Dorset and East Devon Coast

UNESCO World Heritage Site #290: Dorset and East Devon Coast
My 290th UNESCO World Heritage: Dorset and East Devon Coast

From the World Heritage inscription for Dorset and East Devon Coast:

Located on the south coast of England, the property comprises eight sections along 155 km of coast. The property has a combination of geological, palaeontological and geomorphological features. These include a variety of fossils, a beach renowned for its pebbles and textbook examples of common coastal features such as sea stacks and sea caves. The area has been studied for more than 300 years and has contributed to the development of earth sciences in the UK.

The site includes a near-continuous sequence of Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous rock exposures, representing much of the Mesozoic era (251-66 million years ago) or approximately 185 million years of the Earth’s history.

The site contains a range of important Mesozoic fossil localities. A large number of vertebrate, invertebrate and plant fossils have been discovered. Among the finds are fossil dinosaur footprints, including flying reptiles and marine reptiles. The area has yielded a rich source of ammonites, which have been used to zone the Jurassic. Well-preserved remains of a late Jurassic fossil forest are exposed on the Isle of Portland and the Purbeck coast: many trees are preserved with their associated soils and pollen, a boon for palaeo-ecologists.

The area is also renowned for the study of beach formation and evolution on a retreating coastline. Chesil Beach, stretching from West Bay to Portland, is one of the best-studied beaches in the world. The beach is famous for the volume, type, and grading of pebbles. The Fleet Lagoon is one of the most important saline lagoons in Europe, its sediments providing evidence of late Holocene beach evolution, and changes in sea level, climate, and vegetation. The Isle of Purbeck is notable for its well-developed coastal landforms, including cave-bay sequences and textbook examples of bays, stacks, and rock arches.

Migratory wildfowl habitat occurs in the area, with a relatively diverse invertebrate fauna.

The academic interest in the site derives in particular from the textbook examples of landforms and the diversity of these landforms in a relatively confined area, making the site an ideal location for initiating students of earth sciences. Although the natural integrity of the site has been somewhat compromised by quarrying, stone from the site has contributed to the construction of another World Heritage site – the Tower of London.

This site, commonly known as the Jurassic Coast, stretches about 50 km on either side of the city of Weymouth, on the southern coast of England.

One of the sections I visited is called Durdle’s Door. It is perhaps the best spot along the coast for photography as it has both a natural arch formation, aka Durdle’s Door, but also the stunning white cliffs you can see above. It is about a 20-minute drive from Weymouth and seems to actually be private property. There is an access road so you can view it, but it does cost money to park.

This site is probably not possible to visit on a day trip from London. I suppose it could be done, but it would probably be much easier to stay at least one night in the area.