Journey to the English Jurassic Coast Through Time

Today we are going to travel to one of those sites that is truly historic. It will be a long walk that receives the name of the Jurassic Coast. This unique place is located in the south of England and is divided between the counties of Dorset and Devon. The starting point is the Old Harry Rocks in Swanage and the Orcombe Point in Exmouth at the end of the journey.

There are three times that we have been there but at no time we passed beyond the Isle of Portland. This route is like an open book in which 200 million years of the history of our planet have been recorded. The Jurassic Coast is world famous for its incredible geological formations, breathtaking views and for its richness in fossil remains including dinosaur footprints. In 2001 UNESCO recognized its cultural value by naming it a World Heritage Site.

Afterwards, we ate and spent the afternoon in Bournemouth, seeing the tomb of Mary Shelley and walking through its streets and parks.


We started our trip in the town of Swanage, a small town that is born at the foot of the cliffs that are part of this long natural monument. In its origins, the mining and fishing industry was the engine of the local economy. Although from the late nineteenth century they were leaving everything in the hands of tourism. It is not a bad summer destination because it has a magnificent beach and everything that is expected from a summer village.

The walk from the town to the Old Harry Rocks is about 4 kilometers. It consists of two limestone columns that rise in the middle of the sea at a place called Handfast Point. For lack of time none of the times we went there but there is no doubt they have their interest.

The Jurassic Route

To take the Jurassic route we have several alternatives, being on foot or by boat the best ones to enjoy nature. The South West Coast Path National Trail is the path that follows the coast. On its website, they propose a very long route of more than 100 kilometers. It runs through the south of England and goes around the western end of the island until you reach Minehead. For the less adventurous, they propose shorter routes, many framed within the Jurassic Coast.

Another option is the bus that allows us to alternate sections on foot and public transport. Finally, leaving romanticism aside, there is the car that was the means of transport in our case. We continue our little trip to go to an area called Lulworth Cove, a great center of attraction that attracts a million tourists every year. It is a natural inlet formed by the erosion of the sea for millions of years. It is an awesome place. It makes you feel really tiny. Its circular shape makes us doubt if there was not someone with a compass drawing arcs.

Once crossed the entire cove we headed east to visit the Fossil Forest. The journey on foot takes more than an hour between the round trip. It turns out that about 150 million years ago there was a drop in sea level. The ocean retreated so much that islands emerged from its bottom. The conditions propitiated the growth of a tropical forest that with the passage of time disappeared under layers of sediment. The capricious movements of the bark have brought this story to light. To enter you have to enter a shooting range of the British Army. It is not a joke. A red flag indicates that the access is prohibited.

We retrace our steps and take the route to the West. A short distance from Lulworth Cove we found a formation called Stair Hole. The group is composed of three different types of rock that after three million years of erosion have formed three coves and several caves.

If we continue walking in the same direction we will face a long climb that takes us to the top of a cliff. Once above we get an "aerial" perspective of Lulworth Cove. In front, we see the Jurassic Coast Trail in the form of ups and downs to beyond where we can see. From time to time we stop with the excuse of reading the panels that explain the formation of the landscape.

We then reach a cove in the center of which there is a curious stone barrier as if to defend bathers. On the way down we came across a sign that tells us where we are.

If we take the path on the left we will find ourselves in the cove we have seen from above. This is Man O' War, a series of inlets that have come together to form a curious beach.

On the other side, we have a spectacular rocky arch called Durdle Door. It is the most famous image of the entire Jurassic Coast and from whose feet comes a beach full of people sunbathing in summer. It can be reached by a steep path from the parking lot of Durdle Door Holiday Park, at the top of the cliff about 700 meters on foot or along the SW Coast itinerary Path.

Durdle Door is a natural arch of limestone of enormous dimensions that leaves the cliff to go into the sea and one of the most photographed structures of the Jurassic Coast. The curious formation is due to the initial mixture of hard and soft rocks (limestones and sandstones). The erosion acts on the second ones forming the hole that is seen at present and that with time will cause the collapse of the arch.

Lulworth Cove

Lulworth Cove is a small cove or bay near West Lulworth, where is the visitor center of the entire area, and very close to Durdle Door. It is a good place for amateur geographers and walkers. After leaving the car in the parking lot (also for a fee) and passing through the visitor center, the Lulworth Cove is a few steps away. It is a perfect horseshoe-shaped bay formed by the erosion of the softest clays within the limestone structure.

We were surprised by the layers of materials that are seen in the walls of this cove, both from inside and outside. We perceive the settlement of the different levels and how erosion and some cataclysms have been giving shape. From the eastern end of this beach, we reach the fossil forest and the Mupe bay, through an impressive walk along the cliff top.

The Fossil Forest

A stretch of the SW Coast Path, which also passed through the Durdle Door, leads from Lulworth to Mupe Bay. It passes through Lulworth Cove and the Fossil Forest bordering the sea through the cliff top. It is the only way to get to the Fossil Forest, which is in a restricted area of the Ministry of Defense and only open on weekends and all August.

This area is famous for its fossils, specifically, those known as "burrs" that created the algae that grew around decaying tree trunks in a swamp of 145 million years ago (Jurassic era). That is, what you see is the fossilized algae while the holes are what the wood left to rot.

In order to enter the fossil forest, it is not necessary to reach Mupe Bay. After leaving the Lulworth Cove, fossils begin to be seen, in the holes of some people squat, and the formations in undulating layers of the cliffs.


Before lunchtime, we head towards Bournemouth to spend the afternoon touring the city. The first stop was in the area of ​the Boscombe Pier. Here in addition to walking along the pier (more modern than Swanage), we saw Jurassic rocks in the middle of the beach.

Then we went to the tourist office where we got the map that would help us to visit some of the most interesting places in Bournemouth. First, we went to the Lower Gardens where we ate. There are very beautiful and well-kept gardens, crossed by a channel of the Bourne River (which gives its name to the city). Here there is a hot air balloon that shows the city from the air to visitors (the Bournemouth Balloon).

Then we went to St. Peter's Church, one of the churches of B'mouth (abbreviated as well). Here among the tombs of several illustrious writers is that of Mary Shelley, author of the famous fiction novel "Frankenstein". She shares grave with her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley, a famous English poet, politician, and free-thinker.

We go through several shopping streets, passing through the gallery The Arcade, towards the square called The Square. It has a huge kiosk restaurant in its center (the Obscura Café) and separates the Lower Gardens from the Central Gardens. We continue through the Commercial Road stopping at some stores.

To finish our walk, we crossed the Lower Gardens again to reach the beaches of Bournemouth and find the impressive pier of B'mouth (The Pier). It is a gigantic and fully urbanized dock, on top of it there are cafes, restaurants and even a cinema hall. In fact, the Bournemouth waterfront has its own tourist office and would give for another full day of excursions and visits.

As you can imagine a complete tour takes a long time. Here we have only covered the first part of the road by jumping places like Kimmeridge Bay or Durlston. Further on we have the Isle of Portland, the Beach of Chesil or Charmouth and Lyme Regis. There are many other points of undoubted interest that we leave for a future visit or for those who are encouraged to tell us their experience. Everything depends on how far we are willing to go.
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  • Akila
    Akila April 8, 2013 at 9:01 PM

    Must watch it..

  • Amelia
    Amelia April 8, 2013 at 10:22 PM

    Hi Kaylan, I love Jurassic park, this is a must watch movie. Thanks for sharing.

    Have a nice day, regards.

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