Jurassic Coast lovers share their favourite local haunts

PUBLISHED: 14:56 21 August 2017 | UPDATED: 14:56 21 August 2017

Cogden Beach - far from the madding crowds of summer

Cogden Beach - far from the madding crowds of summer


Vanessa Barlow writes about the coastline she calls home in her blog My Jurassic Coast. She talks to fellow Jurassic Coast lovers

Some of the country’s most iconic landscapes are found along the Jurassic Coast: Golden Cap - the highest point of the south coast; the distinctive arch of Durdle Door; the vast expanse of Chesil Beach and its tied island of Portland. Then there are the 71 layers of rock discovered by geologists in Lyme Regis, each one containing fossils of a different species of ammonite.

The 95 miles of coastline, from Exmouth in East Devon to Studland Bay and Old Harry Rocks in Dorset, takes you on a 185 million year walk through time, and the Jurassic Coast attracts thousands of visitors to the area every year.

But where do the people who live and work in this remarkable part of Dorset go to escape from the crowds? Where are their Jurassic gems? I asked some locals to share the special places that inspire their imagination.

Read Vanessa’s blog at myjurassiccoast.com.

Sam Scriven, Jurassic Coast Trust

Sam is Heritage and Conservation Programme Manager at the Jurassic Coast Trust. A large part of his childhood was spent fossil hunting and exploring the coastline he adores and now promotes through the Jurassic Coast Trust which ensures that, as England’s first and only natural World Heritage Site, it fulfils it’s potential to residents and visitors alike.

• Charmouth Beach & Heritage Coast Centre - The Trust works to safeguard the Jurassic Coast for future generations. One of the best educational spots is Charmouth Beach and Heritage Coast Centre on Lower Sea Lane where you can find out all about this remarkable coastline. charmouth.org/chcc.

• Fossil Hunting - The stretch between Bowleaze Cove and Ringstead Bay, especially along the coastal path, is where I went fossil hunting as a child. I also spent many lazy summer days rockpooling here too.

• St Aldhelm’s Head, Isle of Purbeck - St Aldhelm’s Head has fantastic views of the Jurassic Coast. It is also in easy reach of the spectacular dinosaur footprints at Keates Quarry near Spyway, as well as the eerie abandoned quarries at Winspit. This is a great area to walk in the footsteps of the dinosaurs which roamed Purbeck 145 million years ago. isleofpurbeck.com.

• The Square and Compass, Worth Matravers - Not far from St Aldhelm’s Head is what I consider to be one of the best pubs in Dorset - The Square and Compass (squareandcompasspub.co.uk). This is the place for enjoying home pressed cider, traditional pies, live music and, on a sunny day, their garden. It’s well worth a stop to refresh, as many coastal walkers will agree.

Find out more at jurassiccoast.org

Mark Hix (MBE), Owner of HIX Oyster & Fish House, Lyme Regis

Award-winning food writer, chef and restaurateur, Mark Hix was born and bred in West Bay. The Jurassic Coast is his manor, and the HIX Fish and Oyster House offers magnificent views over the historic harbour; its menu celebrates the freshest of seafood landed from Lyme Bay.

• The Alleyways Antique Centre, Bridport - I love going to The Alleyways as you’re never quite sure what you are going to find. I’m a collecta-holic so kitchenalia or special finds can always be discovered here if you forage well. bridportantiques.co.uk.

• The Pig on the Beach, Studland Bay - The Pig on the Beach is a proper Dorset getaway. It delivers on all counts: views, food and lifestyle experience. I always do a good walk on the beach before dinner, and again after if I am feeling energetic! thepighotel.com/on-the-beach.

• Steve Sweet’s Fishing Trips, Lyme Bay - If you like to fish then get on board Captain Steve Sweet’s Amaretto for a charter fishing trip in Lyme Bay. You have a good chance of catching cod, bass, pollack, mackerel, possibly flatties like turbot, brill or even the much prized local plaice. amarettosportfishing.co.uk.

• Ammonite Fine Foods, Lyme Regis - I like a deli that focuses on produce that surrounds us locally whether it’s cheese, preserves, pottery or local booze. Ammonite on Broad Street has all of that and more. Here you will find something special to take home and remember the West Country. ammonitedorset.co.uk.

Find out more at hixrestaurants.co.uk

Fran Norton, Artist and Academic

Fran has just completed her PhD at Arts University Bournemouth where she also works as a visiting tutor. Fran’s creative background includes working in theatre, film, photography and music. She has exhibited her work across the Jurassic Coast, an area which inspires her creative process every day.

• Sladers Yard, West Bay - This gallery with café, housed in an historic Georgian rope warehouse on West Bay Road, exhibits and sells high quality contemporary British art, craft and handmade furniture by leading artists, designers and makers (sladersyard.wordpress.com). While you’re in the area pop into Richard Wilson’s workshop in the Old Timber Yard to admire his colourful ceramics. chapelyard.co.uk.

• Portland Museum - Browse an eclectic and fascinating collection of curiosities at this characterful museum in the ancient hamlet of Wakeham, above the cove at Church Ope. Unusual treasures include carvings and oddities from the prison ship that used to be moored off the coast. Take your sketch book and camera and walk through the old quarries up the road. portlandmuseum.co.uk.

• Eeles Family Pottery, Mosterton - It’s worth heading inland to Mosterton on the Somerset/ Dorset border to see the woodfired stoneware, marbled porcelain and raku of the Eeles family. The whole family are all highly experienced and respected potters with distinctive styles. They also have a new store at Broad Street in Lyme Regis. eelespottery.co.uk.

• Wolfeton Riding House, Charminster - Also inland is this remarkable 16th century building, one of the oldest surviving riding schools in England and of considerable architectural importance (hha.org.uk). Wolfeton is undergoing a major restoration programme, so public access is limited, but by 2019 this venue will be a major art hub.

Find out more about Fran’s work at frannorton.net

Alice Meacham, Garden Designer

Alice, who lives in Lyme Regis, started out as a film maker and then trained in garden design at Bicton College, Devon and Kingston Maurward College, Dorchester, where she says her favourite spot was their Japanese Garden. Alice’s designs are visually stunning and seasonally crafted for year round bloom drawing on her extensive knowledge of growing plants in the South West.

• Groves Nurseries, Bridport - This much loved family run plant centre on West Bay Road on the outskirts of Bridport is home to the National Collection of Viola odorata violets. These are at their most beautiful and fragrant in spring when they are on display in a geodesic glasshouse. You can buy them all year round or via mail order. grovesnurseries.co.uk.

• Mapperton Gardens, Beaminster - The Jacobean manor house of Mapperton featured as Bathsheba Everdene’s farm in the 2015 film Far from the Madding Crowd, but it’s their Italianate gardens that are the real draw for me. Sculptural topiary and formal terracing drops down the valley to a wild woodland garden. mapperton.com.

• Langmoor and Lister Gardens, Lyme Regis Seafront - This BALI (British Association of Landscape Industries) award-winning scheme works brilliantly; Phormiums and hardy wind-tolerant shrubs form the backbone of the planting, with grasses and agapanthus reaching their zenith in the late summer- a slice straight out of America’s west coast. lymeregistowncouncil.gov.uk.

Find out more about Alice’s work at alicemeacham.co.uk

John Fisher, founder of Firepot Outdoor Food

John lives in a farmhouse in Ryall with his family and a selection of outdoor cooking facilities, all of which fuel his passion for preparing food in the great outdoors. John has hiked, camped and cooked all over the world. This prompted the launch of his range of award-winning one pot dehydrated meals – all made in Dorset – offering a tasty hot meal for the hardiest of adventurers in the most remote locations. Find out more at outdoorfood.com.

• Monarch’s Way: Ryall to Broadwindsor - The 615-mile Monarch’s Way trail follows the escape route of King Charles II after defeat at the Battle of Worcester in 1651, starting in Worcester it takes in 11 counties, ending at Shoreham-by-Sea on the West Sussex coast. One of the most beautiful stretches runs through the Marshwood Vale from Ryall to Broadwindsor. monarchsway.50megs.com.

• Cogden Beach - Owned by the National Trust, Cogden Beach is a steeply shelving, shingle beach on the coast road between Burton Bradstock and Abbotsbury. It has a tiny car park, which is almost always empty out of season. Stunning for a wild walk - especially in winter - this is the ultimate spot to avoid the crowds, get the firepot out and enjoy outdoor cooking. nationaltrust.org.uk.

• Experience a Purbeck Safari - Jurassic Safaris run Land Rover tours along Dorset’s hidden trails and byways. Their four hour Purbeck Safari – including a homemade picnic at Heaven’s Gate - is a great adrenaline fix off the beaten track.


A Jurassic Coast Dog’s Tale

Friday the Jack-Chi (an enchantingly diminutive combination of Jack Russell and Chihuahua) lives in Lyme Regis with her owners, and feline friend Dusty Springfield. Friday loves walks, rolling in Dorset badger poo and cuddles. The lively three-year-old is never happier than when scampering on a beach or sniffing around a cliff top walk. Friday occasionally heads to the city for a short break but is always relieved to return home to beautiful Dorset.

• Eype Beach - As I am only 20cm high, beach swimming can be a bit overwhelming. At Eype I can splash in the surf, enjoy a bracing cliff walk, run through streams and dig in the shingle. All things I love!

• Billy Winters, Weymouth - Located at Ferry Bridge Boatyard on Portland Road this is my favourite café, it has a lovely laid back surfer’s vibe. We usually sit outside tucking into delicious pulled pork buns (I clear up the debris!) whilst watching the kite surfers whizzing around in the bay. Facebook.com/billywintersbaranddiner.

• Stonebarrow, Charmouth - With big sweeping views and footpaths down to the Coast Path, this National Trust spot adjacent to Golden Cap is one of my favourite walks. I like the area furthest from the entrance along the track. nationaltrust.org.uk.

• West Bexington Beach - This is a quieter part of Chesil Beach, and it has endless burrowing opportunities. There’s a great new restaurant there too, The Club House, with tables outside. The food looks amazing (yet to try, no scraps so far).


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