Sculpture in Lyme Regis

Later this year, Lyme Regis will be holding its annual Arts Fest.

In preparation for the main event, the organisers have started to install a Sculpture Trail featuring works by local artists, with additional pieces to be added during the summer. We saw quite a few of them as we explored the town during our holiday.

This work was the first we spotted as it was just down the road from the cottage where we were staying. It’s on the display in the garden of the cottage at 1 Mill Green


Fish Boy by Gerta Berlin

These works are all on show in Langmoor Gardens


Wolf by Clare Trenchard


Skateboarder by Gerta Berlin


Ripple by Michael Fairfax


Trapeze by Clare Trenchard


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Lost Identity by Gerta Berlin


Cirrus and Cumulus by Michael Fairfax



A work inspired by the local landscape, located on the South sea wall


A Landscape in Transition (from Nlack Venn to Stonebarrow) by Michael Calder

You can download a map showing the location of the sculptures from the event website

Don’t underestimate the Undercliff


The Undercliff lies to the west of Lyme Regis, stretching 5 miles towards Axmouth and Seaton. A wild landscape of meadows and thick, dense woodland created by landslips.

Landslides have created a magnificent wilderness that has been colonised by natural vegetation. The self sown Ash and Field Maple woodland contains large areas of mixed scrub including Wayfaring
Tree and Spindle, with dense entanglements of Bramble, Madder, Clematis and Everlasting Pea.…..

Wet areas, including ponds and springs, have their own distinctive plants, such as Giant Horsetail, sedges and Common Reed. The cliff top chalk grassland contains a wealth of wildlife, with rarities
such as Nottingham Catchfly and Early Gentian. (Natural England leaflet)

John Fowles used to live here in Undercliff cottage where he wrote a number of his works including The French Lieutenant’s Woman in which the Undercliff plays a significant role.  It’s here that Charles encounters Sarah Woodruff dor the second time. She takes walks and rests here as a way of escaping from the restraints of Victorian Society. In the book the Undercliff is notorious for illicit lovers’ trysts and respectable ladies would want to be seen in a place associated with immorality and depravity.


Today it’s a nature reserve and the South West Coast path runs through it. As is pretty typical for the coast near Lyme, landslips meant that there was a diversion inland for a few years but the path through the Undercliff reopened this year. For much of it’s length there is only one way in and one way out  – there are no paths leading inland or seaward. It’s a challenging walk – the path is very uneven terrain, and hard going as due to the clay soils much of the path is muddy and slippery for most of the year.


We’d originally planned to take the bus over to Seaton and walk back along the path. Unfortunately time didn’t allow for this. Instead we walked from Monmouth Beach up the steep steps


and into the Undercliff for just over a couple of miles before turning back and retracing our steps with a diversion via Chimney Rock.

Initially we passed through pleasant meadows


from where there were views over the bay towards Golden Cap


but we were soon into dense woodland.


Wit it’s humid micro climate, I  guess this was a near as we get to rainforest in the UK.

The vegetation was different from elsewhere in the area. I’m not much of a botanist so wouldn’t know how to spot any rare species but there were certainly plenty of these unusual ferns


They’re Hart’s Tongue Fern

The plants are unusual in being ferns with simple, undivided fronds. The tongue-shaped leaves have given rise to the common name “Hart’s tongue fern”; a hart being an adult male red deer. The sori pattern is reminiscent of a centipede’s legs, and scolopendrium is Latin for “centipede”.[4] The leaves are 10–60 cm long and 3–6 cm broad, with sori arranged in rows perpendicular to the rachis.

The plants grow on neutral and lime-rich substrates, including moist soil and damp crevices in old walls, most commonly in shaded situations but occasionally in full sun; plants in full sun are usually stunted and yellowish in colour, while those in full shade are dark green and luxuriant. (Wikipedia)

It was certainly hard going but we encountered a number of walkers who had trekked through from Seaton. I felt a little jealous. Perhaps next time!

Lyme Regis Fossil Walk


The weather on the Wednesday of our holiday was awful – warm, bright, sunny and calm. Awful for fossil hunting anyway. The best time is after rain or heavy seas when they are washed out of the mud and clay. That’s what Paddy Howe and his colleagues leading the fossil walk booked via Lyme Regis Museum told us.

Lyme Regis  is flanked by cliffs of shale, clay and mudstones with some limestone which are full of fossils from the Jurassic period. As the cliffs crumble and large sections of them fall down onto the beach as landslips, fossils of creatures that died when Britain was part of a massive land mass and located nearer to the equator many millions of years ago start to be revealed. There have been some important finds on these beaches in the past. Including the first complete Ichthyosaur, a complete skeleton of the long-necked Plesiosaurus and a Pterodactylus  found by Mary Anning (1799–1847)


So, a guided fossil walk is a must during a stay in Lyme. They’re great fun  and educational too and suitable for adults and children – who doesn’t enjoy poking around on the beach? There are several providers including the Museum, and they’re very popular. We’d originally wanted to go on one on the Monday, but when we went to the Museum on Sunday morning we found the earliest one with enough places available for 4 of us was Wednesday.

They go out rain or shine the start time depending on the tide. Ours started at the civilised hour of 10:30 a.m., meeting in front of the museum. Paddy Howe, the Museum’s geologist and something of a minor celebrity (I’ve seen him on TV a few times and he helped out Tracey Chevalier when she was researching her book Remarkable Creatures) gave a short introductory talk and we set off towards the beach. We stopped at the end of the new east sea wall and Paddy ran through the reasons for the fossils being abundant in Lyme and showed us examples of different types of fossils we might find so we knew what to look for. These included the ubiquitous ammonites, belemnites, “devil’s toenails” (a type of mollusc), other bivalves, sea urchins, fossilised fish, crinoids and coprolites (fossilised faeces!). If we were lucky we might find bones from ichthyosaurs and other prehistoric  creatures! We were promised that despite the poor fossiling conditions we would find something.


This is Paddy (he’s acquired a beard since our previous visit)


and here’s Paul. one of the other guides


The guides were all helpful – examining possible specimens and cracking open stones that looked like they may contain fossils. At the end of the tour Paddy cracked open a number of limestone nodules, distributing to children the fossils they contained.


As promised, we didn’t go away empty handed. This was our fossil haul.


Nothing spectacular, but a few small ammonites embedded in limestone, some mudstone with impressions of ammonites, some pieces of belemnite and a shard of a fossilised oyster shell.

Coastal walk from Lyme – Charmouth, Golden Cap and Stonebarrow


It was a beautiful morning on the Tuesday of our week in Lyme Regis as we set out to conquer the Golden Cap, the highest point on the south coast of England. It’s on the South West Coastal path and is clearly visible across the bay from Lyme – at least on clear days.

The coast around Lyme Bay is very unstable and landslips in recent years have meant that the Coastal Path route has been diverted in-land between Lyme and Charmouth (much of it along relatively busy roads) and also between Charmouth and Stonebarrow. However, we managed to find ways of avoiding walking on he tarmac.

By choosing our departure time carefully we were able to walk along the beach from Lyme to Charmouth. Consulting the tide tables on the web we reckoned that leaving around 11, with the tide falling (low tide was about 1 p.m.), would work well for us. When the tide’s inn the route is cut off at a few points and dangerous. The walk across the beach was a bit hard going at times but we managed it in about 45 minutes at an easy pace.


The beach here is a good hunting ground for fossils and a fossil walk was setting out at the same time as we left Lyme.


Walking across the firm sand was easy, but there were a couple of fairly lengthy stretches which required “boulder hopping” which was trickier and harder going.


But we soon made it to Charmouth where we could see a group of people in the shallows with nets, trying to catch specimens of local marine life.


Looking back across the beach to Lyme


The Charmouth Heritge Coast Centre is right on the sea front and provides information on fossils, fossil hunting and the local coastal and marine wildlife. It was set up in 1985 to encourage safe and sustainable collecting of Jurassic fossils from the local beaches.


We didn’t have time to visit, but stopped at the cafe for cup of tea (only £1 for a generous mug) and a slice of very delicious Dorset apple cake with cream It disappeared too quickly for me to take a photo!


There was another inland diversion of the coastal path from here but we could see a few people climbing the slope up the cliff so we decided to follow their example – not advisable really as the cliff top is unstable and drifting off it means trespassing on private land at some points.

Anyway, this is the view back towards Charmouth and Lyme as we climbed


and down to the fine sandy beach under the cliffs to the east of Charmouth.


We were heading up to Cain’s Folly, the seaward edge of Stonebarrow hill, a height of about 140 metres.


It had been a gradual climb, nt too taxing but we had to lose most of the height as the path now started to take us down into the valley between Stonebarrow and our destination – the Golden Cap.



And there it was, straight ahead. 191 metres (627 ft) high.


It was a stiff climb with a particularly steep section for the final ascent on the summit


but when we reached it the views, on a bright, clear sunny day, were fantastic.

Looking east towards Seatown, West Bay, Chesil beach and Portland


Looking west towards Charmouh and Lyme Regis.


We stopped for a while before setting off back down the hill.  To vary our route we cut inland towards the old hamlet of St Gabriel, past the ruined church


and then into the small settlement. It was once a much larger village but landslips has meant that much of it has succumbed to the sea.


We followed the track from the village up towards the main ridge of Stonebarrow. Looking back we could see the summit of Golden Cap.


We walked along the ridge and then took the lane down into Charmouth (this was the official diverted Coastal Path route). By now the tide was coming in and it wouldn’t have been safe to cross the beach back to Lyme. We didn’t fancy a long, boring walk along the road (albeit with a short cut across the local golf course) so waited for the bus. A short ride, but expensive at £3-50 for an adult single fare.

Monmouth Beach


Monday morning, the second day of our holiday, started off grey and cloudy with mist over the hills. A planned walk along the coast was deferred and instead we decided to walk over to Monmouth beach, to the west of Lyme. It was here that on 11 June 1685 the Duke of Monmouth, an illegitimate son of Charles II, landed, launching his rebellion to overthrow his uncle, James II, and claim the throne. Following the failure of the rebellion, twelve local men were hanged on the beach.


Initially walking over pebbles and shingle, we eventually reached a limestone pavement which is exposed at low tide. This is the star attraction of the beach as embedded in it there’s a  large number of fossilised ammonites, some approaching a metre in diameter. An amazing sight.


I snapped some examples – using a pound coin to provide some idea of scale.





The pavement and much od the beach is completely covered at high tide so best to go out on a falling tide (check the tide tables online) and you’ll have a few hours to explore safely.

A week in Lyme Regis


We’re just back home after spending a week on holiday in Lyme Regis- an attractive small  seaside town on the south coast in Dorset – just as it’s close to the border with Devon. Its our second visit, having stayed there four years ago.



We were quite lucky with the weather – we had sunshine every day with no rain to speak of – and although we took it relatively easy, we kept ourselves busy with fossil hunting, walking along the south west coastal path and hanging around the sea front and harbour.

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The town has literary connections, appearing in Persuasion, by Jane Austen and The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles who lived and worked in the town (and for a while was also the curator of the town’s Philpott Museum). Personally I’m not a fan of Jane Austen’s Georgian “chick lit” but John Fowles’ modernist novel is a favourite of mine. The Cobb, the distinctive,sinuous harbour wall, features in both novels and also in the 1981 film of The French Lieutenant’s Woman, the memorable opening scenes of which has Meryl Streep, wrapped in a hooded cape, standing on the edge of the Cobb in stormy seas.


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The coast surrounding the town, and, indeed the land on which it is built, is made up of very unstable rocks – mainly shales, clays and mudstones – which are very susceptible to avalanche and landslips.

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The rocks in the cliffs are full of fossils which end up on the beach following landslides after the sea washes the mud away. As during our previous visit we went on a fossil walk organised by the local museum and, once again, it was one of the highlights of the holiday.

Lyme became a highly fashionable resort during the Georgian and Regency period, which is reflected in the architecture, and there were plenty of interesting buildings to look at.



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Belmont House on Pound Street at the junction with Cobb Road. A former owner was Eleanor Coade (1733–1821), the proprietor of a company which manufactured a type of artificial “reconstituted” stone called “Coade stone” which was used to manufacture decorative elements and statues and the facade of the house is embellished with decorative features made from her product. Very durable and resistant to weathering, it was very popular during the Georgian period.


The last resident was  the author John Fowles. After his death it fell into disrepair but it has since been restored  by the Landmark Trust and can now be rented for holidays.

This time, as we booked late, we couldn’t get a cottage or flat with a sea view, but managed to find a Georgian style cottage by the river at Jordan, just a few minutes walk down to the sea shore via Mill Green and Coombe Street.


This stained glass window installed in the wall between the dining room and lounge was a particularly attractive feature

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It was a good, relaxing holiday. But we kept ourselves busy, so plenty to write up!

Mediterranean Lyme Regis?

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This mosaic bench is in Langmoor Park, Lyme Regis, close to the entrance off Pound Street. It reminded me of the benches in Gaudi’s showpiece in Barcelona, Parc Güell.

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It isn’t by Gaudi, though. It was designed and created by local youth from the town following a Youth Forum project in April 2008.

I think it’s a really good piece of work, and fits in quite well with the Mediterranean plants that have been planted up in the very pleasant park.


The gardens reminded me of les Jardins de la Fontaine in Nîmes, where I took the following photo during my visit in June.


A little bit of the Med in southern England. Pity we don’t have a little of their weather!

Georgian architecture in Lyme Regis

Between 1500 and 1700, Lyme Regis was a prosperous town – a major port,  trading with France, the Mediterranean, West Indies and the Americas, with shipbuilding also a  significant industry. Although it had already started to decline as a port during the Georgian period, when travel abroad became difficult due to the wars with Revolutionary France and because sea bathing became popular, it became a fashionable resort for the upper classes who came to “take the waters” and socialise. Many new buildings were constructed and older properties were rebuilt or re-fronted, in the neo-classical style that was then highly fashionable.

This attractive building on Church Street, which houses  the Mermaid Gallery is one of the oldest in Lyme Regis.  It used to be the Tudor Hotel and, as the name implies, it’s a Tudor house, built in the early 17th century, but it has a typical Georgian style facade.


In the 19th century the port  declined as it was too small to take larger ships and it became less fashionable as a resort. As a consequence the rate of development and building slowed down, meaning that many of the older, Georgian buildings remain.  Today, many of them have been renovated and form an attractive backdrop to the holiday resort.

A particularly important example is Belmont House on Pound Street at the junction with Cobb Road.

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The last resident was the author John Fowles. But since his death it has fallen into disrepair and is now subject to a restoration appeal by the Landmark Trust. A former owner was Eleanor Coade (1733–1821), the owner of a company which manufactured a type of artificial “reconstituted” stone called “Coade stone” which was used to manufacture decorative elements and statues. Very durable and resistant to weathering, it was very popular during the Georgian period. Not surprisingly, the facade of the house is embellished with decorative features made from her product, including the urns on the roof, the frieze at the top of the facade, the bust of Neptune above the door and the rusticated ornamentation around the front door and the windows.


This is the former Customs House in Cobb Square, near the port, which was built in 1845/6.


It has a typical Georgian neo-classical facade, with a very prominent triangular pediment. Originally it had a porch and balcony supported by columns.

This building on Coombe Street that today houses the Dinosaurland Museum is the former congregational church, which was built between 1750 and 1755 Mary Anning was baptised and later worshiped here before she converted to the Church of England.


On Broad Street, the main commercial thoroughfare, many of the shops have Georgian facades




And there are Georgian styled buildings all round the town, on Pound Street




(you can stay in this one as it’s now a high class B and B)

on the Marine Parade


Monmouth Square


and in other areas of the old town



Most towns and cities noted for their Georgian and Regency architecture have Terraces, Crescents, Squares and Circles with rows of uniform houses and false Palladian palaces made up of separate residences. In Lyme Regis all the houses are different and have their own individual character. But no less interesting for that.

Fossil Hunting in Lyme Regis


One of the highlights of our recent holiday in Lyme Regis was fossil hunting on the beach. We booked on one of the guided fossil walks organised by the local museum and later went out on our own to look at the ammonite pavement on Monmouth beach. Fossil walks are run by a number of private individuals as well as the museum. I’m sure they’re all very good, but we opted for the Museum’s. It was a little more expensive, but included Museum entry for 12 months (we popped 3 times during our stay).

Previous participants in the walks include Tracy Chevalier, who wrote a novel based on the life of Mary Anning (Remarkable Creatures) who went out while researching her book.

Lyme Regis  is flanked by cliffs of shale, clay and mudstones with some limestone which are full of fossils from the Jurassic period. As the cliffs crumble and large sections of them fall down onto the beach as landslips, fossils of creatures that died when Britain was part of a massive land mass and located nearer to the equator many millions of years ago start to be revealed. There have been some important finds on these beaches in the past. Including the first complete Ichthyosaur, a complete skeleton of the long-necked Plesiosaurus and a Pterodactylus  found by Mary Anning (1799–1847) an ordinary working class woman who lived in the town all her life. The most common finds are ammonites and belemnites (bullet shaped remnants of a squid like creature) and coprolites (fossilised faeces) but it is also possible to find “devil’s toenails” (a type of mollusc), other fossilised shells and bones from ichthyosaurs, fish and other creatures. There is an interesting display of local finds in the Lyme Regis Museum, some of them found by our guides on the fossil walk.

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The walks are timed to start a couple of hours before low tide and on the day we went this meant an early start at 9:15 a.m. The group gathered outside the museum and were met by our guides, Paddy and Chris who led us out onto the beach.

This is Paddy

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and this is Chris


They are both enthusiastic and very passionate about what they do. Once we got on the beach they gave us a briefing on the types of fossils we might find, handing round examples for us to look at and touch, and where and how to locate them. We then set out walking towards Charmouth, searching the beach as we went. Paddy and Chris were on hand to give advice and to comment on finds, helping to identify what they were.

Fossil hunting is very popular around Lyme Regis, and there were plenty of other people on the beach looking for them too. The best time for finding fossils is during the winter after rain or heavy seas when they are washed out of the mud and clay. Despite this, we managed to find quite a few  between us, including these

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During the walk, Paddy and Chris picked up a number of limestone nodules that could potentially contain whole ammonite fossils. Paddy demonstrated how to split them open and then worked his way through them. Approximately 1 in 7 nodule contains a good specimen and he found enough so that just about every one of our party could take away an example.

A couple of days later we went out onto Monmouth beach, to the west of the town. You have to watch out for the tide, which comes right in to the cliffs, but we went out at low tide. It’s hard walking across the pebbles over to the far side of the beach but it was worth it to reach the limestone pavement where hundreds of ammonites can be seen embedded into the rock



On the way there we saw a number of large ammonites embedded into rocks on the beach (foolishly I didn’t include anything into the following pictures to provide scale, but they were a foot or so across).

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I reckon that a fossil walk is a must for anyone visiting Lyme Regis.


Today there was a tragedy on the beach just a few miles down the coast from Lyme where a major landslip occurred and a young woman was buried beneath the rocks and rubble. It demonstrates just how dangerous it can be near to the cliffs which are fragile and subject to landslips, particularly after wet weather like we’ve seen the last few weeks. Anyone out fossilling on the beach on their own needs to take care and avoid getting too close to the cliffs as well as making sure they don’t get trapped by the incoming tide


A week in Lyme Regis


We’ve just returned from a week’s holiday on the south coast at Lyme Regis, somewhere we’ve never visited before. Tucked in a narrow valley between crumbling cliffs of soft rock, it’s a very attractive small seaside town, with narrow streets clinging to the hillsides, its growth restricted by the geography of its location. A very old settlement, it became a highly fashionable resort during the Georgian and Regency period, which is reflected in the architecture.


Probably its most well known landmark is the Cobb – the harbour wall originally built during the Medieval period (according to the town’s website a man made construction has served as a refuge here since at least 1313) which created the harbour. It’s been rebuilt many times since then. The Cobb features in the film of The French Lieutenant’s Woman, which was based on the book of the same name written by John Fowles who lived and worked in the town.

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The Cobb also features Jane Austen’s Persuasion. One of the characters,  Louisa Musgrove, falls from some steps, allegedly the rather precarious looking “Granny’s teeth”


Despite its size, and poor overland transport links, Lyme was once a major port. Goods from the region had to be brought in by pack horse until a road suitable for wheeled vehicles was eventually constructed down the steep hills that lead into the town. Today the little harbour is the base for a small fleet of fishing boats and pleasure craft.

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The Cobb was actually built a short distance from the town. and although a small group of buildings eventually developed into the Cobb Hamlet, this was separate from the main part of the town. The reason for this is that the coast is made up of very unstable rocks – mainly shales, clays and mudstones – which are very susceptible to avalanche and landslips. The port was separated from the town by a landslip which wasn’t safe to build on. Today this has been transformed into a very attractive part, planted with Mediterranean varieties – Langmoor gardens.


The promenade along the sea front at the foot of gardens, now called the Marine Parade, was originally created during the Regency period, when it was known as “The Walk”.



Lyme is in the centre of the Jurassic Coast and the rocks in the cliffs that surround the town are full of fossils, which end up on the beach following landslides, after the sea washes the mud away. The beach, particularly the one between Lyme and Charmouth, is patrolled by numerous fossil hunters –amateur and professional – at low tide. We went on a fossil walk organised by the local museum, and it was one of the highlights of the holiday.

There are several shops around the town selling fossils and there is a display of fossils found in and around the town in the Museum. Symbols of ammonites can be found all over the town, many businesses using it as a logo. One even features in the lamp posts.


The most famous fossil hunter from Lyme was Mary Anning (1799–1847) a who lived in the town all her life. She was responsible for some major finds, including the first complete Ichthyosaur, a complete skeleton of the long-necked Plesiosaurus and a Pterodactylus.

The main shopping street, Broad Street (which isn’t that broad!) isn’t dominated too much by the major chains; there are a number of small independent shops, including a teddy bear shop (with a fossil workshop in the basement!) and a very good independent bookshop


There are plenty of places to eat both in the main part of town and at Cobb Hamlet. Many of the pubs sold food which was much better than that found in most pubs around the UK, including the seaside. Rather than the standard fare of frozen fish and scampi, microwaved “pasta bake” and baked spuds, a number of the pubs had some more imaginative dishes on the menu made from local ingredients. There were plenty of fish and chip shops and stalls (eating fish and chips on the sea-front is a must during a seaside holiday) and a number of shops and cafes served up rather tasty crab sandwiches. We treated ourselves one night to a meal in one of the top restaurants in Lyme – Hix Oyster and Fish House. Located on the hill above the harbour it has excellent views down to the Cobb and the sea

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and serves delicious sea food (although they also have steak on the menu).

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and some rather nice puds.

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While we were in Lyme we stayed in the Penthouse apartment in St Michael’s House on Pound Street at the top of the hill.


At one time, the building used to be a hotel, but it’s now been converted into apartments. I don’t know about the others, but the Penthouse was really beautifully fitted out and decorated

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and had fantastic sea views from two balconies.

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