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47. The Coastal Landforms of West Dorset (1992)


by Robert J. Allison

A series of itineraries illustrating the geology and denudational history along the coastline of West Dorset. This most beautiful coast is world famous for its spectacular recurrent landslides and the causes of these are fully explored together with their effects on shingle movement at beach level, the latter and best known being Chesil Beach.

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A series of itineraries illustrating the geology and denudational history along the coastline of West Dorset. This most beautiful coast is world famous for its spectacular recurrent landslides and the causes of these are fully explored together with their effects on shingle movement at beach level, the latter and best known being Chesil Beach.

Denudation History
Golden Cap (SY 407 923) is the highest sea cliff in southeastern England and five to six kilometres north lies the centre of the Vale of Marshwood, a roughly oval-shaped lowland whose floor drops to about 50 m to 60 m, drained by the Char and its tributaries. Structurally it is an unroofed elongated dome of Jurassic rocks, in the core of which denudation has exposed the Lower Lias. An approximate circular route can be taken, with many site owned by the National Trust, all well served by footpaths.
Spectacular views both inland and along the coast, await the visit at a number of localities.
Start & Finish point: Cockpit Hill ST 413 012

Landslide types and processes
The term mass movement applies to processes which transport soil and rock from high to low ground, due to gravitational displacement. The processes manifest themselves in different forms of landslides and the mass movements mantling the coastal slopes in west Dorset are best considered in four groups: slides, flows, falls and topples. This itinerary describes and discusses individual examples of each group so a specific start point is not helpful here.

Stonebarrow Hill
Stonebarrow Hill (SY 375 927) is a broad, prominent ridge, located between Charmouth and Golden Cap.
Stonebarrow Hill is owned by the National Trust and there are two, well signposted routes to reach the summit.
Start point 1: car park on Charmouth sea front SY 364 931
Start point 2: National Trust car park near summit of Golden Cap SY 382 933

Higher Sea Lane
The small landslip complex at Higher Sea Lane displays many of the characteristics present in the adjacent large landslip at Black Ven. The exposed scar being subject to both block detachment and weathering. The Higher Sea Lane landslide complex is easily accessible from the car park at Charmouth sea front.
Start point car park at Charmouth sea front SY 366 929

Black Ven
The Black Ven landslide complex contains one of the largest systems of landslides in Europe and can be visited independently or as extension to the Higher Sea Lane landslide complex. Black Ven is owned by the National Trust and there are a number of conveniently located car parks and a selection of footpaths which run to the landslide complex.
Start point car park at Charmouth sea front SY 365 930

Urban landslides
Discusses the impacts and management of landslides using Lyme Regis, which is easily accessible by car and public transport, as an example.
Start point car park at the centre of Lyme Regis SY 343 921

Coastal sediment supply and transport
Discusses sediment supply and transport processes focussing on three pocket beaches: Charmouth, Seatown and Eyp. Their separate identity arises from landslide debris.
Start point 1: car park on Charmouth sea front SY 365 930
Start point 2: car park on Seaton sea front SY 421 918
Start point 3: car park on Eyp sea front SY 488 911

Chesil Beach
There are numerous points of access to Chesil Beach with the best view, on a clear day, from the car part on summit at north end of Isle of Portland SY 691 731. Start at the NW end of the beach and walk SE to examine the sediment size variation from west to east.
Start point 1: car park adjacent to harbour wall at West Bay SY 464 903

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