Walking the Jurassic Coast
Dorset and East Devon - The walks, the rocks, the fossils
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This guidebook includes 30 walks on the Jurassic Coast of Devon and Dorset. Covering the coast between Exmouth and Bournemouth, these delightful routes range from 3 to 16 miles (5 to 24km), exploring and explaining the spectacular geology of this World Heritage area with clear, easily understood descriptions, cross-sections and timelines.
- Year-round. Late July and August can be busy on beaches and car parks. Winter (October to March) has more challenging weather and can be muddy underfoot.
- Budleigh Salterton, Sidmouth, Beer/Seaton, Lyme Regis/Charmouth, Bridport, Dorchester, Portland, Cerne Abbas, Lulworth, Swanage
- Most walks are on good, clear paths. Coast path ascents and descents can be steep but are short. The longer walks, up to 28km, require physical fitness but many shorter ones allow time for studying the rockforms and fossils.
- Must See
- Nearly 100 miles of clifftops. Fossil-hunting at Lyme Regis. The quartzite pebbles of Budleigh Salterton. Tree trunks of 150 million years ago at Lulworth Cove. The Cretaceous sea that carved right across England. Chalk downland and a rude man at Cerne Abbas. The Purbeck crumple zone caused by Italy's impact with Europe.
The Jurassic Coast of Devon and Dorset, stretching between Exeter and Bournemouth, is a geological wonderland. Natural wonders like Chesil Beach, Durdle Door and fossils so numerous you'll be tripping over them, combine with southern England's rolling Downs, tiny villages, beaches and sunny summers to provide a stunning and awe-inspiring landscape to explore.
The 30 walks in this guide let walkers discover the best and most spectacular areas on the coast. The walks are between 5 and 25km (3 to 16 miles) and provide a range suitable for all abilities. The guide has been divided into areas: Devon's Red Beds, the Lias, Chesil Beach, Chalk walks (Lulworth and inland) and the Isle of Purbeck.
The geological descriptions are accompanied by strata diagrams, geological timelines, explanations of the creation of the various sedimentary rocks along the coast, and discussion of how and why the various formations formed millennia ago. The incredible - yet readable - detail brings these walks and the landscape alive. And yet, the routes can just as easily be walked for their own sake and the pleasure of rolling downs, high cliffs and beach sunshine.
As well as detailed descriptions for every walk, accompanied by OS maps, there are details on available parking, points of interest along the way (on rocks and other sights) and advice on the terrain covered. The general and geological introductions provide background on the region and the appendices give thorough information on local museums and information centres, cliff diagrams, a glossary of geological terms and a quick, look-up guide to the rocks of the Jurassic Coast. More than just a walking guidebook, this book is an invitation to explore and learn about this spectacular Natural World Heritage area.
The Jurassic Coast
When to walk
Getting there and around
Staying the night
Maps and GPS
Safety at the seaside
Using this guide
The Great Unconformity
The Universal Formations
The drift of the continents
Eastwards is also ‘up’
1 Devon’s Red Beds
Walk 1 Budleigh Salterton and Woodbury Castle
Walk 2 Budleigh Salterton
Walk 3 Otterton, Peak Hill and the Otter
Walk 4 Sidmouth to Weston
Walk 5 Branscombe Mouth to Weston Mouth
Walk 6 Beer and Hooken Undercliff
Walk 7 Hartridge and Dumpdon
Red Bed Roundabout
2 The Lias
Walk 8 Lyme Regis Undercliff
Walk 9 Lyme Regis to Charmouth
Walk 10 Hardown Hill, Golden Cap and Seatown
Walk 11 Golden Cap and Seatown
Walk 12 Bridport to Seatown
Walk 13 West Bay and Burton Bradstock
Walk 14 Beaminster to Pilsdon Pen
3 Chesil Beach
Walk 19 Osmington shore and White Horse
4 Chalk Walks: Lulworth and inland
Walk 20 Cerne Abbas and the Giant
Walk 21 Dorsetshire Gap
Walk 22 Hambledon and Hod hills
Walk 23 Ringstead Smugglers’ Path
Walk 24 Lulworth Cove and Coast
Walk 25 Lulworth Cove and the Fossil Forest
5 Isle of Purbeck
Walk 26 Kimmeridge, Tyneham and Flower’s Barrow
Walk 27 Swyre Head and Houns Tout
Walk 28 Chapman’s Pool and St Aldhelm’s Head
Walk 29 Swanage: Durlston to Dancing Ledge
Walk 30 Ballard Down and Agglestone
The Isle of Purbeck Circuit
Appendix A Route summary table
Appendix B Indoor Geology: Museums and visitor centres
Appendix C Rock reference
Appendix D Glossary of geological terms
Appendix E Timechart: Cambrian period to the present day
Appendix F Rocks of the Jurassic Coast
Appendix G Jurassic Coast cliff diagrams
Maps and GPS
The coast footpath itself is clear and well waymarked, but the inland sections of the walks in this book are less clear. The best mapping is the Ordnance Survey Explorer at 1:25,000 scale, which marks field boundaries. The double-sided OL15 (Purbeck and South Dorset) covers all the coastal walks from Bridport eastwards. Other walks require sheets OL20, 115, 116 and 117, as indicated in the walks headers.
A compass is a very useful aid in low cloud or across pathless fields, even if your skills only extend to ‘northwest, southeast’ rather than precision bearings. Magnetic deviation is about 2° west. This can usually be ignored; otherwise, to convert a map bearing to a compass one, add 2. GPS receivers should be set to the British National Grid (known variously as British Grid, Ord Srvy GB, BNG, or OSGB GRB36). A set of GPX files for the routes in this guide can be downloaded from www.cicerone.co.uk/member.
The excellent geological mapping of the British Geological Survey is more than most readers of this book will need. If you want them, the sheets are 350 Torquay (Walk 1 only), 339 (Newton Abbot), 326/340 (Sidmouth), 327 (Bridport), 342 (Weymouth), 343 Swanage. Simpler coverage of the bedrock is on the free and very useful iGeology app for iPhone, Android and Kindle. Given an internet connection it will home in on your current location or any placename. Also very useful is the cliff section diagram from the Official Guide to the Jurassic Coast, which diagrams the whole coast in a strip 3m (yes, that’s 10ft) long and in much greater detail than the sketches in Appendix G. The cliff sections can be cut from that book and carried in a map case.
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Walk 8 Lyme Regis Undercliff
The route has reopened (Spring 2016) after being closed due to a landslip above Culverhole Point. The new, slightly diverted route takes in Goat Island (which isn't an island - see 'Insolated Strip' in the diagram with Walk 8). Thanks to Paddy Dillon for flagging this.
The cover of the guidebook refers to 'notes on the Jurassic Coast Path' which were not included in the final published book/ePub/Kindle.
We apologise for any confusion or disappointment but readers can now download Ronald's introduction to, outline description of and tips on the logistics of tackling the Jurassic Coast Path here.
June 2015I really enjoyed this unusual walking book. We hear so much about the Jurassic Coast but not everyone is aware of the extraordinary geology behind the area. Here the formation of this bit of coastline through Devon and Dorset is described in interesting detail including simple to follow diagrams and photographs and a guide to collecting fossils. This would make an excellent read in itself. For each of 30 walks there is a small coloured chart and an explanation showing the way the area of the walk fits into geological history and the Jurassic Coast.
Not being able to find your way back to the route if you stray is a common problem when following a walk described in a book but fortunately here there are good Ordnance Survey maps included, far preferable to the sketch maps found in some walking books.
There is the usual problem of book based walk descriptions that with the pictures and maps plus extra information about the area, each walk covers several pages, difficult to manage when you are actually out. I usually manage this by photocopying the relevant pages. Having said that, putting the extra information about parts of the walks in a margin is a good idea as it is accessible but does not interfere with the text you need to follow.
Every one of the walks dotted along the coast looks attractive with its careful text, colourful pictures and map and I can't wait to get out and try them!
Margaret, East Dorset Walking Group.
The Jurassic Coast is one of only three natural World Heritage Sites in the UK. This is the perfect guide book for anyone wanting to explore the 160km of stunning coastline including its cliffs, beaches, rocks and fossils.
Ronald Turnbull writes regularly for TGO, Lakeland Walker, Trail and Cumbria magazines. His previous books include Across Scotland on Foot, Long Days in Lakeland and Welsh 3000ft Challenges. He has written many other Cicerone guides, including Walking in the Lowther Hills, The Book of the Bivvy and Not the West Highland Way.View Articles and Books by Ronald Turnbull
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