History Group Talks September 2013


Tony Burgess an Exeter Red Coat Guide gave the group an interesting talk entitled "The Devon & Dorset Coast and its  Hinterland".
This area of the south coast since 2001 has been declared a 'World Heritage Centre' which has resulted in an increase in the tourist trade in particular with people who are interested in the Prehistoric times. This is mainly due to the publicity that has surrounded the finding of vast amounts of fossilised remains. This has now become renowned as "The Jurassic Coast' and has created a boost to the area’s regular Jurassic Coastal Bus Service.  Tony began by describing the geology of the area and the variety of rock formations visible to visitors from the early Triassic period through the Jurassic period and finally when during a prolonged under sea period the laying down of the Chalk now visible along the eastern part of the coast.  He took us on a journey from Exmouth with its Geo Needle, unveiled by Prince Charles in 2001, eastwards for about ninety miles. His coloured slides depicted well the scenery along the coast and the hinterland of the area, the first of which showed the strata, varying in direction due to upheavals over the years. The Red Sandstone being in fact sand from the Sahara Desert region millions of years ago. He called at Budleigh Salterton where the River Otter at its mouth is constantly changing due to the continual activity of the sea and movement of the pebbles. Woodbury Common lies behind Ladrum Bay and this wild area is used by The Royal Marines as a training area and also enjoyed by many as a nature walk. Mention was made of Iron Age Forts on the cliff tops and then to Sidmouth, a beautiful town always worth a visit with its Connaught Gardens. This area has suffered in recent years from numerous 'cliff falls' due to the erosion actions of the sea. Near the 'donkey sanctuary’ at Branscombe is a small 'Hermitage'. A Miss Lee created this so that she could sit and enjoy the area and its wild life in comparable peace and quiet. The caves at Beer, visited by our group on an outing a couple of years ago, were mentioned and the stone from that underground chasm used in the construction of Exeter Cathedral and many other buildings. Further along various areas of cliff have fallen over the years towards the sea. One area known for its ’plats’ or small plots of land used  to grow the famous ‘Branscombe Potatoes’ that were always the earliest potatoes each spring to reach the markets. Tony related that they grew the type ‘Epicure’ so thin skinned that they rarely needed skinning. Branscombe became ‘famous’ for another reason a few years ago when the ship ‘Napoli’ sank in the bay and tons of its cargo was swept onto its beach, hoards of people from all over Britain ‘swooped’ into the village and stole the materials off the beach. It was in a peculiar way reminiscent of the old ‘Smuggling’ days way back when !  From Beer to Seaton is a wonderful nature reserve where a wonderful array of wildlife can be seen. Along the coast from Axmouth to Lyme Regis there are some remains of wrecks, fishing boats amongst them, a constant reminder of the power of the oceans.  Lyme Regis is a beautiful town with a great history attached to it, and visited so often by ‘fossil hunters’. All along the coast from Lyme Regis to Charmouth with its often disastrous cliff falls, recently claiming the lives of the unwary sunbathers. This is the famous fossil hunting area and people risk their lives amongst the fallen cliffs searching for these beautiful ancient remains. Golden Cap was mentioned for its beauty and the views from the site. The geology still changing as we were taken eastward.  The world famous Abbotsbury Swannery, set up by monks many years ago and the nearby Chesil Beach where Barns Wallace practiced his ‘bouncing bomb' in the nearby lagoon during WWII.  Portland, Weymouth, Durdle Door, Lulworth Cove and the famous Fossilised Forest near Tyneham Village were all part of a fascinating insight into the area that we hope to see when we go on our Annual Outing on Saturday 28th September to Exmouth Lifeboat Station and weather permitting a boat trip along the Jurassic Coast.

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