"Fossick at Charmouth (not as rude as it sounds!)" Charmouth by CatherineReichardt

Charmouth Travel Guide: 5 reviews and 6 photos

Charmouth is located just along the coast from Lyme Regis and is one of the jewels of Dorset's amazing Jurassic Coast - for my money, one of Britain's unsung tourist gems (and fortunately for you, nowhere near as heavily touristed as many of the more 'first division' tourist attractions such as the Lake District).

Looking at the photo above, you may be forgiven for wondering why I am mad to be eulogising about a shingle beach and untidy tumbledown cliffs, photographed in typically grey British weather, and be tempted to move on swiftly to someone else's account of idyllic Mediterranean isles. It is, I grant you, not the sort of beautiful beach that you envisage honeymooning on, but it is arguably the most interesting beach you'll ever visit!

For Charmouth was one of Mary Anning's favourite fossicking spots, as the soft Lias cliffs are undermined by the wave action and regularly slump to expose new fossiliferous material. You cannot come into Mary Anning's back yard and not go fossicking (and if you don't know who she is, shame on you, and go educate yourself by reading her potted biography under my Lyme Regis page)!

For the uninitiated, 'fossicking' is a slightly archaic word for fossil hunting - perhaps you will be disappointed to hear that it's nowhere as rude as it sounds, and makes an ideal outing for young and old alike. It seems to be a much favoured activity for young families as well as grandparents with their grandchildren in tow. Best to think of it as a sort of natural history treasure hunt without the hassle (and expense) of having to buy prizes, with the downside that you don't know where said prizes are hidden! For more information on the ideal family day out, see my fossicking travel tip.

So what can you find? Well take your Jurassic choice: ammonites and belemnites (straight, bullet-shaped variants on an ammonite theme) are pretty common, but if you get lucky, then fossil fish are a possibility, and the jackpot is a massive ichthyosaur or plesiosaur (you just need to think where you might fit that in the lounge ...). On a more serious note, any finds of potential scientific significance need to be reported to the authorities, but nobody will mind you taking away a small ammonite as a memento. And happily, fossicking - like skiing - is one of those few activities that you don't need to be good at to enjoy!

Charmouth is at the mouth of the River Char (surprise!), and there is a pretty little estuary that seems to be popular with fishermen and others looking for an excuse to lounge around in collapsible chairs and dangle their tackle. There are some interesting wetland and sea birds, and lots of wonderful rockpools to explore between the fallen boulders. It is also nowhere near as popular as Lyme Regis (which can get crowded in the summer season) and makes a good escape from the crowds. Verily a paradise for children of all ages, and the sort of beach that you can't fail to have a good time on, so long as it's not pelting with rain - pack a picnic, a bucket and get ready for your hitherto undiscovered fossicking instincts to kick in!

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Absolutely everything!
  • Cons:British weather - but unlike most beaches, you can still have a good time providing that it's not bucketing with rain
  • In a nutshell:The best day out imaginable for families!
  • Last visit to Charmouth: Sep 2007
  • Intro Updated Nov 11, 2010
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CatherineReichardt

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