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Discovering Weymouth along the Jurassic Coast of Dorset

Fossil Coast Drinks Co explores Weymouth one of Europe's best beach and harbourside destinations along the Jurassic Coast of Dorset and the host to the sailing events of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Weymouth Harbourside along the Jurassic Coast of Dorset

Weymouth holds a special place for us as a family as it was on another hot day that we sat on the Nothe Fort, Weymouth's historic sea fort, and watched the sailing events during the 2012 Olympics. It was also the place where we learned to sail at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy. There is nothing better than a warm evening enjoying a glass of fizz or Gin & Tonic on the harbourside with friends and family.

Chesil Beach and tombolo linking Weymouth to the Isle of Portland
Chesil Beach linking Weymouth to the Isle of Portland

To the west of Weymouth is the Jurassic coast of Dorset stretching from Chesil Beach to Lyme Regis. Weymouth is surrounded by the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Weymouth is the land-based gateway to the rugged and picturesque Isle of Portland the inspiration for the Dorset-born writer Thomas Hardy.

The Isle of Portland is however not an island per se but rather a tied island connected to the mainland by a tombolo of shingle known as Chesil Beach behind which lies a lagoon called "The Fleet". The term tombolo is translated from Italian, as “mound”

To the east of Weymouth sits the coastline of the Isle of Purbeck and home of the enigmatic Jurassic and Cretaceous coastal landscape of Kimmeridge, Lulworth Cove, Durdle Door, Old Harry Rocks, and Swanage. At this point, Weymouth is a very good and centrally placed location to stay along the Jurassic Coast as it is within easy travelling distance for some very special day trips.

Weymouth harbourside, Dorset, along the Jurassic Coast
Weymouth Harbourside, Dorset

The busy seaside town of Weymouth has its origins as two medieval seaports called Weymouth and Melcombe Regis located on either side of the River Wey renowned for its source of spring groundwater from the upland chalk aquifer.

These early seaports were known for trading, importing, and exporting wool, wine, coal, and produce. It was not until 1571 that Elizabeth I combined the ports into one borough by an Act of Parliament.

Like so many places along the Jurassic Coast such as Sidmouth and Swanage, it was not until the Georgian period that many places grew into resort towns offering sandy beaches and sea bathing as a prescribed medicine for improving health.

Weymouth benefitted in 1789 when George III became a resident of the Town and spent time at Gloucester House (now a hotel) for his health. Weymouth became more popular and accessible to many more people from 1857 when the railway arrived.

There are two particular places I recommend you visit. Firstly the Weymouth Museum has a very active “Local History Centre” holding a wide range of research materials including original documents, maps, old photographs and postcards, and cinema and theatre posters. Secondly, the award-winning Nothe Fort Weymouth's number one heritage attraction and is located at the entrance to Weymouth Harbour, the Fort offers excellent 360-degree views across Dorset's Jurassic Coast.

Today, Weymouth and the surrounding area are enjoyed by those who love to discover and explore the spectacular coastal scenery, and the sea or savour the food and drink on offer from local producers. There is something for everyone including an award-winning Blue Flag sandy beach, walking along the esplanade with a magnificent Georgian seafront, or one of the many trails. To find out where to stay, where to eat, or when to visit go to Visit Dorset or the Weymouth Town Council website.

The Isle of Portland's most southerly point at Portland Bill in Dorset along the Jurassic Coast
Portland Bill by Matt Pinner

The area north and west of Weymouth has experienced considerable movement, rifting, and uplift over a geologic timeframe.

The landscape around Weymouth includes a series of parallel limestone hills and clay vales that run east to west from the shores of the Fleet to Osmington.

From north to the south there is a huge anticline known as the Weymouth anticline. The Weymouth anticline is a convex fold of several rock layers that have been deformed as a result of a broader system of geological disturbances from orogenic processes of mountain-building events.

This deformation extends across the south of England, the English Channel, and as far as northern France. This structure gently dips southwards, creating the characteristic wedge shape of the Isle of Portland until its flank submerges offshore into Shamble Syncline off Portland Bill.

There are several locations in and around Weymouth where fossils can be found. The most interesting stretch in terms of stratigraphy, sedimentology, geomorphology, and paleontology is between Bowleaze Cove to Redcliff Point.

Most notably Redcliff Point, Furzey Cliff, and Jordan Cliff are areas that expose a sequence of shallow water Upper Jurassic (Oxfordian) Corallian sedimentary strata. Ammonites and molluscs are found including the giant oyster Gryphaea dilatata.

Landslips are a relatively common occurrence at this location due to their geology of permeable limestone overlaying impermeable clay. Therefore, safe fossil hunting should be taken at all times, and wear sturdy boots.


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