Oldest – Jurassic Coast

Here are 250 million years of creation, the Triassic, Jurassic, Cretaceous and Tertiary ages on show. Who was Mary Anning…

“She sells sea shells on the sea shore”

Children in Britain know this little tongue twister of a poem, it must be said faster and faster until someone gets it all mixed up. It is actually a poem reflecting a story of a young Victorian girl around 12 years of age who brought the coast of Dorset in her sleepy fishing village of Lyme Regis to public and academic attention when she found the first fossilised remains of an Ichthyosaur in 1811.

Mary Anning was the daughter of a cabinet maker who died when she was 11yrs old. She helped her mother financially by picking up and selling pretty sea shells to visitors but Mary realised that something else was appearing in the sand. The regular erosion at the foot of the cliffs on the beach was revealing strange animals and shell like objects in stone. At this time there was still only limited understanding, or even any belief in a theory put forward by scientist and anthropologist Charles Darwin of the evolution of man. Most people could not believe we were descended from apes over a period of millions of year, preferring to believe the Bible version of how we got here. Mary had quite a collection of what we know now as “Fossils” and word soon spread. It created huge interest in Scientists and Geologists and soon the Dorset coast was being visited by the leaders in the field. Mary became quite a celebrity and as an enterprising teenager started a shop selling fossils she studied and became a leading authority in palaeontology, it soon became clear the coast of Dorset was a very special part of the UK.

It was discovered that within a 95 mile length of coast was over 185 million years of different rock deposits, the oldest rocks at Orcombe Point Exmouth Devon and the youngest at Old Harry rocks near Studland Bay Poole Dorset.

The coast covers 4 great eras of the Earths development the Triassic – 250-205 million years ago Jurassic 205 -135 million years ago, Cretaceous 135 – 65 million years ago and Tertiary 65 – 1,6 million years ago.

In 2001 the coast was given UNESCO World Heritage Site status.

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