England’s Jurassic Coast


England’s Tropical Coast, is England’s 1st Natural World Heritage Site, stretching 95 mts from East Devon to East Dorset, the coastline features millions of years of geological history.

Famous landmarks include : LULWORTH COVE, CHESIL BEACH and a natural sea arch at DURDLE DOOR.  The coastline also has what used to be a tropical sea ——— 155million years ago.  The remarkable piece ——— at KIMMERIDGE BAY, Dorset, is a band of limestone that forms a large “pavement” across a section of the bay.  The rocks were once the “floor” of a tropical sea full of pre-historic life.


The fossils in this part of England include a wide range of marine creatures, thanks to the rock having once been the soft sediment of a sea floor.  An ammonite (a cephalopod) that became extinct at the same time as the dinosaurs some 65million years ago ——— was found at KIMMERIDGE BAY.  Other fossils that have been found, in the area, include the 8-ft long skull of a marine reptile that was larger than a city bus and lived 155million years ago, the 3-toed footprints of a 180million-year-old MEGALOSAUR and the still-frightening remains of a sharp-toothed flying PTEROSAUR.


Approximately 140million years old, the “iconic natural sea arch” at DURDLE DOOR was formed by millennia of sea erosion.  But the reason it still stands at all is thanks to being made up of PORTLAND LIMESTONE, which is much tougher than the other types of rock found nearby.  Still, the arch won’t be visible forever.  Just as the sea shaped DURDLE DOOR, it will one day begin to swallow it.


At MAN OF WAR, a picturesque bay next to DURDLE DOOR, the water is of vibrant colours.  Due to the abundance of chalk in the surrounding cliffs, the sea turns milky turquoise near the shoreline.

There’s  nothing quite like seeing 155 million-year-old limestone “layered like a cake”, as seen at KIMMERIDGE BAY.  For geologists, one of the most fascinating aspects of the Jurassic coast, is that you can see both old and new rocks ——– and not only banded by layer, but even on the surface of the ground.  Normally, we see the newest layers of rock on the earth’s surface ; older layers are deeper down.  But some 100million years ago, earth movements “tilted” the coastline here, exposing TRIASSIC & JURASSIC rocks ——– and fossils —- up to 250million years ago.


The Jurassic Coast’s  history isn’t all millions of years in the past.  Far more recent ——- though still old by human standards, is CORFE CASTLE near WAREHAM in Dorset.  It has been recorded in historical documents that King Edward paid a visit to the castle in March 978, so historians estimate it was first built more than 1000yrs ago.  The crumbling fortification is also a significant reminder of the English Civil War.  Military forces, loyal to the English Parliament, besieged and nearly demolished the entire castle, which was a stronghold of King Charles –1 , in the 1640s.


Away from the bustling tourist scene, this coastline is still a “living breathing place” for the local population.  The cove alone is still home to commercial fishing as well as scallop diving and leisure trips.

———Howard Timberlake (BBC)

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