Devon Dorset Border: Fossil Beach + Ware to Lyme Regis - 6 miles (Circular) - OS Explorer 116
Mostly easy going. And guaranteed you'll find fossils on Lyme Regis's ugly but remarkable east beach.
Driving from the west on the A3O52 approaching Lyme Regis, turn right on Ware Lane. A few parking spots can be found by Ware House a few hundred yards along on your left, across from a footpath sign pointing right. That footpath is the end of the trail not the beginning.
To start, head back up the way you came to the A3052 and cross over onto Gore Lane. Names often give secrets away, so maybe there was a slaughterhouse along here once. In towns, a lane or street called The Shambles tells you where fresh meat was sold in medieval times. A shambles it was because the only way to keep meat fresh was to keep it alive until the last possible moment. With all the slaughter going on animals waiting their turn tended to kick out.
Whatever its past history, these days Gore Lane is pleasant and peaceful.
Passing Hill farm on your left, take a footpath also on your left about 150 metres further along. Through a farm gate, there’s then a couple of stiles and a field, with Upyme village nestling in the valley to your right.
Note the rocky ground. Flint mostly. (What would stone-age men have don without it?) I used to think it couldn’t be sedimentary rock because its so hard. But wrong. This is chalk country, and where there’s chalk there’s flint.
From what I read, the silica that creates the pearlescence on shells, from which chalk comes, mixed with the chemical soup of a 370- million-year-old ocean and congealed into flint. Blimey.
Over another stile and down through a copse you come to a lane. Go left a few metres until you come to another footpath sign on your right, opposite a cottage. Yellow way markers point right and left at the stile. Take the right. At the end of this field there’s a wooden footbridge. Ignore it and go left along a prettier path.
You’re now in Uplyme. This place was given to Glastonbury Abbey by King Cynewulf in 774 ce but it has none of Glastonbury’s hippy quirkiness.
The path ends at a lane. Go right, then left at a crossroads. This will bring you to the village’s only pub: The Talbot. I haven’t tried it. If you do, let me know what you think.
At the far end of the pub’s car park there’s a footpath sign pointing right. This is a lovely path/lane following the River Lim and part of the East Devon Way (a forty mile trail starting on Woodbury Common).
At a proper lane (one with cars on), cross over and continue. Lots of signs for Lyme Regis, so you can’t get lost when other paths converge. Soon it turns into Mill Lane, and yep, there’s an old mill with its wheel lovingly restored.
A stile soon after takes you into a field and you’re now on Wessex Ridgeway. That King I mentioned was the King of Wessex. Kingdom’s were smaller in those days but Cynewulf was expanding. Old old story.
This attractive wooded way ends at a road junction.
Keep straight ahead on Mill Lane, then Jericho. The lane comes to an abrupt end. Take the path to the right of the Lim before starting the ascent up Sherborne Lane with its old and beautifully maintained cottages to emerge on Lyme Regis's bustling main street.
Head downhill toward the sea. Amongst the ubiquitous shops there are plenty of more interesting outlets. Fancy a fossil? Plenty on sale here. And these shops are semi-museums with cracking specimens to gawp at. Thank any god you fancy that they’re no longer around. If you ignore birds, that is.
But no seagull's going to scare me! My partner and I stopped for tea at Crystals, at the bottom on the right. Cosy inside, it also has tables outside looking over the beach. Perfect.
Close by is a Victorian clocktower. Go east here along the promenade. Follow it to the end and descend to a beach far less attractive than the one near the café.
Fear not, this beach is a fossil collector’s paradise.
The first fossils you’re likely to find are the remains of ancient cars. A cliff fall brought an old scrap yard down. Cliff falls are common and bring fossil collectors out to chip away at newly exposed clay and limestone. A 200-million-year-old ammonite find is guaranteed. And who knows… much bigger beasts have been found. Leading pic is what I found last time I was there.
The grey hardened clay is filthy stuff. If you don’t fancy handling it, search among the harder limestone boulders washed by the sea. Embedded are the symmetrical remains of early life. Too heavy to take home, they are astonishingly abundant here. Ps.. time your walk for an outgoing tide for safety and the best finds.
Now return to the Victorian clock-tower and follow the prom westward. Glory at the grand buildings on your right where Regency drainpipes are more art than utility. Wonder at the Cobb ahead on your left where Meryl Streep brooded over turbulent seas in The French Lieutenant’s Woman. And if there’s a free table on the veranda of the Harbour Inn, grab it and enjoy an excellent crab sandwich and local ale.
Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside.
Afterwards, if the oceans not thundering over it, make your way along the Cobb to soak up the atmosphere of a unique place.
It dates from the fourteenth century and was built to protect the bobbing boats from south-westerly gales.
On its west side is a small beach where the Duke on Monmouth landed in 1685 to take the crown from James II. It didn’t go well, and many of the rebels were hung drawn and quartered where they landed. No crab sandwich for them.(I know it's an insensitive aside, but if crab's not your thing, a stall near the Cobb does excellent battered fish and chips. They come boxed with a warning to watch the seagulls. It's good advice. Keep the lid low or they'll likely dive bomb you.)
The Duke didn’t last much longer than his men, losing his head shortly after at the Tower of London. The axeman had a notoriously bad aim, and poor old Monmouth took several non-fatal blows before he found out if God or the other fella really exist.
Heading back from the Cobb, follow the coast road west a short distance, passing a loo and car park. A footpath sign points the way to the coast path.
Prepare for a steep climb. Where the path diverges, keep to the coast path going west. Lovely views from here until you’re swallowed by woodland. This is the undercliff.
Undercliffs are fabulous places where vegetation has survived collapsed cliffs they once stood upon, and flourish on the messy remains. Thick uneven and misshapen woodland goes on for miles – but you leave it sooner.
Shortly after entering woodland, you’ll see a sign to Chimney Rock. Head for that unless the undercliff beckons. In which case explore as deep as you fancy before backtracking to take this path.
The path to Chimney rock breaks up into many paths, but most converge further on. To make sure you don't return to the coastal path, keep right.
A low wooden bridge is where the paths converge. Now you have a very steep climb to aptly named Chimney Rock. If you overdid it on ice cream, crab, chips etc, you’ll burn it off by the time you reach this little oddity.
From the rock, continue onward over a stile and into a field. At the end of the field go right over another stile, then follow the hedge on your left to Ware House, where you started. Heart and climate warming signs of early spring the last time I was there.