Construction work has recently begun to rebuild the steps leading to the Fossil Forest on the Jurassic Coast.
This globally important site, part of the Lulworth Estate, is located to the east of Lulworth Cove, and shows evidence of a forest which grew there around 145 million years ago. Strange rounded shapes known as ‘algal burrs’ reveal where the fossilised remains of tree trunks once stood.
Access to the Fossil Forest will remain closed whilst work is taking place. The site has been closed since 2015 following a large rock fall that damaged the steps leading from the South
West Coast Path down to the site. Dorset Highways will be working to repair the steps whilst the MOD (Ministry of Defence) ranges are open during the summer holidays. The project will not only repair the steps but will also improve an area near the top of the steps to provide seating and interpretation panels for those who might not be able to climb down and back up the 97 steps to see the algal burrs. Two large fossilised pieces of wood have been kindly donated by Albion Stone at Portland and will be on display in the upper viewing area.
Any remaining work that does not happen over the summer will take place during the Autumn when the ranges are open at weekends. It is expected the improved steps and viewing area will be open for all visitors by December 2019.
James Weld of the Lulworth Estate said; “We are extremely delighted that the Fossil Forest will be accessible once again and are pleased to be working closely with all parties involved, to
ensure the experience will be of great value, both as an educational tool and as somewhere to visit on this unique and stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site.”
James Nevitt, Senior Access & Recreation Advisor said; “The MOD is committed to protecting our heritage and is always keen to engage in positive collaborative working to deliver a positive outcome. We recognise the significance of this site and it will be fantastic to see it reopened after what has been a complex project to deliver.”
When the Ranges were open over Easter 2019, Vertical Technology Ltd fitted netting over the cliff face above the steps and a catch fence. Natural England granted one-off consent for
this preventative measure to be put in place to reduce damage from any falling rocks in the future.
The Fossil Forest Access project is part of the Dorset Coastal Connections portfolio of 18 projects along the Dorset Coast which aims to support and boost the economies of Dorset’s
coastal areas. The portfolio is being funded by a grant from the government’s Coastal Communities Fund and partner organisations and is coordinated by Dorset Coast Forum. The Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty team is leading on this project in partnership with Lulworth Estate, Defence Infrastructure Organisation (part of the MOD), The Arts
Development Company and the Jurassic Coast Trust.