Activity | Walk the Jurassic Coast
This is very much an up and down ‘roller-coastal’ walk in Dorset, providing a good stretch for the legs. Start at the little coastal village of Seatown directly south from Chideock off the A35. You’ll find a car park opposite the Anchor pub.
Walk back up the road for 200 metres before turning left (A) onto the footpath that takes you across a field and a small copse of pines. From here it’s an open cliff-top route, steadily ascending towards Golden Cap. The last push (B) is steep but cut steps allow for a slow, steady plod uphill. It’s worth the effort for the spectacular views of coastline from Portland Bill to the east all the way across to Devon in the west.
A short right-hand detour off the coastal path (C) takes you to the ruins of St Gabriel’s chapel, once part of a medieval hamlet. Heading back to the coast path there is a permissive route down to the shore at St Gabriel’s Mouth (D). It’s a good place for fossils but it’s reached via a steep flight of wooden steps and can be especially slippery in wet weather.
Back on the coast path proper (follow the acorn symbols), the next section (E) is more gently undulating with the sea views on the left accompanied on the right by a patchwork quilt of green pastures stitched together with a thick thread of dark hedges. Keep your eyes peeled here among golden gorse and wind-sculpted hawthorn bushes for stonechats, or even the rare Dartford warbler. Listen out too for the harsh ‘kronk’ of ravens as they para-glide along the cliff edge.
The final leg
The last section of the walk is diverted, due to a recent landslide, but an alternative route is well sign-posted. Turn right, away from the coast, into a National Trust car park (F) (Stonebarrow Hill) and then immediately left along a single-track lane which leads (downhill all the way!) to the centre of Charmouth. Turn left past Seadown Holiday Park then follow a footpath which takes you directly to the beach.
This is the perfect place to hunt for fossils as 185 million years of prehistoric life is gradually exposed from the eroding rocks. Try to time a trip for just after high tide, leaving plentiful hours to scour the shingle for fossil shells especially tiny ammonites and even shark’s teeth that have been exposed by the receding sea. It’s simply a question of wandering with your eyes glued to the beach at your feet – maybe turning over a rock or two. Once your eye is ‘in’ you’ll soon have a trove of fossil treasures.
There are two bus services from Charmouth Church, the X53 from Exeter to Poole and the 31 between Axminster and Weymouth, which run east along the A35 to Chideock Bridge. From here it’s a mile walk back to Seatown itself.
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Words: Countryfile Magazine