The Jurassic Coast, Dorset

For the second year, non essential international travel is ill advised.  We have therefore followed on from 2020, and spent the past six months taking day hikes in and around London, and enjoying the world famous sights of the city we’ve grown up in.

However, my birthday weekend threw up an opportunity for our first break away, so we organised a three night family holiday to the Jurassic Coast. Last year I had such a lovely stay at Gloucester House Hotel, Weymouth, that I decided to make this our base once again. Jonathan’s and Karen’s hospitality was just as warm and welcoming as before, and it was definitely the right choice for my family.

Our short trip was incredible. We lucked out with the weather, and the whole experience reminded me a bit of our visit to the Amalfi Coast a few years back. We didn’t spend much time in Weymouth itself, but an evening stroll on the deserted beach on the first night, got our mini break off to a perfect start. The kids were excited just being on the sand, and the simplicity of us being alone by the sea filled me with a real sense of peace.

Our plans over the following three days took us first West, then East. We followed an itinerary we had designed to allow us to see as much as possible, without feeling too rushed. For us, one of the key draws to this region, was the promise of fossils, and so we made this our first priority. A couple of hours scavenging along the foreshore of Charmouth Beach while the tide was out, yielded a small haul, which we brought home as our souvenirs. I found fossil hunting quite therapeutic; although we did it as a family, the concentration required to spot the fossils and gemstones amongst the shingle gives it a slightly solitary quality, and when you find a hidden treasure, the gratification is instant and lasting. From there, we drove to the lovely seaside town of Lyme Regis, where we stopped for lunch, before walking beyond Monmouth Beach, to the ‘Ammonite Pavement’. Here, the remains of thousands of ammonites, an extinct group of marine molluscs, are embedded in the limestone ledge, forming a spectacular graveyard of fossils. The landscape here is unique, and is as interesting as any I’ve seen on my travels around the world.

The following day, we took ourselves to the very start of the Jurassic Coast, to see Old Harry Rocks, supposedly named after the Devil according to one legend, and a pirate smuggler in another story. Old Harry Rocks were created through thousands of years of erosion by the sea and were originally a part of the c65million year old chalk ridge-line that runs across the south coast joining up with the Needles on the Isle of Wight (which we will be hopefully visiting in just a few weeks). After an al fresco lunch stop at the Bankes Arms Inn, we then walked down to South Beach on the South West Coast Path. We spent the afternoon on the clean sandy beach, which lies in the sheltered Studland Bay, and has the woodland as it’s backdrop, giving it a very tropical feel.

Before heading home on the Monday, we visited the most well known geological landmark on the Jurassic Coast, Durdle Door. From the carpark, we took the steep hike up to the viewpoint, humorously named Scratchy Bottom. With the Man O’War Beach and the famous arch for our view, we ate our picnic lunch, and soaked up the beauty of our surroundings. To round off our holiday, we walked the 1.7miles to Lulworth Cove, where we sat on the white stone beach, while the girls entertained themselves endlessly, throwing pebbles at the stone pile they made for themselves as a target.

The Jurassic Coast has been inscribed by UNESCO as England’s only natural World Heritage Site, for the outstanding universal value of it’s rocks, fossils and landforms. Having seen many of the world’s natural wonders first hand, I fully appreciate why they felt this place was special, it’s an amazing feeling to realise how close to home it is.