loaves that can be bought whole or in halves or quarters.
They also sell jams and pickles and the jugs and egg cups, which I believe have come from the pottery in the Town Mill Square, are also for sale.  We bought a quarter of a turmeric, carrot and fennel loaf, delicious with some cheese from around the corner. A wonderful friendly place, customers almost have to talk to each other, to get sugar or jam passed along, music is loudish and funky and it's definitely not the place for quiet reflection, but the staff chat and make you welcome, a very jolly place and a great concept.

We had a great week and I even found some little bits of sea glass among the fossils and bought a length of old lace from a great little vintage clothes shop. 
I thoroughly recommend Lyme Regis as a place to visit, we had intended to go  along the coast a bit more, but had such a nice time in the town we only managed to go to West Bay for an afternoon, Forde Abbey near Chard for a day (needs a whole blog to itself) and  Charmouth on our way home. We also had a nice bonus in the shape of a Baroque music concert with Ensemble Amaranthos at the Marine Theatre.

as a post scriptI was surprised how many idiots think that chipping away at a very fragile cliff face is a sensible thing to do, I saw a family with a child of eight or nine perched on a heap of slate under a rock overhang chipping busily away, obviously some people think the warnings don't apply to them! Their dogs however stayed sensibly down on the beach and barked constantly up at them, perhaps they should have taken notice !

This is what the cliffs above the beach are like, I'm amazed they stay up as long as they do, there was a major rock slide between Lyme and Charmouth in 2008, completely blocking the beach, and still they chip away merrily..........

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