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Dorset Coast - Heritage Coast

Charmouth, Dorset

Location Guide

The World Heritage Coast in Dorset stretches for about 95 miles.  This Jurassic coast is a nature lovers' paradise with rich pickings for fossil hunters. Charmouth is one of the most famous Jurassic locations in the world, renowned for its limestone cliffs which are rich in fossils. It is a site of Special Scientific Interest.

The main village street is steep and lined with a variety of different buildings including thatched roofs and regency bow-fronts. The 0ldest pub is the Queens Arms, when Catherine of Aragon stayed in 1510 it was a private house, built for the abbot of Forde, by 1651 it became a pub. Jane Austen also frequented this West Dorset village. Charmouth beach extends from Evans Cliff to the Spittles and has a stretch of sand which gradually merges into shingle. The River Char goes across the beach as it enters the sea and from a small bridge that crosses the river, near the car park, it is possible to see a variety of ducks and other wildfowl.

Sea views

One of the best and safest ways to see the Jurassic Coast is by boat.  Amongst the many coastal features to be seen is the Golden Cap, the highest point of the Jurassic coast, with its distinctive sandstone summit.  Another unusual site is Black Ven, the largest coastal mudslide in Europe, which happened only 50 years ago and provides new habitats for plants.

There are many fabulous geological features including the most perfectly formed cove in the world at Lulworth.

The Fossil Forest, located a mile or so from the cove, is the most complete record of a Jurassic forest in the world with 'tufa' or fossilised rings of algae that gathered around tree trunks when the forest flooded nearly 150 million years ago.

At nearby Durdle Door, there are yet more interesting geological features and plant habitats, and that famous and most photographed sea view.

Plants and butterflies

The Dorset coast is especially rich in plant life due to its hot, dry and salty environment. The cliff tops have never been ploughed or sprayed with modern fertilisers so they provide a very rich habitat for plants.

Amongst the many wild flowers are Hedge and Lady's Bedstraw (so named because it was once used in mattresses), Flea Bay, and Kidney Vetch. The diversity of flowers attract a wide range of butterflies and moths especially at Bindon Hill where 32 different species can be found.

Look out for butterflies including the Adonis Blue, the Small Blue, the Dark Green Fritillary and the rare Lulworth Skipper.

The area is home to the rare Sea Lavender, found only on rocky coastal regions - its thick, rubbery leaves protect it from the salt.

Fossil hunting

Fossils are largely found on the foreshore and at the base of scree slopes and slippages. One of the best places to search is on the beach below Black Ven, between Charmouth and Lyme Regis.  Another place to find fossils is Monmouth Beach near Lyme Regis where it is possible to occasionally find huge ammonites lying on the beach. These are too large to remove, so why not take some photographs and collect the specimens as photographs without doing harm to their natural environment.

Most of the fossils are sea creatures and shellfish which date from a period when the coast was surrounded by a warm tropical sea.

Look out for dark patches of sand together with worn lumps of fool's gold, as these are the places where fossils such as ammonites, belemnites, shells and bones can be found.

Fossil detectives should check tide times carefully and take care as the sea can cut off some locations. The wardens at Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre are a good source of advice, and also organise fossil hunting walks, they are open all year, but visit their website for details of winter opening times and special closures.

See Also:

Dorset Coast Path Lyme Regis-Sandbanks


Location: Dorset Coast near Charmouth, Dorset

Grid Reference: SY365935 Ceremonial County: Dorset

Map Link: VIEW MAP

Aerial photo:

Getting there: Easy access by road to Charmouth off the A35.

Access: Ramped access to Charmouth Beach plus viewpoints from walkways, but the beach itself is pebbly and unsuitable for most wheelchairs. Pay and display car park at the Heritage Centre.
Website: www.charmouth.org
Other Useful Websites: www.worldheritagecoast.net/place.aspx?place=17


Email: info@charmouth.org
Address: Lower Sea Lane, Charmouth
Postcode: DT6 6LL Telephone: 01297 560772
Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre
Opening Times: Beach open all hours but check tide times. The Fossil Forest near Lulworth Cove is usually open at weekends.

Heritage Centre is open throughout the year, during winter Wednesday to Sunday from November to end of March 10.30am to 4.30pm

Charges: Free access to beach and Charmouth Heritage Centre. Fossil Walks organised by Charmouth Heritage Centre - adults 7, children 3.

Nearby Locations:
Other Location Pages:

Other Relevant Pages: World Heritage Sites      World Heritage Sites in the UK

World Heritage Sites - Further Information

Notes: Fossil hunting. Charmouth Heritage Centre. Fossil Walks. Jurassic Coast Footpath. You can photograph seascapes, sealife, pebble beach, wildlife, Wild flowers etc. Boat trips. Sea Life.

Don't pick wild flowers and don't hack away at rocks to find fossils. Take with you:- Camera, lenses suitable for scenic views. Plant identification guide and macro lens for close ups of plants found. Fossil guide, hammer, chisel and eye protection. Suitable beach footwear. Binoculars for wildlife.


There are facilities within the Heritage Centre and local shops at beach access point.

Please let us know any other information that we can add to the Grid(s) or page and any errors that you discover. Before making a long trip to any location it is always wise to double check the current information, websites like magazines may be correct at the time the information is written, but things change and it is of course impossible to double check all entries on a regular basis. If you have any good photographs that you feel would improve the illustration of this page then please let us have copies. In referring to this page it is helpful if you quote both the Page Ref and Topic or Section references from the Grid below. To print the planning grid select it then right click and print the selected area.

Please submit information on locations you discover so that this system continues to grow.


By: Tracey Park Section: Heritage Coasts Key:
Page Ref: dorset_coast Topic: Routes    Last Updated: 07/2009


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