The Jurassic Coast and Dorset

Image: Durdle Door’s Famous Arch

The Jurassic Coast, a 95 mile stretch of path across Dorset and Devon, is one of the most stunning and distinguishable coastlines of Britain. Its famous landmark at of the arch in the cliff side, Durdle Door, has become a pinnacle of the history of its coastal erosion. Yet, it is only  one tiny snapshot of this huge trek, which displays a variety of rock formations due to years of wave action eroding the rocky coastline. The impact of the Jurassic Coast can also be seen in Dorset’s Tourist industry and its history as a coastal county.

The Unique Shape of Dorset’s Coast

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Lulworth Cove’s Unique Structure

The reason for the Jurassic Coast’s unique shape and structure is down to the years of erosion through wave action, combined with the fragility of the material the cliffs are made from, varying from clay to a stronger stone, limestone. These different kinds of rocks along the coast have been beaten and shaped by the sea, into bays, arches and also beaches. Lulworth Cove is one example of such a battering – the cove itself has been created by wave diffraction. This means that waves are caused to spread out due to an obstacle, which is created by the different types of rock which make up the cove. It is an unusual shape due to the differing effects of wave action of the diverse types of rock. Where it has eroded the clays and sands at the side of the cove, the limestone stacks at the front are tougher and less easily eroded, which has created a unique circular shape, with a narrow entrance. The back of the cove is also made of a tougher rock – chalk, which can be eroded but at a much slower rate.


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Lulworth Cove’s Limestone Barriers

Tourism and Conservation

The Jurassic Coast plays a large role in Dorset’s growing tourism industry, which began growing in the late eighteenth century. This also coincided with the time those who could afford to began to head to the seaside for both health and leisure reasons. While other regions of England began to industrialise, Dorset remained relatively rural, and its economy relied on tourism.

While tourism has become a major impact on Dorset, so too has conservation. Preserving such an immense cliff face is in itself a dominating task. It is one which involves a lot of effort, especially with enthusiastic ramblers and day-trippers alike flocking to see the stunning coastal line or spend a day at the beaches. The coast is so important for conservation because, as the Jurassic Coast’s Official Website states, it is a ‘Walk Through Time’. The cliffs, created over 250 million years, are made up of layers and layers of sedimentary rock which contain not only fossils as far back as the Triassic period, but details of how the cliff face was formed and for how long. Conservation therefore does not involve trying to prevent erosion completely, as it is a natural process and one which created the stunning coastal sites. Conservation often focuses on protecting the areas built up around the coast, including houses, roads and the close by, from the dangers of erosion, such as landslides. The stories that the coast tells are important to conserve for the history it can tell not only of the region but of prehistoric periods, and the development of Britain’s coastline through millions of years of erosion and wave action.

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