Author: Katie Burden

Sally is the Jurassic Coast Visitor Manager

Sally is the Jurassic Coast Visitor Manager

Those who know me well will know that I am slightly obsessed when it comes to exercise. For me, though, it has always been more about being out there in the elements than about the actual keeping fit bit. ‘The elements’ have varied from the tropical heat and my early days of running while living in exotic countries as a child; to high mountains and walking up them; to the thrill and fear of the ocean waves through many years of competitive amateur sailing.

A couple of years ago, I heard about this strange sounding sport called gig rowing, or sea rowing as some clubs more accurately call it. I decided on the spur of the moment to give it a go. On a freezing cold November day, I arrived at West Bay harbour, clambered into a 32 foot wooden boat and was told to ‘lay the oar to the water’. After floundering around like an imbecile until the person behind helped me, I eventually put my oar in the sea, pulled a stroke and immediately committed the cardinal sin of ‘catching a crab’, or in other words put the oar way too deep into the water and lost control of it. An inauspicious beginning…

East Cliff from the sea

The awesome sight of the cliffs at West Bay is best viewed from the sea!

So, what on earth has this got to do with the Jurassic Coast you may be asking? Well, even on that first cold and confusing outing, as soon as we got out of the harbour and I looked up at the towering cliffs of West Bay, I fell in love with this sport which allowed such fabulous views of our Jurassic Coast from the sea. It has long been said that the best way to see the spectacular geology of the coast is from the sea. The beauty of being on a gig is that you really feel a part of the natural environment and can often get right up close to the beach – yet far enough away to be out of the line of fire should there be a rockfall! It is a very good way of monitoring coastal change (seriously!) – we see the cliffs two or three times a week, all year round – and my fellow rowers also act as unofficial Jurassic Coast safety ambassadors – if we see people perched precariously on the any of the enormous piles of rocks along this section, we often row closer and politely (sometimes less politely) tell them they are putting themselves in danger.

Sunset rowing

Sunset is a great time of day to be out on the water

I’ve always felt privileged to live and work here in Dorset and East Devon. The pull of getting out into the elements is as strong in me now as it has always been. Rowing has offered a whole new way of enjoying this amazing place where the ocean meets the land. And of course it keeps you fit too…

Sally King
Jurassic Coast Visitor Manager

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