The Jurassic coast is the name given to 100 miles of coast between Swanage, Dorset, and Exmouth, Devon, in the UK. This amazing stretch of land, now a World Heritage Site, covers the whole range of Mesozoic rocks (180 million years’ worth), exposed for geologists, fossickers and lovers of the strange and beautiful.
The area ranges from the landforms of Durdle Door and quarries of Portland stone, a type of marble, laid down under water from the skeletons of sea animals and plants, to the red sandstone of the cliffs near Budleigh Salterton. In between there are the Kimmeridge Cove fossil beds with ammonites and clay beds, which sometimes combust spontaneously (only with a little flame!); the amazing Chesil Beach, a great shingle bank which stretches for miles protecting the lagoon behind; the stacked cliffs of Burton Bradstock beach, where I used to go for holidays as a kid; the hauntingly beautiful Lyme Regis, famed for the fossils and the French Lieutenant’s Woman.
But as well as being J day, it’s also my book review day, and I have the ideal one for the Jurassic Coast:
Moonfleet, by J Meade Falkner
If you’re familiar with Dorset, it doesn’t take much reading to realise that Moonfleet is set on Chesil Beach. The account of the undertow and the shelving of the beach making it so dangerous for sailors (we were warned against swimming at Burton Bradstock, although we splashed the ponies through the waves) make it a definitive setting. Falkner’s tale of a young man growing up in a smuggling community, with tales of ghosts and Blackbeard’s treasure make it an intriguing and exciting adventure. My memories of it were mainly the description of the beach and the land behind, so familiar to my experiences, and the horrific climb up the cliff-face (further along where the chalk meets the sea) when young John Trenchard is being part-carried, part goaded, by Elzevir, his guardian. I remembered Elzevir as a bullying rogue, a baddie in the cut of Long John Silver, but he’s nothing of the kind. A rogue, yes, but a kind man, for all that he’s a loner in a difficult time.
The language is that of its time, and one soon gets into the swing of it. It seems so rich, and appropriate to describe Trenchard’s adventures; hiding from the smugglers in a dusty coffin; traipsing through thee woods for a forbidden tryst with the daughter of his enemy; fighting for his life in the undertow of the sea in a storm. I’d forgotten that it all revolves around Blackbeard’s treasure, a diamond so fabulous and deadly it can enflame a man’s desire and drive him to his doom.
This book was so much better than I remembered it. I really must re-read more of my favourite kid’s books.
I found this book in the secondhand book store at Wroxham (Bure Valley) railway station. It cost me 50p and was worth every penny!
Pictures are mine, my Dad’s and the Burton Cliff by Maurice G Budden (under CC share-alike). Shame I can’t find any of my holiday snaps of the beach and cliffs from ground level, this one’s from jurassiccoast.org.
15 thoughts on “Jurassic Coast (and the other half of a book review)”
Are you allowed to collective fossils along the Jurassic Coast? What a fabulous, gorgeous place to visit!
Yes, fossil collecting is allowed, although you are asked to leave embedded ones in place for all to admire. So pick up only, no hammers1
We spent a few days in Lyme Regis once and walked the Cobb as the French Lieutenant’s woman did. And don’t forget Louisa Musgrove in Jane Austen’s Persuasion who jumped down its steps and fell. The literary reasons took us (well, read me) there as well as the natural history ones, though we enjoyed them both.
It’s a lovely place. I couldn’t remember which of the Austen’s it was; I think I’ve only read Persuasion once.
Yes, it’s not one of my favourite Austens. I did re-read it and French Lieutenant’s Woman either before or after we visited Lyme. I think the latter is brilliant and change my mind about the ending every time!
These are some wonderful photos. The coastline is beautiful. I have an uncle who spends every summer in his caravan in Swanage. At least there are still regions that haven’t been completely destroyed by humans! Thanks so much for sharing. Thanks also for visiting my blog and alerting me to a possible virus.
Barbara @ Entrepreneurial Goddess
You’re very welcome, Barbara. And your uncle has good taste.
I’d love to explore it. An area where the planet’s history is right there on display.
I hope you do, one day, Nick!
I’m a big fan of those places–though I’m more familiar with the US Southwest, where there is little vegetation to hide the geology 🙂
I hadn’t ever read or known of that book. It makes me want to go find it and read it, too.
It’s been dramatised and filmed for children’s tv here a few times, as well as being a popular book for lit classes for something-year-olds when we were young! If you have trouble finding it, let me know.
I still haven’t been to the Jurassic Coast – it’s on my list ! We’re lucky to live close to the ‘Dinosaur Coast though and have found some great fossils at Runswick Bay (not dinosaurs though 😉 ) Thank you for featuring Moonfleet – you’ve reminded me how much I loved it and I must dig it out for my son – and a re-read. Have you read Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier? I loved it!
I haven’t, Marjorie – I must look that one up! Thanks 🙂
The Jurassic Coast is absolutely stunning. I love that you shared your own photos! Great review of Moonfleet. Thank you for sharing this on the hop!
Hi Jemima – lovely photos of the Jurassic Coast .. I’ve just read a book about Mary Anning – which was fascinating … not the Chevalier one Marjorie suggests .. but I understand is very good. I think I’ve leant it out .. I’ll get mine back anon ..
Love the learning along the coast – and here … cheers Hilary
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