The Science of a Beautiful Landscape
The Dorset and East Devon Coast is well known to be very beautiful. The reason for that is in the relationship between the rocks and the sea.
A coastline takes shape through the sea and the weather pounding rocks and beaches over tens of thousands of years. The nature of a coastline depends on how the rocks and beaches react to the relentless energy from the sea and The Jurassic Coast has lots of different rocks that react in a wide variety of ways. The World Heritage Site is crammed with exceptional examples of natural coastal landforms of almost any kind imaginable. It is so rich in these features that scientists that study coastal landforms have described the World Heritage Site as an outdoor laboratory.
Scientists have spent years coming to study the landforms but many thousands of people come every year to enjoy the sheer beauty that all this variety creates.
Budleigh Salterton Beach – Pebbles from the past
Location: Budleigh Salterton, East Devon
Landform Type: Large pebble beach
Age: Formed some time in the last 10,000 years, after the last ice age
Where to go: Budleigh Salterton is on the main bus route between Sidmouth and Exmouth and is easily reached by car.
Look out for: Pink pebbles – these uniquely coloured pebbles only come from this beach and nowhere else in the UK. Removing any comes with a fine of up to £2000!
Pebbles from the past
All the pebbles that form the ebach at Budleigh Salterton come straight out of the cliff. There is a lyer of rock here made up of these pebbles and is known as the 'Budleigh Salterton Pebble Bed'. The pebbles were once carried by a river nearly 250 million years ago before being deposited and buried. Now they are eroded out of the cliff to form the beach. They are made of a very hard rock known as quartzite.
This beach is special because it allows scientists to investigate, in detail, the relationship between the supply of pebbles and the size and nature of the beach they make up. It is also free of any major coast defences and so lets us study how a beach behaves naturally, without being interfered with by human beings.
Location: Ladram Bay, East Devon
Landform Type: Naturally formed sea stacks
Age: Triassic, 245 - 235 million years old
Where to go: You can get to Ladram bay by foot along the south West Coast Path or by car via the Ladram Bay Holiday Park.
Look out for: Sea birds on the rock stacks.
Resisting the Sea
The cliffs and stacks at Ladram Bay are made up a red coloured soft sandstone that formed in deserts during the Triassic period. The layers of sandstone are harder in some places than others. These harder areas resist erosion from the sea whilst the softer rock is worn away around them. Eventually the harder parts of the sandstone stand entirely free of the cliffs – these are known as sea stacks.