The Jurassic Coast is a World Heritage Site on the English Channel coast of southern England. The site stretches from Orcombe Point near Exmouth in East Devon to Old Harry Rocks near Swanage in East Dorset, a distance of 153 kilometres (95 mi). Chartered in 2001, the Jurassic coast was the second wholly natural World Heritage Site to be designated in the United Kingdom. Its entire length can be walked on the South West Coast Path.
The Jurassic Coast consists of Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous cliffs, spanning the Mesozoic Era, documenting 180 million years of geological history. The site shows excellent examples of landforms, including the natural arch at Durdle Door, the cove and limestone folding at Lulworth Cove and an island, the Isle of Portland. Chesil Beach is a fine example of both a tombolo (a deposition landform in which an island is attached to the mainland by a narrow piece of land such as a spit or bar) and a storm beach (a beach affected by particularly fierce waves).
The site has stretches of both concordant and discordant coastlines. Due to the quality of the varied geology, the site is the subject of international field studies. This area was home to Mary Anning, a palaeontologist who studied the fossils of the coastline around Lyme Regis and discovered the first complete Ichthyosaur fossil at the Spittles.
The site was featured on the television programme Seven Natural Wonders as one of the wonders of the South West (of the UK), and in a 2005 poll of Radio Times readers, the Jurassic Coast was named as the 5th greatest natural wonder in Britain. During World War II several sections of the Jurassic Coast became property of the Ministry of War. One of the Royal Navy's largest bases was at Portland Harbour, though it has since closed.
A major army base at Bovington remains in use today, and large areas of land, including the coast between Lulworth Cove and Kimmeridge, including Tyneham ghost village, are still only partially accessible. Areas of the coast near Exmouth, The Fleet at Weymouth and the beaches at Studland have also been used for training for war, but have since been returned to civilian use.
Localities and Locations
In addition to being ideal access points to the Jurassic Coast, gateway towns provide a complete range of services which support conservation and the management of the World Heritage Site. Each of the towns are destinations in their own respect.
- Beer Quarry Caves
- Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre
- Chesil Beach Centre
- Dorset County Museum, Dorchester
- Dorset Wildlife Trust Fine Foundation Marine Centre, Kimmeridge
- Durlston Country Park