Good intentions are just not enough sometimes. I fully intended to write this post during the Olympics. I knew the angle I was going to take and, let’s face it, not only did I have the two weeks of the actual events in which to get it on to the page but there was quite a long time before that when we all knew it was going to happen. I could have been more prepared and got it written. But I wasn’t and I didn’t. So, here you are, a little late but useful information all the same.
I’m sure I was squinting at the television when I was watching the Olympic sailing events recently. Do I need new glasses you might be asking. Well, no actually, I was just trying to get a better view of the coastline behind the boats. Although several hours from the hub of Olympic activity in London, the guys and girls who seem to love the thrill of ocean sailing definitely got lucky as far as venue was concerned, I used to live around there so I know what I’m talking about.
The Jurassic Coast, stretching 95 miles from Exmouth in the west to Old Harry Rocks in Studland Bay in the east, was designated England’s first and only natural World Heritage Site in December 2001. It was quite fitting that this ancient landscape should be chosen to play its part in the 2012 Olympics by hosting the sailing, one of the oldest sports to be part of the Olympic movement.
I’m going to quote the Jurassic Coast website here because they say this much better than I could. ‘It is the only place on Earth where 185 million years of the Earth’s history are sequentially exposed in dramatic cliffs, secluded coves, coastal stacks and barrier beaches. The ‘tilt’ of the rock creates a unique ‘walk through time’ from 250 million to 65 million years ago, through the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods as you walk eastwards along the site.’
This area has a huge range of attractions for all members of the family and when we lived here we were never short of somewhere to head to on a weekend. From beaches rich in fossils to World War II test sites, from traditional seaside resorts to the source of stone used in St Pauls Cathedral.
For 12 months, in the late 1990s, we lived in Swanage. This is one of those towns so typically British. No one does the seaside quite like the British. Complete with a row of bathing huts, a promenade that is closed to traffic in the summer months and a steam train that takes you through the beautiful countryside on the Isle of Purbeck with magnificent views of the ruins of Corfe Castle, I have very fond memories of our time there. As a bonus, from the front windows of the flat we were renting we had views over the Solent to the Isle of Wight, on a clear day that is, and the writer within me liked this sort of inspiration.
Some of my favourite spots along this ancient coastline which you MUST visit if you ever get the chance are:
- Old Harry Rocks and Durdle Door – ancient rock formations.
- Lulworth Cove – a natural horse-shoe shaped harbour created over 10,000 years ago.
- Kimmeridge – the bay here has been a source of shale since Roman times.
- Chesil Beach – 18 miles long and separated from the mainland in most places by a saline lagoon. This beach was used as the testing place for World War II ‘bouncing bombs.’ The times we were there it was always windy and cold, but the fishing’s supposed to be good.
- Lyme Regis – with its ‘Cobb’, made famous in the films The French Lieutenant’s Woman and Persuasion. Packed in the summer, blustery but atmospheric in the winter, they do great fish and chips.
- The Isle of Portland – famous since Roman times for its Portland stone.
- Charmouth – go fossil hunting on the beach here.
- Chain ferry – not really part of the Jurassic Coast but if you’re coming from the Bournemouth end take the chain ferry from Sandbanks across to Studland Bay. An excellent experience and a shorter route than driving around. A bit of advice though – in the summer months there can be long queues at both ends so be prepared.