Much of the Dorset coastline forms England's only Natural World Heritage Site known as the 'Jurassic Coast'. World Heritage status was achieved because the Jurassic Coast provides a unique insight into Earth Sciences. It shows a geological 'walk through time' spanning the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. World Heritage Sites are places of 'outstanding universal value' selected by UNESCO, and the Dorset Coast is the only natural site in the UK and one of only 197 globally.
The Jurassic Coast stretches from Old Harry Rocks near Poole in the East, to Orcombe Point near Exmouth in the West. The Jurassic coast is significant because several factors have led to rocks formed millions of years ago to be exposed for us to see.
Normally over time new layers of sediment form on top of the existing ground level, which is why archaeologists have to dig down to find historical artifacts. Obviously fossils which are millions of years old should therefore be buried very deep. However, the Jurassic coast is on an area of the earth's crust which has tipped over, raising some very old layers of rock above what we now have as sea level. Ice ages and erosion have then leveled the surface, so the newest deposits have been carried away.
Most significantly, because the area is still tilted, the western most end has the oldest rocks nearest the surface from the Triassic period some 250 million years ago, while at the eastern end the rocks are mere babies at 65 million years old.
Natural erosion is constantly occurring along the Jurassic Coast, leading to new fossils being exposed in the cliffs and washed onto the beaches. The area around Charmouth and Lyme Regis is the best place to go looking for fossils, and many fossil walks are run on Charmouth beach, both by the local Heritage Centre, and by local experts.
The 95 miles of the Jurassic Coast are free for everyone to explore. Whether you want to go fossil hunting around Charmouth, or just enjoy the many coastal walks, there is always something new to find, or another spectacular view to enjoy.
From the red cliffs of Devon from the Triassic Period, to the Chalk of East Dorset from the Cretacious Period, the Jurassic Coast has wonderful sights and unique coastline.
Visit Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door, and see how the rock has been squashed and squeezed resulting in spectacular shapes and patterns.
Hunt for fossils on the beaches around Charmouth, and take away a piece of 180 million year old history.
See the beautiful colours and patterns in the pebbles at Budleigh Salterton.
Wherever you are on the Jurassic Coast there is something to see and do.
Hensleigh House Hotel. A small Charmouth and Lyme Regis Hotel, 300 metres from the Jurassic Beach in the unspoilt village of Charmouth, and 3 minute walk to shops, pubs and restaurants. Hensleigh House has it's own car park and is 2 miles from the centre of Lyme Regis. The 8 comfortable rooms include twins, doubles and two family suites, each with two adjoining bedrooms.