Coast is England’s first natural World Heritage Site. World
Heritage Sites are recognised by UNESCO (United Nations Educational,
Scientific and Cultural Organisation) as being places of outstanding
universal value and part of the heritage of all mankind that
should be protected, conserved and passed on to future generations
to enjoy and appreciate.
UNESCO awarded the Jurassic Coastline its status in December 2001 and this
was officially opened by His Royal Highness Prince Charles on Thursday 3rd
The Jurassic Coast covers a 95 mile stretch
of the picturesque Dorset and East Devon Coastline which lies
on the South Coast of England in Europe.
This World Heritage Coastline is called the ‘Jurassic
Coast’ because it displays the best uninterrupted cross
section through the Jurassic Period to be found anywhere in the
world. It also displays superb cross sections through the Triassic
Period and the Cretaceous Period, covering 185 million years
of the Earth’s history - the entire Mesozoic Era!
The Mesozoic Era
Triassic (250-200 million years ago)
The oldest sediments found here are the Triassic. These range from
250 – 200 million years in age and were deposited in the form
of desert sand dunes, rivers, shallow temporary lakes and lagoons.
The characteristic red colour of Triassic sediments is caused by iron
within the deposits.
Jurassic (200 – 140
million years ago)
The Jurassic Period marks a period in time when sea levels rose, flooding
the deserts. The sediments from the Jurassic Period were formed at
the bottom of a tropical ocean which fluctuated in sea level over time.
Theses sediments are mainly grey in colour, an indication of the soft,
stagnant seabed caused by fine silts that rained down continually from
above. It is these sediments in which some of the best fossils are
found, preserved by the stagnant silty seabed. At the end of the Jurassic
Period the sea levels dropped allowing forests to grow and dinosaur
footprints have been found from this time!
Cretaceous (140 – 65
million years ago)
The youngest sediments are from the Cretaceous Period. The early part
of the Cretaceous Period saw the sea levels slowly rise, flooding the
Jurassic forests. Over time the Cretaceous sea deepened and plankton
thrived in its warm, clear waters. Over millions of years the plankton
settled out of the water column and sank to the sea floor to form the
characteristically white chalk cliffs we sea today.
The Great Unconformity During the Mid-Cretaceous Period the rocks of
East Devon and Dorset were uplifted and tilted to the east by earth
movements. Erosion of the uplifted sediments took place allowing younger
cretaceous sediments to be deposited upon far older sediments. This
is known as the ‘Great Unconformity’ and can be seen spectacularly
at Golden Cap in Dorset and in the cliffs around Sidmouth in East Devon
The Dorset and East Devon Jurassic coastline displays some of the best geomorphology
and coastal erosion processes in England, making it an ideal destination for
geology field trips. This is why the coastline here is so popular with schools,
colleges, universities, earth scientists, palaeontologists and geologists.
There are many special natural geological features to be all found along the
Chesil Beach (also sometimes called the Chesil Bank)
Kimmeridge Bay, Ladram Bay, Lyme Bay, Mupe Bay, Ringstead Bay, Seaton Bay,
St. Oswald’s Bay, Studland Bay, Swanage Bay, Weymouth Bay, Worbarrow
Chapmans Pool, Church Ope Cove, Lulworth Cove
Black venn (Charmouth to Lyme Regis), Stonebarrow (Charmouth),The Bindon Landslide
(Axmouth to Lyme Regis Undercliff), The Great Southwell Landslip (Portland),
The Hooken Landslide (Beer Head), White Nothe (Ringstead)
Portland Bill has an eastern and western raised beach
Bats Hole, Durdle Door, Handfast Point
Ladram Bay, Portland Bill, Blackers Hole, Isle of Purbeck, Ballard Down
Butter Rock (Bat’s Head), Ladram Bay, Mupe Rocks, Old Harry Rocks, St.
Man and Stone
The coastline has been quarried over centuries for its valuable
minerals and stone, supporting industries and the growth of towns
and villages. Sought after materials have included beach shingle,
flint, gypsum, Beer Stone, Portland Stone, Purbeck Stone and
The geology in the landscape of the Jurassic Coast has created
an assortment of rich wildlife habitats including chalk grasslands,
sheltered undercliffs, forests, cliffs, rocky shores and reefs.
The wide collection of important biodiversities means the life
here ranges from rare orchids, butterflies, glow worms and birds,
to undersea corals and dolphins.