Are you going dippy in Dorset?
If you’re visiting Dippy on Tour, the Natural History Museum’s famous Diplodocus cast, when he’s in Dorchester at the Dorset County Museum, why not make a day of it?
The Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site is full of wonderful, dinosaur-tastic places to go to have fun and find out more about what was going on during the time Dippy was alive, around 150 millions years ago.
Here are suggestions for some places to go before or after your date with Dippy:
Kimmeridge Bay and The Etches Collection
On the Isle of Purbeck, local man Steve Etches has spent more than 30 years discovering and diligently researching the most amazing collection of fossils found in the local Kimmeridgian clays.
Now they are on show for all of us in a wonderful Exhibition Gallery, which takes us to the late Jurassic period when the seas were tropical and creatures were wonderful, and a bit weird!
Kimmeridge Bay is beautiful, even if not so tropical now, and well worth the 15 minute walk or car ride to the beach.
Swanning about on the Chesil Bank
Abbotsbury is a beautiful Dorset village which meets the sea on Chesil Beach. It’s a unique, 18-mile long shingle bank, which here towers above your head. Crunch up to the top and see the great sweep of the coast. But before you reach the beach you might hear the Chesil roar. Not one of Dippy’s friends, but the sea’s constant pulse against the millions of stones.
On the landward side of the bank is the Fleet lagoon, a tidal stretch of not-so-salty water, which is probably most famous as the home of the mute swan colony at Abbotsbury Swannery (open from 17 March). It’s the only place in the world where you can walk among the nesting birds and perhaps even see a fluffy cygnet emerge from its shell.
If you’re still hankering for a taste of the tropics, then Abbotsbury Sub-Tropical Gardens is a balmy, palmy, oasis right on the coast, with it’s own special micro-climate. It’s open every day and there’s a shop and restaurant too.
Hit the (coast) road…
Follow the coast road westwards (B3157) from Abbotsbury and you get a free gift: one of the most scenic coastal drives anywhere, when on a clear day you see the Jurassic coastline right the way to the Devon beaches and where the light and colour is never the same two days running.
The road will take you to West Bay, which is Bridport’s Harbour (yes, it’s Broadchurch!) with those incredible golden cliffs. It’s a lovely little fishing harbour and an excellent ice cream stop!
A few minutes away, in the lively market town of Bridport, the newly refurbished Bridport Museum not only tells the story of the town’s rich history of rope and net-making (ask about the Bridport Dagger) but also has a great gallery for fossils and rocks. The museum building is one of the oldest in the town too.
A few miles further west and Charmouth is not only a pretty seaside village; its beach is British fossils’ HQ!
Go hunting on a guided fossil walk, or visit the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre where the incredible ichthyosaur that starred in the BBC documentary Attenborough and the Sea Dragon is on display.
A Fossil Hunters’ Paradise
Last, but most definitely not least, is the bustling little town of Lyme Regis. Here, a couple of hundred years ago, the young Mary Anning made what were possibly the most significant geological finds of all time as she dug away at the blue lias clay when landslides (and they’re still happening) exposed some rather remarkable creatures.
Lyme Regis Museum has a new Mary Anning wing with exciting displays and a truly world-class collection of fossils. It’s a must-go!
Now we’ve reached the Devon border. But there’s still plenty of Jurassic Coast to go… Come back soon!
Anne King is a director of Watershed PR. Proud to be a Jurassic Coast Business Partner.