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:
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.