The Jurassic Coast of Dorset and East Devon is a 95 mile stretch of coastline that demonstrates 185 million years of geological history
The image of Lulworth that many people have is of a picture postcard fishing village nestled in the Purbeck hills. Old cottages and a thatched pub, with lobster pots in the Cove. Unspoilt by modern development and a place where time has stood still. This is also the image sold to the general public by tourist offices and hotels.
However, this village has not stood still. It was made popular by writers such as Hardy, and grew in popularity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Tourism developed, with both the car and caravan parks opening in the 1920s as a result of public demand.
Lulworth has managed to avoid the urbanisation that can be seen further east on the Dorset coast. Poole and Bournemouth used to be small villages on the heath, but have now merged into an urban conurbation. To understand why Lulworth still exists as it is, we must look at the history of the area.
Lulworth is part of a large estate, and the land area has been managed as a single entity for 1000 years. (For 400 years as two estates, and the last 350 years by a single family.) The Estate must generate its own income and therefore aims to move with the times and progress without detracting from the beauty of Lulworth. Lulworth has also been relatively isolated in terms of transport. The railway stops short of Lulworth and early visitors would have made the trip by paddle steamer from Swanage or Weymouth.
As the Lulworth area is largely unspoilt, in the last 50 years (since planning regulations were introduced), it has been covered by several designations to help protect the area and to conserve it for future generations.
Lulworth comes under:
World Heritage Coast
Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
Site of Special Scientific Interest (Geology and Wildlife)
A Council of Europe Diploma Holding Area
Does such a small place as Lulworth really require management and conservation action? Its beauty, wildlife, good walking and a tendency to be mentioned in almost every geography text book means that Lulworth receives around 750,000 visitors every year. It is especially popular as an escape point from London and the South Eat as it is only two hours away by car.
The volumes of people visiting the area bring with them many positive aspects:
The local community and employment are sustained directly and indirectly through tourism revenue
Funds generated by tourism provide capital for investment at the Cove and for general Estate improvements
The Estate employs approximately 70 staff, of which about 30 are involved directly with tourism and leisure
However, so many visitors are not always desirable. There are many problems associated with tourism:
A large car park for vehicles
A caravan site for accommodation
Unsuitable or unsightly tourist shops
Erosion of footpaths
Pollution, rubbish and sewage
Erosion of Geological SSSI
The conflicts are clear. Lulworth provides a classic case study of countryside management needs with three main areas to consider:
The local community, economy and farming
To ensure that the character and amenity of Lulworth are retained, a sustainable balance between the three areas must be found. This may appear easy in theory, but it is not so easy in practice.
If we look at the major players which influence the area, we see that they are many and varied:
The Lulworth Estate
Dorset County Council
Purbeck District Council
The Ministry of Defence
The Council of Europe and other bodies influencing designations
The local community
The aims and requirements of each of the groups will vary according to their priorities, be it income, conservation or working policies.
So, what is actually happening on the ground towards better management in the Lulworth area?
In the 1990s the West Purbeck Warden wrote an assessment report on the management needs of the Lulworth area. The report contains information on:
The physical environment
History and archaeology
Recreation and tourism
This creates a suggested basis for a broad management plan to tackle issues in connection with one another, and at the root of the problems. There is no sense in reviewing symptoms if the underlying cause remains the same.
The Heritage Coast plan cannot exist in isolation. It has to take into consideration the needs of all the aforementioned groups. Bringing everyone together at grass roots level and changing attitudes so that all groups are working towards a commend end is a lengthy process.
Geo-jute on loose areas
Hard pathway (around Stair Hole)
Helpers in the effort to gain renewal of a Council of Europe Diploma
Guided walks and talks
Looking at eyesore sites
Many of the above done with the involvement and cooperation of the Estate
There are a number of public rights of way (in effect created and consented to by the Estate) on the coastal area, but public access to other areas of the coast has been provided by the Estate for more than 100 years
The Estate have opened a number of permissive rights of way from the coast to the area inland and have also opened the Castle grounds which helps to reduce impact on the Cove area
An historic landscape survey produced
Involvement of tenant farmers in the Countryside Stewardship Scheme
Have recently completed a scheme to screen all sewage before discharge.
This committee was created to examine problems on the Heritage Coast as a whole. It was formed in 1993 and brings together representatives from conservation, landowners, tourism and local government to co-ordinate the activities of the many bodies involved in managing, conserving and enjoying Purbeck.
The committee has recently published the Strategy for the Purbeck Heritage Area.
There are many issues to tackle in the future. A few of the issues named in reports and strategies that concern the Lulworth area are:
Council of Europe recommendations
Integrate footpaths into the surrounding area
Screen or re site the car park
Screen or camouflage the caravan park
Develop database on wildlife
Reduce water pollution
Make efforts to release pressure of tourism in the area
Heritage Committee Strategy
Examine unregulated parking and curb congestion
Look at erosion of cliff tops
Improve signing for pedestrians
Examine buildings of temporary/inappropriate construction
Heritage Centre, Restaurant, Coast Guards, Landscaping and Building improvements
Continuing long term scheme to screen the caravan park
The most important factor in successful management is the commitment and working relationship between the major groups involved. A recent improvement in involvement and cooperation means that everyone concerned is hopeful that future management will be successful and progressive.
The rocks at the seaward side are the oldest, and now lie vertical to the earth after an earthquake that happened 30 million years ago when Africa collided with Europe.
The creases in the rock here are known as the ‘Lulworth Crumple'
Portland Stone - 150 million years old
Made up of shells laid down in a calm shallow sea
Strong and hard rock
Purbeck Beds - 147 million years old
Made up of clays, shales, mudstones and limestone containing many fossils and crushed shell beds
Laid down in different climate and environmental conditions in salty, brackish and freshwater lagoons
Wealden Beds - 140 million years old
Made up of sand, marl, clay and grit
Laid down in a series of earth movements
The sediments were deposited from a large river into a large freshwater lake
Soft and easily eroded
Contains water fleas, snails and Lignite coal
Greensand - 125 million years old
Made up of layers of sandstone deposited in a shallow sea with some urchin and bivalves
Stained green by an iron and potassium mineral glauconite
Well drained, soft rock and easily eroded
Chalk - 97 million years old
Made up of trillions of minute marine organisms deposited slowly in a clear shallow sea
Flints were once areas of sponge beds
Considered a soft rock but is resistant to erosion by the sea
An embryo cove with various breaches through the rock, the main breach is at west gap after an arch collapsed, other geological features includes; arches, caves and blow holes as well as stumps, which will eventually collapse to form a larger cove.
The Lulworth Crumple is most evident in the Purbeck beds.
A circular eroded cove after a break in the Portland and Purbeck rocks allowing the softer greensand, Wealden and chalk to be eroded away with the two Portland stone rock headlands protecting the ‘harbour from stormy seas.
The origins of Lulworth cove started during the last ice age where a melt water river found a weak point in the rocks allowing the sea and the river to exploit it. The diffraction of the waves in the cove matches that of the circular beach.
This is the remains of a former cove, similar to Lulworth Cove, which has been opened up by the sea. The ‘w' shaped cliff and foreshore headland is the result of the stumps acting as break water protecting the beach from the sea.
A natural arch of Portland limestone was once part of a long line of stone but has now collapsed leaving several stumps off of Bat's Head to cow rock. The stumps from Durdle Door are the bull, the blind cow, the cow and the calf. At a closer look at Durdle Door there are several holes which were once trees.
Lulworth Cove is a World Heritage site and part of the Heritage Coastline
It is one of the best examples in Europe of the stages of erosion on a concordant coastline
The coast is very young due to recent ice ages and resulting sea level change. The processes have been operating over the last 8000 years
A Concordant Coastline
Bays more elongated and ovoid in shape
Headlands do not stick out as much
Rock strata parallel to sea
One rock type facing the sea, therefore rocks erode at the same rate.
A Discordant Coastline
Headlands stick out
Different rates of erosion, alternating hard and soft rock
Portland Limestone - 150 million years (hardest)
Purbeck Limestone - 147 million years
Wealden Beds of sand and clay - 140 million years (softest)
Greensand (sandstone) - 125 million years
Chalk - 97 million years
Due to major movements of the earth's crust, streams have turned the rocks on their side and subsequent erosion, sea, weather and man have shaped the coast.
At each of the stages recommended the students to an annotated field sketch.
An embryo cove - Represents sea's first breach of the Portland Limestone
Rocks behind Portland
Purbeck Limestone - Thinner bedding so more weaknesses for processes to attack
Wealden Clay - Susceptible to erosional processes other than the sea, roatoinal slumping and weathering
Processes utilise weaknesses in rocks - joints and bedding planes
Processes: hydraulic action, attrition, abrasion and corrosion
What happens as the processes happening at Stair Hole occur over a longer period of time
At the cove the sea and the river breached the Portland. After the last ice age a swollen river broke through the chalk and limestone. The sea has carved the core out
Portland limestone forms the barrier entrance to the cove as its more resistant. The sea hits here first and waves are detracted
Behind the limestone the sea has carved out the other rocks, as they are less resistant to erosion
Order of rocks for the sea inland - Portland, Purbeck, Wealden, Greensand and Chalk
Other features - dry valley, steam and cut through the chalk
Evidence of erosion:
Wealden: slumping of the clay and the sand as beach material
Chalk: pebbles on the beach and clue as to when cliffs last fell with level of vegetation on the cliffs
Purbeck: can see the blocks that have broken off on the beach
This is what occurs when two coves join up. Still evidence of two coves
Limestone blocks in water. Evidence that this is the most resistant as it is left
Sea is trying to straighten the coast again
Clay is a thinner band here, squashed by earth movements
Here you can see how the bay has been straightened - example of dynamic equilibrium
Sea attacked rock - once all limestone will go to being all chalk
See erosion of the chalk with arches and stacks
Caves due to faulting
Shingle Beach. Sorting and storm beaches and berms. Wave energy dissipated on shingle beaches
Limestone blocks in the water - trace to Isle of Portland
Coastal processes: Key points
What features can be found at these locations and what reasons have been suggested for their formation?
In what succession have these processes happened?
How do coastal processes affect these structures?
What will be the next evolutionary step at each of these key sites
Too many visitors to a honeypot site can do as much damage as natural erosion
How do you think global warming might affect this coast in the future
The sea is not the only factor responsible for the landforms of the Dorset coast
If possible visit the site during stormy weather conditions to see the power of the sea
Take spare camera batteries and film
Environmental quality survey
Beach profiles/beach processes data
Review - Statistical
Analysis of beach processes data
Review - Presentation
Tourism: Key points
Has tourism been of benefit to Lulworth Cove as a settlement?
How is tourism managed in Lulworth Cove?
Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door are tourist honey pot sites that require sensitive forms of management. What are these?
How can physical environments be managed to preserve their characteristics yet meet people's need for recreation?
What are the impacts of management schemes?
How much should be charged for parking and how should it be used?
How far have visitors travelled and how long is their stay?
If possible visit the site during different times of the day or year to see the difference in visitor numbers
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