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England - Beach - Fossil hunting

Lyme Regis -Why should I go there?

April 04, 2015

I was looking to explore someplace new on the south coast of England for a couple of days while I was in London for a wedding, when somebody suggested Lyme Regis. I liked the quaint name and instantly resolved to go there. I didn’t know this at the time, but I had stumbled upon a hidden jewel.

Fossil capital, seaside resort, literary inspiration to Jane Austen and John Fowles’ French Lieutenant’s woman, and the most dramatic sea rampart in England, Lyme Regis is a great introduction to the south west coast of England as well as a good base to explore Dorset, Devon and Cornwall.

And, it’s not hard to get to. Just drive a few hours south west of London or take a train from Waterloo and hop off at Axminster from where you can get regular “Jurassic Coast Buses” to the coast. I chose a quaint homestay, perfectly located, and just a five-minute walk to the seaside. My first impressions of Lyme Regis registered a sweeping coastline with dramatic Jurassic cliffs plunging into the sea, a picturesque seaside fishing port and harbour  (Herbie’s fish and chips on the harbour near the COBB is a must try!) and a tangible sense of heritage and history.

I spent a morning exploring the fossil coast with Paddy Howe, the Lyme Regis Museum geologist. To get to the beach between Lyme Regis and Charmouth, we walked along the new promenade with a beautiful view built along the edge of the ocean at a height and then climbed down onto the beach.

The beach is only accessible during low tide and therefore these trips are scheduled in tandem with the tide. It was a beautiful sunny day, which is usually cause for joy in England but not if you’re a fossil hunter, as Paddy explained. The rainier and stormier the weather, the better for finding fossils, as they get washed up on the beach.The first fossil hunter who put Lyme Regis on the world fossil map was Mary Anning in the early 19th century when she discovered some remarkable fossils including the skull of an Ichthyosaurus, on a walk along the beaches of Lyme Regis with her brother Joseph and dog Tray. Fossils are preserved remains of prehistoric animals and plants in rocks from 250 million to 65 million years, and are plentiful along the coast near Lyme Regis. There’s an element of excitement there–maybe you could find the fossil remains of a new dinosaur species!

In my case, however, there was no such luck. Posterity would not remember me as a discoverer of never-before-seen fossils, sadly. However, after a morning of serious fossil hunting, I did have a back pack full of ammonite, belemnite and some great conversations with fellow fossil hunters (most of them more serious than I). Lunchtime was near, and I elected to eat at the Tierra Kitchen on Coombe street, an eatery serving organic, vegetarian food. It was absolutely delicious, as the combination of fresh local produce and an imaginative menu offered by the proprietor Mark hit the spot. The other must try is the Town Mill courtyard and café which is a great place to “mill around” and explore, with a gallery, a cheesemonger and a local brewery as well.

Broad Street runs from the seaside to the top of the hill and has many quaint local shops and cafes. Not to mention the side streets going off of Broad Street, which are really interesting as well. My explorations afforded me a stumble upon a tucked away milliner’s shop, where I then proceeded to try on every hat and cap I took a fancy to, and finally bought one to keep me warm on the harbour.

The Marine Theatre and the Art Deco Regent cinema provide a relaxed evening’s entertainment. The cinema is a local gathering space, and on that day there was a live streaming of Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing “ from London.

Cobb harbour is the symbol of Lyme Regis’s history and heritage.The promenade to the harbour has many colourful holiday hotels, interesting restaurants and some very nasty seagulls. I am no longer on speaking terms with seagulls after one swooped down from behind and snatched my clotted cream ice cream from my hand. Jokes aside, a walk on the Cobb harbour rampart at sunset was one of the most beautiful experiences I have had. The rampart snakes out into the sea and past the aquarium with views of the sunset on the right and the buildings of Lyme Regis across the harbour. I channelled Meryl Streep staring out at the sea.

Lyme Regis also has some beautiful walks –along the beach on the south west coastal path to the Golden Cap or on the opposite side to the Undercliffs.

Lyme Regis, also known as the Pearl of the Dorset, is an absolute treasure.

How to get there:

Drive about three and a half hours south west from London or take a train from Waterloo Station to Axminster and then take a “Jurassic Coast Bus” from the station.

My Fave Five:

Fossil Hunting along the Jurassic Coast,An evening at The Marine Theatre or Regent Cinema, Walk out to the ocean on the Cobb Harbour promenade , Quaint Broad Street and side streets shops and cafes, Walks along the beach on the south-west coastal path to the Golden Cap or to the Undercliffs.

Must-Try:

Herbie’s Fish and Chips on the Harbour, Town Mill courtyard and café, Tierra Kitchen

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About Me

I am a banker by profession, traveller by passion.

I have found time to travel to many countries and live in 2 countries (3 if Scotland ever does becomes one!) and 6 cities during my career in finance. I was a diplomat first and started in the Indian Foreign Service with my first posting being Paris – The City of Light. And began my lifelong love of travel and coffee there! An MBA followed and I’ve been in finance since.

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