Staying Safe and Enjoying the Coast

The power of the sea is continually eroding the coastline. This is West Bay.
The power of the sea is continually eroding the coastline. This is West Bay.

The Jurassic Coast is constantly eroding. This erosion has created the beautiful coastline that we see today, but it’s important to remember that rock falls and landslides are part of this process. Although they are more likely to occur after heavy rainfall or storms, rock falls and landslides can happen at any time.

The Jurassic Coast is a wonderful place to visit, but it’s important to use common sense and caution – and always pay attention to warning signs and messages about how to stay safe.

Common sense safety advice

Rockfalls warning sign
Rockfalls warning sign
Mudflows warning sign
Mudflows warning sign
  • Do not take unnecessary risks and stay away from the edge of the cliff top.
  • Stay away from the base of cliffs: rock falls can happen at any time.
  • Do not climb or walk over landslide or rock fall debris, especially after wet weather.
  • Always pay attention to warning signs; they are there to advise you on how to stay safe.
  • Check the weather forecast before you go.
  • Beware of steep, shelving beaches and large waves.
  • Be aware of tide times. The sea comes in and out twice a day and it is possible to get cut off by the incoming tide or forced up against the cliffs. See BBC Tide Times for the latest information.
  • If you are looking for fossils, do not hammer into the cliffs or solid rock as this will cause long lasting damage and can be dangerous.

In case of emergency

In case of an emergency on the coast dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard.

More information on rock falls and landslides in Dorset.

Collecting fossils

Fossils collected on the beach at Charmouth
Fossils collected on the beach at Charmouth
  • The best, and safest, place to look for fossils is on the beach where the sea has washed away soft clay and mud.
  • Do not hammer into the cliffs, fossil features or rocky ledges.
  • Keep collecting to a minimum. Avoid removing in situ fossils, rocks or minerals.
  • The collection of specimens should be restricted to those places where there is a plentiful supply.
  • Only collect what you need – leave something for others.
  • Never collect from walls or buildings. Take care not to undermine fences, bridges or other structures.
  • Be considerate and don’t leave a site in an unsightly or dangerous condition.
    Some landowners do not wish people to collect – please observe notices.

The West Dorset Fossil Collecting Code of Conduct is available to download here.

The Countryside Code

Click here to find out more about the Countryside Code.