Be part of the growing number of volunteers helping clean our beaches. Removing harmful plastics, bits of old fishing gear and all the other rubbish from our beaches is one of the most direct and rewarding ways to fight ocean plastic pollution and protect marine wildlife. Pick up a piece of plastic and you ensure no fish or other marine animal can ever mistake it for food. Bin an old fishing line, rope or net before a seal or seabird gets tangled in it. Plus you get to help make the beaches more beautiful for everyone too.
West Bay Beach Clean Group
West Bay has a Beach Clean Group which runs regular beach cleans. We took part in one a while back. We scoured West Beach, filling a bin bag with a motley collection of bottles, bottle tops, plastic straws, bits of lost fishing gear, wrappers, tin cans and the like. Much of it was single-use plastic used to contain food and drink.
Visitors are very welcome to join in a beach clean. For info, places, dates and times see here.
Bio-Beads Plastic Pollution
Over the last year or so the West Bay Beach Clean Group has become particularly concerned about the numbers of tiny plastic pellets found washed up on the beaches during beach cleans. They found some nurdles, the raw material from which nearly all our plastic goods are made. They also found many bio-beads. These are a type of bead used in their billions in the treatment of waste water. They are only about 3.5mm diameter and so are quite hard to spot. Birds, fish and other marine animals often mistake them, and other small bits of plastic, for food. This can be fatal for the wildlife if the beads block their digestive system. Some of the bio-beads contain significant levels of toxins which again poses a risk to health.
Both Exmouth and Uplyme water treatment plants, run by South West Water, use billions of bio-beads to filter waste. The result is cleaner bathing water in the South West but the issue is when they escape. The company admit to a couple of major spillages in the past, including one in Cornwall ten years ago which spilled billion of the pellets into the sea. They say that they have taken steps, and continue to do so, to prevent beads escaping from their works. Sadly it does nothing to remedy the huge numbers out in the environment already.
This photo is taken from the West Bay Discovery Centre centre website here. It shows their collection of nurdles and bio-beads collected from West Bay Beach Clean sessions by the public.
You don’t need to wait for an organised beach clean to help keep the beaches cleaner. Writer, surfer and TV presenter Martin Dorey came up with the #2minutebeachclean concept, the idea to encourage people to spend just two minutes at a time picking up litter. A growing number of beach lovers are now helping rid the world’s beaches of marine litter and plastic pollution, two minutes at a time.
There is a network of over 500 Beach Clean Stations around the UK and Ireland. These are boards near beaches where you will find information, pickers and bags. They are proving really popular. A trial of a station at Bude in Cornwall found the amount of litter on the beach dropped by 60% within a year. West Bay has one.
The next time you are on the beach why not get involved and do your bit to help with ocean conservation? After all, it only takes a few minutes. You can take a picture of your marine litter haul on your phone and post it to Twitter or Instagram. Just hashtag your photos #2minutebeachclean #dorset.
West Bexington’s The Club House is a new entry in The Good Food Guide. September’s Waitrose Food Magazine picked it out as one of the best new entries, chosen on its location. Can’t argue with that, it overlooks Chesil Beach.
Here is the pertinent part of the article in the Waitrose magazine:
The restaurant is from the same team as the Hive Beach Café and West Bay’s very own Watch House Café. If you stay in our cottage you might prefer to eat out somewhere within walking distance but The Club House sounds like one to try if you don’t mind a drive. It’s less that 15 minutes away along my favourite coast road.
Thinking of taking a holiday in this “modern gastronomic capital”? (Incidentally not my words, how a newspaper article described West Dorset.) We’d love to welcome you to West Bay Cottage. Please take a look inside the cottage or head to our Enquire and Book page for availability, the rates and how to book.
Are you interested in finding out about West Bay’s history? Then please read on. Best make yourself a hot drink and find a comfy chair before you begin, you have a lot of years to get through…
Thanks to the author of the westbay.co.uk website. Much of the information was gathered from it, as well as a couple of the vintage photos. If this post leaves you wanting more then just go to that website where you will definitely find a lot more. A labour of love I think.
I have highlighted all the buildings which are still around in BOLD so that next time you wander about the harbour with other people you can make yourself look extremely knowledgable and clever by pointing out the landmarks whilst you impart a little bit of their history!
Mary Anning’s story is fascinating. Born in Lyme Regis in 1799, she lived her whole life there hunting, collecting and selling fossils. The Natural History Museum proclaimed her the greatest fossil hunter ever. Yet the scientific community didn’t completely accept her during her lifetime or give her as much credit as she deserved. Why? Because she was female, poor and working class. If you’d like to know more please read on. Are you lucky enough to be visiting Lyme soon? Find out about the town’s most remarkable person before you go.
Her Early Life
At fifteen months old Mary Anning survived a lightening strike which killed the three other people sheltering under the tree. Unlikely as it sounds her family maintained that the sickly baby girl became much smarter and livelier as a result.
As a young child she would often go out on the beaches of Lyme fossil hunting with her older brother Joseph and her father, a carpenter and an amateur fossil collector. The family was poor and selling the fossils was a necessity to bring in money. It was dangerous work particularly during the winter months, out in storms and after landslides. Her father died when she was only eleven, leaving the family in debt. Mary, along with her mother and brother, continued collecting and selling fossils to tourists from a table outside their house.
In 1811 Mary’s brother discovered a four foot long skull. With its long snout and prominent teeth it might have been a crocodile except that it had huge, bulbous eyes. A creature never seen alive. A few months later Mary found the rest of the skeleton. It became quite a sensation, rocking the scientific world.
Her Fossil Expertise
Mary eked out a living by finding, painstakingly recovering and selling fossils throughout her life. As she continued to make important fossil discoveries her reputation grew. Scientists and collectors from around Europe and America visited her in Lyme. However the majority of her finds ended up in museums and personal collections without giving her any credit.
Mary read scientific papers and dissected animals to gain a better understanding of anatomy. She became an expert in the delicate work of removing fossilised bones from the rocks, then reconstructing skeletons. She knew more about fossils and geology than most of the gentlemen geologists and stayed in frequent contact with them. They published information she gave them, but often neglected to mention her name.
Despite her incredible understanding of fossils and skeletons she was not eligible to join the Geological Society of London. Not surprisingly she grew resentful of the scientists who failed to acknowledge her work, remaining an outsider barred from full participation because of her sex and social class.
The dangers of her occupation was highlighted in October 1833 when her dog was killed by a landslide that nearly killed Mary too.
The Huge Importance Of Her Discoveries
Mary Anning’s fossil discoveries caused major controversy as they challenged the belief that the world had been created as described in the Bible. If God’s creation was perfection, how come these creatures no longer existed, so must have been imperfect? Those who had faith in Genesis as literal history required every species ever created to be alive still. They also believed that everything had been made within a week. Why were different types of fossils found in different layers of rocks, evidence that the animals had existed during different eras?
The spectacular marine reptiles that she unearthed provided evidence for extinction. This helped shake the scientific community into looking at different explanations for changes in the natural world. This indirectly lead Charles Darwin into his insights which culminated in his publication The Origin of Species in 1859. Darwin referred to her in his writings as the carpenter’s daughter, who deservedly “won a name for herself”.
In the last few years of her life, Mary became increasingly sick, suffering from breast cancer. She began taking laudanum for the pain and local people mistook the effects of the drug for drunkenness. When the Geological Society’s members learned of her plight, they started a fund that paid for her treatment. In 1846 they made her an honorary member of the society. She died in 1847. A eulogy was read at a society meeting and they published her obituary.
After her death her story attracted increasing general interest. In 1865 an article in a magazine edited by Charles Dickens celebrated her life and achievements.
Mary was probably the inspiration for the 1908 tongue twister, “She sells seashells by the seashore.”
In 2010 the Royal Society included Mary in a list of the ten British women who have most influenced the history of science.
Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier
If you enjoy reading historical novels then Remarkable Creatures by Tracey Chevalier is a great way of finding out more. Like her most famous book, Girl with a Pearl Earring, Chevalier takes real historical events and people and winds a fictional tale around them.
In Remarkable Creatures two alternating voices tell Mary’s story. One is Mary, the other is Elizabeth Philpot, a middle-class spinster sent by a married brother from London to live more cheaply in Lyme. Elizabeth begins searching the beaches for fossils and meets Mary, then a child. Despite their differences in class and age a loyal friendship develops, founded on their shared passion for fossil hunting. As well as an absorbing story it is also a revealing portrait of female friendship. They, as much as the fossils, are the remarkable creatures of the title.
A production company optioned the book earlier this year and so, who knows, maybe a movie beckons.
When you are visiting Lyme the Lyme Regis Museum, on the site of Mary’s birthplace, has a Mary Anning wing which tells the story of Mary and Lyme’s fantastic fossils. They also offer guided Mary Anning and fossil walks. Click here to see if there are any scheduled conveniently for you. Incidentally the museum, built in 1901, was commissioned by Thomas Philpot, a relative of Elizabeth Philpot.
Mary Anning’s grave is in the churchyard of St Michael’s Parish Church. A stained glass window there, paid for by the Geological Society, commemorates her life.
Getting to Lyme Regis from the cottage is an easy drive down the A35. Alternatively you can take the Jurassic Coaster bus which goes from outside The George. You can even get a water taxi there from the harbour. Even if you aren’t interested in Lyme’s fossil history you’ll find plenty to see and amble around, and lots of places to have a bite to eat. I hope this potted history of Mary Anning’s life helps to enrich your visit a little. If you want to know more, Remarkable Creatures is well worth reading and particularly suited to a holiday on the Jurassic Coast!
Read this and want to visit the area? We’d love to welcome you to West Bay Cottage. Please take a look inside the cottage or head to our Enquire and Book page for availability, the rates and how to book.
When I read that this summer’s blockbuster film Dunkirk has some scenes filmed in Weymouth it prompted me to look into what other films have West Dorset locations. Filmmakers have been drawn to West Dorset over the years by the unspoilt countryside, coast, picturesque villages and historic houses. Notably the area is the backdrop for several period dramas, in particular adaptations of Thomas Hardy’s novels where the scenery is as integral to the story as the plot and the characters.
There’s too many films for just one post so I’ll split them over a few, grouped by locations in West Dorset. First up, movies with scenes set along the Jurassic Coast but not including Lyme Regis, Portland and Weymouth, they’ll need a separate post or two. Next time you watch one of these films see if you can spot the local sights. Or why not explore the beautiful local coastline by tracking down some of the film locations?
The British film-making team of Powell and Pressburger made The Small Back Room in 1949, a psychological drama. It’s famous for a rather gloomy look at the war effort and its twenty minute bomb-defusing finale. Michael Powell said he made the film specifically to use Chesil Bank as both a location and a story setting. Dorset’s now-vanished Abbotsbury Station appears in the film. You can also see St Catherine’s Chapel overlooking Portland and Chesil beach itself, where the bomb-defusing scene takes place.
Despite local tourism claims, none of 1954’s The Dam Busters dramatic scenes were shot in Dorset. However “bouncing bomb” inventor Barnes Wallis acted as the film’s technical advisor and his own 1942 actual footage of test-drops of dummy bombs over the Fleet Lagoon was used throughout, including in the final raid scenes. The Fleet Lagoon thus ‘doubled’ for the real German dam-lakes in the final dams attack sequence.
The Navy Lark, released in 1959, was filmed in and around West Bay. In it West Bay is a small fictitious channel island called Boonzey Island. Pier Terrace is the Naval Headquarters of the island. This was a spin off from a BBC radio comedy series about an incompetent crew of a Royal Navy ship. Similar to the ‘Carry On’ and ‘Doctor’ films, this black and white film’s stars included Cecil Parker, Leslie Phillips, Hattie Jacques and Gordon Jackson.
The original 1967 adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd, starring Julie Christie, Alan Bates, Terence Stamp and Peter Finch, was directed by John Schlesinger with Nicolas Roeg as cinematographer. Twenty locations across two counties were used including the Tithe Barn in Abbotsbury where Bathsheba’s wedding dance is held. This barn, dating from the 1390’s, is the largest thatched building in the world. It is now home to Abbotsbury Children’s Farm. Cottages in Abbotsbury village form the backdrop when Troy disembarks from a cart on his wedding night.
Disney’s Bedknobs And Broomsticks (1971) mixes animated characters into live-action settings, obviously aiming for the same success as the earlier Mary Poppins. It’s not set in Dorset but the script’s finale calls for a deserted area where an army of ghostly knights line up to oppose a German U-boat landing a raiding party. The ruined castle seen in these shots is clearly Corfe Castle. One scene is said to use the old railway station at West Bay. However the entire film was shot in Disney’s studios in California! Dorset backdrops were courtesy of plate shot technology, where a photograph is applied to a glass plate which is then positioned to appear as the actual background to a scene.
The Scarlet Tunic, a version of Hardy’s fact-based tragic short story of the Napoleonic Wars era entitled The Melancholy Hussar Of The German Legion, is an independent low-budget film made in 1998. Filmed at Chideock, Seatown and Bridport using a local crew, it was admired for its photography and scenery but generally reviews were poor and it received little distribution.
The swampy reed beds of the fleet lagoon near Abbotsbury Swannery were used as the entrance to the Weasley family home in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. The filming took place in 2007 in a huge field of reeds less than half a mile west of the Swannery with body doubles used instead of the principal actors. To create the studio set filmmakers harvested lots of reeds and moved them to Leavesden Studios for the shots where you can clearly see the actors.
The most recent film version of Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd (2015) starring Carey Mulligan as Bathsheba Everdene was filmed in several locations around the county. West Dorset residents took part as extras on the film. The cliffs over which Gabriel Oak’s (Matthias Schoenaerts) sheep are driven by the out-of-control young sheepdog are just down the coast from West Bay at Eype (see top picture).
The film On Chesil Beach, adapted by Ian McEwan from his own book, is due to be released early 2018. It is set in the early 1960s and centres on a young couple who spend a fraught wedding night at a hotel there. It stars Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howle as the couple, with Samuel West and Emily Watson also in the cast. Principal photography began in October 2016 on Chesil Beach. There is no actual hotel there.
If you’ve read this and want to see some of the film locations for yourself but haven’t booked somewhere to stay we’d love to welcome you to West Bay Cottage. Take a look inside the cottage or head to our Enquire and Book page for availability, the rates and how to book. Or keep on reading. In the next post find out about some of the movies filmed inland in West Dorset, including those with scenes at Mapperton and Athelhampton House. Coming soon to a screen near you!
est Dorset’s unspoilt countryside, coast, picturesque villages and historic houses has made it an ideal location for many films, in particular various period dramas and especially adaptions of Hardy novels.