If Lyme Regis is a giant of the fossil world, then Charmouth is a dinosaur (ouch!). This spot is world-renowned for its abundance of fossils. Ammonites abound here, and smaller ones can even be found along the foreshore. Other relics from prehistory which have been unearthed here include crinoids, the bones of Ichthyosaurus, and several complete fish fossils. There is an area in which during extremely low tides the remains of a submerged forest has been revealed, including traces of mammoth bones. Visitors wanting to find out more about the geology and palaeontology of the area, and the best way to look for fossils, should head for the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre. The village of Charmouth is dwarfed by several notable hills including the mighty Golden Cap, which rises to 617 feet and is the highest point on the south coast. The perils of landslips, which were touched on briefly in the Axmouth article, continue along this stretch of coast. As recently as early March this year around 100,000 tonnes of debris was reportedly dislodged from the top of a cliff near Golden Cap. A previous landslide a few years ago during one of our visits to the area prevented my husband and I from going ahead with a planned walk up Golden Cap.
It never ceases to amaze me that even some of the smallest settlements in this country have managed to pack in an amazing amount of history over the centuries, and Charmouth is no exception. There are hill forts in the area which were constructed by Iron Age people known as the Durotriges. Like Axmouth, Charmouth saw action against the Danes during the 9th century, when a succession of bloody battles took place.
Several centuries later, a building which is now the Queens Arms was used as a residence by Catherine of Aragon who stopped here on her way to get married. Later, after it became an inn, King Charles II arrived there in disguise after being defeated at the Battle of Worcester in 1651.
Seatown is on the other side of Golden Cap from Charmouth, and is reached via a B-road from the village of Chedeock. Like Charmouth, it is a popular spot for fossil hunting, and it has the added attraction of a wonderfully situated pub in a slightly elevated position overlooking the beach, with outside tables in a lawned area on the clifftop. It was here that we were prevented from walking up to Golden Cap by the landslide, but there was an equally exhilarating walk heading in an easterly direction towards Doghouse Hill and Thorncombe Beacon.
Map of the area.
photo © 2007 Susannah Grant | more info (via: Wylio)