Between Axmouth in East Devon and Lyme Regis in Dorset the geology of the coast has helped create one of the great wilderness areas of southern England – the Undercliffs National Nature Reserve.

The Undercliffs has been formed from sandstone and chalk slipping over clay and limestone, leaving a ragged coastline dissected by some of the largest coastal landslides in the country.

Amongst the seven miles of broken ground within the Reserve, an incredible diversity of wildlife and plant life has become established. Pioneering species can be found colonising fresh rock and clay surfaces exposed by ground movement. They live side by side with wild woodland and grassy meadows that have developed on the more stable parts of the Nature Reserve.

Weaving its way through all this is the South West Coast Path. Making your way along it involves traversing some pretty rough terrain, as the path crosses the slipped and torn landscape of the Undercliffs Reserve, but it is worth it. There are few opportunities to encounter nature so untamed and here, more than any other part of the Jurassic Coast, there is a sense that people are only passing through, guests of the wild inhabitants who are the true owners of this place.

 

How to Get There

The Undercliffs Reserve can be accessed from either its western or eastern end.

The western end is accessed via the village of Axmouth, which sits immediately alongside Seaton in East Devon. Access to the reserve is via a steep coastal footpath from Axmouth Harbour, or from the top of Steppes Lane.

The reserve’s eastern end is accessed via Lyme Regis. Head towards the famous Cobb, then continue past the Lyme Regis Bowling Club to the South West Coast Path (look for the acorn sign), which heads up into the reserve. You can also access the reserve directly from Holmbush long-stay car park at the top of Lyme Regis.

For further travel directions, see our Seaton and Lyme Regis pages.

axmouth harbour
Boats moored at Axmouth Harbour, East Devon, with the Undercliffs Reserve's cliffs in the background. © Steve Belasco - jurassicphotographic.com

Where to Stay

To easily access the Undercliffs Reserve, we recommend booking a stay in Seaton or Lyme Regis.

For a comprehensive list of local options, visit our Accommodation page.

Undercliffs - Where to Stay
The Cobb in Lyme Regis, with the wilds of the Undercliffs Reserve in the background. © Steve Belasco - jurassicphotographic.com

Guided Walks through the Undercliffs Reserve

The Jurassic Coast Trust and Natural England, who manage the Reserve, collaborate to run a series of guided walks through the Undercliffs each year.

These walks are led by local experts and give a tremendous insight into the Reserve’s unique character.

undercliffs walk donald
Donald Campbell leads a walk through the Undercliffs National Nature Reserve.

Need to Know: How Was the Undercliffs Formed?

 

The Undercliffs owes its unique character to a major geomorphology event – the Bindon Landslip of 1839. This shifting of the land created broken, uneven ground which rendered the area unsuitable for agriculture.

 

This created a paradise for nature, which was allowed to develop unhindered, creating the unique wilderness we have today.

 

See Lyme Regis Museum’s website for more information about the Bindon Landslip.

Dunster Goat Island - Bindon landslide illustration
Illustration of the Bindon Landslip.

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