Rambling Rose: Travel Blog
Katie’s Fantastic Jurassic Dorset Adventure
IV: Fossil Hunting & Cliff Climbing - Seatown, West Bay & Burton Bradstock
Inspired by Mary Anning, I'm off to hunt fossils. Following the advice of a friendly fossil shopkeeper in Lyme Regis, I pitch up at Seatown, near the village of Chideock near Bridport at high tide (11 am) to see what the sea has brought in. The tiny hamlet clings to the mouth of the river Winniford, formed of the Anchor Inn, a cluster of cottages, a campsite and spa shop and a few food vans. Seatown’s seclusion makes it a favourite for smugglers, fossil hunters and dog walkers. The shingly beach gives way steeply to the magnetic pull of the waves and you can easily get knocked off your feet just paddling. The cliffs here, formed of siltstone, sandstone and clay, are definitely on the move - there was a huge landslide here just a couple of weeks ago - sections are fenced off and it's not safe to sit at their base.
I’m searching for some treasure to take back to my fossil-loving nephew, aged 9 and it is not long before I am covered in the soft clay from the cliffs that yield me a handful of belemnite and ammonite remnants. There is a friendly atmosphere amongst hunters of all ages - a proud grandad shows me a perfect pyrite ammonite he has found with his grandson. There are people who are well-prepared, carrying chisels and hammers and others just doing their best with their hands like me and lots of excited chat about who’s found what.
Clay cliffs - fossil hunting in Seatown
To warm myself up for tomorrow’s coastal walk to Durdle Door, I take the coastal path up and over the cliffs to West Bay. Seatown rapidly disappears behind me, as a picnic blanket of villages and fields rolls out to the cloud-dappled horizon. Friendly walkers share greetings as we bob up and down over the peaks and troughs of the cliffs.
Seatown disappearing from view
West Bay is a popular mini-complex of seaside homes, cafes and shops circling the River Brit’s return to the shingly shore topped with a lion’s mane of golden cliffs. Striated sediments of sandstone and limestone, known as Bridport Sand Formation, built up on the seabed over 860,000 years in the Early Jurassic Period. Originally blue-grey, pyrite within the rock oxidises in sunlight to form the leonine golden glow. Just after I returned to London, there was a huge landslide at these cliffs - fortunately no one was hurt - but it's a reminder that the earth's story is far from set in stone.
After a snack break next to a beady-eyed seagull, I roam on and over the lion's back to catch the bus home from Burton Bradstock, a traditional thatched village decked in summer flowers marking the start of Chesil Beach, an 18-mile rugged stretch of shingle beach, backed by Fleet Lagoon. As sea levels rose at the end of the last Ice Age, storms whirled piles of eroded shingle into a formation ranging from large shingle at Portland to fine shingle at West Bay. Apparently, smugglers used the size of the stones to navigate by. It seems to go on forever as the bus wends its way back to Weymouth.
Tomorrow I'll be following the coastal path all the way to Durdle Door….
Views from the South West Coastal Path
Rose-clad cottage, Burton Bradstock