A Year on the Jurassic Coast

July 11, 2020

An Illustrated Journey

A Year on the Jurassic Coast

Two years ago I was invited to a launch event at the Gallery on the Square, Poundbury, for my sketchbook, A Year on Chesil Beach. It was a balmy summer’s evening and I met some lovely people over a glass or two of prosecco. During the question-and-answer session, I was asked what my next book would be. At the time I felt like a new mother having just produced her firstborn and found it difficult to contemplate creating another book! However, I found myself saying, ‘it will be on the Jurassic Coast so I can explore the coastline towards Devon and also in the east of Dorset to Swanage.’

This idea settled in the back of my mind for several months before I tentatively started to venture beyond my comfort zone of Chesil Beach. I visited Kimmeridge on a bright day in early spring. The light was glinting off the wet stone pavement that ran out to sea like a semi-submerged jetty. Everything had a newly washed look – gleaming pebbles, shiny celandines on the cliffs and a pale baby-blue sky. There were a few people on the beach looking for fossils or walking their dogs to the rhythmic sound of the waves slicking over the shingle. I visited the Etches Museum – a beautiful building, housing a collection of fossils amassed over many years by a local man, after whom the museum is named. These ancient stone creatures reinforce the sense of this coastline being steeped in deep time.

The rest of the year was spent visiting various beaches along the Jurassic Coast and marvelling at the variety of colours in the cliffs and stone – from the chalky white cliffs of Beer to the sheer honeycomb of Hive Beach, Burton Bradstock and the red cliffs of East Devon. The latter even tinged the water pink at Budleigh Salterton where the beach was a treasure trove of striped, spotted and blotched pebbles in various shades of pink, red and grey.

I drew everything that caught my eye from rusty or bright green seaweeds to fossil shapes in the coastal rocks, watched fishermen hauling their boats across sand and shingle, sketched my grandchildren enjoying time on the beach and spent a year soaking up the beauty of the amazing Jurassic Coast. 

During this time, it dawned on me that my journey along this coast had started long ago in my early childhood when we used to visit my grandparents in Lympstone, near Exmouth, where they had a farm. It was a very special time for me and was the beginning of my love for nature and wildlife. I foraged for hens’ eggs under the hedges and watched Grandpa milking the cows on his three-legged stool while swallows dipped and dived overhead in the cowshed. It was such a peaceful place and smelt heavenly of new hay and fresh milk. My Grandpa showed me the fields around the farm, pointing out teasels and other wildflowers while he leaned on the wooden five-bar gate. 

Sometimes we would go to Exmouth Beach, taking a stripy windbreak to shelter us from the sea breezes. We spent a blissful time making sandcastles and paddling in the shallows. The only drawback was my uncomfortable 1950’s swimming costumes of red nylon which became waterlogged in no time! My brother still remembers his woollen trunks which itched like crazy!

When I was eight we moved to Dorset and one of my first memories was visiting Durdle Door with my father and sister. I can still recall my feeling of awe, bordering on fear, of the towering cliffs that backed the beach. We had friends who owned a small cottage on the cliffs above Lulworth Cove and I remember being there one moonlit night, listening to the wind and waves, conscious of our precarious perch between sea and sky. Twenty years later I had children of my own and I would take them to Lulworth Cove where we would explore the fossil forest and have picnics on the pebbles.

When the children got older, we moved to West Dorset, where Burton Bradstock became our local beach. We walked the cliff path, now crumbling into the sea, and found all sorts of treasures on the strandline – spider crab shells, fossils, cuttlefish, shells and strange creatures like jellyfish and by-the-wind-sailors. We would go to the beach at all times of the year, in all sorts of weather, and it was always a rewarding experience.

I realise now that all these special memories underpin my illustrated journey along the Jurassic Coast. By visiting this coastline again, I have now created a new set of memories and experiences. I feel that some of this nostalgia from the past has coloured the drawings that feature in my new book. I do hope that, while people browse through, they are able to enjoy the journey with me. 

Launch of A Year on Chesil Beach
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