"'Wild to see Lyme'?" Top 5 Page for this destination Lyme Regis by leics
Lyme Regis Travel Guide: 46 reviews and 108 photos
'The young people were all wild to see Lyme....' wrote Jane Austen in her novel, 'Persuasion', which is set in the town. I'm not sure whether they are nowadays, but if you are in the general area then I recommend a day or two spent investigating Lyme's history and coast. It's a fascinating place.
Lyme lies at the bottom of two steep hills.......travelling into or out of it by bus is an interesting experience! A small river flows through the centre (a lovely walk) to the sea. Watching the ducks paddle is an excellent way to spend some time.
Lyme was used in the film of John Fowles' 'The French Lieutenant's Woman', with Meryl Streep. Its centre is largely untouched, and you can see clearly how it worked as a town in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Lyme Bay forms a natural shelter, and the famous 'Cobb' (a stone wall) was built to create a safe harbour. Investigations on the Cobb have found that a previous structure existed long before what you can see now was built.............Lyme was an important place for many centuries. In 'Persuasion' Louisa twists her ankle whilst showing-off on the Cobb, providing a vitally important plot twist, and the French Lieutenant's Woman spent many an hour there gazing sadly across the sea for her lost lover (though it was thought too dangerous for Meryl Streep to do this scene in the film......apparently, the director stood in for her).
Underlying the whole of the Lyme area is a type of rock called blue lias. When wet this rock becomes almost clay-like, and extremely unstable. Many landslips have occurred over the centuries and continue to do so. The most spectacular was in the 1800's, when a huge area of land simply fell into the sea one night, creating what is now a very special place. The 'Undercliff', as it is known, featured in the French Lieutenant's Woman.......it has its own microclimate and is a protected area of special scientific interest (SSI). In summer it is almost jungle-like, birds everywhere and lush undergrowth covering every spare bit of ground. You can walk through the Undercliff area (see my tip)....it takes about 3 hours and is an experience which I highly recommend.
To the east of Lyme, towards the village of Charmouth, is another huge and continuing area of landslippage. Thick rivers of mud flow into the sea from the cliff, at times making the beach impassable in winter. I have sat completely alone on that beach and been convinced that someone was creeping up on me ..........I could hear the pebbles crunching. It took a while for me to realise that what I could hear was actually the cliff slowly pushing the pebbles towards the sea, a millimetre at a time. I was quite safe (you mostly are at Lyme, unless you are incredibly stupid and try to climb the cliffs and landslip area) but it was a very spooky experience.
Lyme became famous for its fossils in the 19th century, when a local girl (Mary Anning) discovered and excavated the fossil of an icthyosaur (a sort of huge sea-crocodile). Since then thousands of wonderful fossils have been exposed by the continually crumbling cliffs and landslips, including vast ammonites nearly a metre across and many more icthyosaur and plesiosaur bones.
You can still see huge ammonites lying on the beach at Pinhay Bay (to the west of Lyme) but, sadly, more and more people have realised that they can make money from what lies hidden in the cliffs. I can't understand why people should wish to collect fossils they don't find themselves but they do, and there is a huge world-wide market. Consequently, fossil-hunting has become a local industry. However, if you take your time and look carefully (not in the cliffs themselves, but on the shoreline), there are still fossils to be found.....and the ones on the beach have already been cleaned for you by the sea.
I have found many small vertebrae from icthyosaurs and plesiosaurs, shells and ammonites. My favourites are the sea-urchins.......two types, the heart-shaped ones looking almost the same as they do today, so many millions of years later.
My best fossil, though, is the one on thepicture. It's from a Jurassic dinosaur (most Lyme fossils are from the Cretaceous period), probably looking rather like a brontosaurus. It is a vertebra from the very end of the tail.....and it was just lying on the beach, waiting for me to find it.
- Pros:Fossils, landscape, history, literary connections
- Cons:Crowded in season
- In a nutshell:Lovely little town with superb fossils!
If you plan to walk from Lyme to Charmouth, or the other way, check the tide times first. You can easily get cut off by... more travel advice
A massive landslide in the 1800's created the Undercliff, now a hugely important site for both plants and animals. The... more travel advice
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- "A Day Out To Dorset"
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- "'Wild to see Lyme'?"
- "Mary Anning and the magic of Lyme"
- "Glorious Geography!"
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