The rock ledges below the new sea wall at Church Cliffs in Lyme Regis, Dorset, are the upper strata of the Blue Lias limestone. The natural limestone ledges and the smooth artificial substrate of the concrete sea wall, provide a home for numerous seashore creatures like limpets, winkles, and top shells as well as many commonly attached red, green and brown seaweeds, and encrusting calcareous algae (pink Lithamnion). The brown substance sticking to a lot of limpet shells is also an encrusting seaweed (probably Brown Limpet Paint Ralfsia verrucosa).
Multitudes of small holes penetrating the rocks are the often-occupied burrows of small marine polychaete worms like the Polydora species. Occasional drifts of sandy ripples coating the stone are punctured by largish round holes where bivalved burrowing piddocks living in the rocks below have squirted jets of water from their exhalent siphons and cleared the sand away.
It is interesting to see that the seashore life is equally at home on the old concrete footings from the defunct breakwaters as it is on the limestone.
The shore beneath the new sea wall in Lyme Regis looks very different now the old breakwaters or groynes have been removed. You can still see the linear concrete footings of the old wood and iron structures but most of the pebbles and cobbles that used to accumulate between the walls are now absent (at least for the moment). A bare rock pavement is revealed, comprising a series of steps representing the strata and colonised by seaweeds. Rippled sand sometimes deposits in the valleys between the rock ledges.
This was almost the last time that I saw the old sea wall and breakwaters at Church Cliff in Lyme Regis. As part of a scheme to improve the sea defences in Lyme Regis, the breakwaters were demolished a few years later and the old sea wall, as it was seen in these images, disappeared from sight and was replaced by a stronger structure more fit for purpose and providing additional amenity value. I was surprised how different these shots were from the earlier ones from 2010. The tide was in and covering seaweed and cobbles, the light was different and had a big impact on the colours observed, and it was a different camera and that had an effect too.
The main sea defence structure at Church Cliff in Lyme Regis back in 2010 and 2011 was a concrete sea wall. This was built into the base of a cliff that is made of soft slipping strata. It was from the sea wall that the iron and wood breakwaters jutted out at right angles to deflect the impact of the sea. The concrete wall in part held back the cliff and in part prevented undercutting by the waves. Over time the wall had become stained by run-off from above and by lichen and bacterial deposits to form interesting striped patterns with subtle variations like an almost monochromatic natural abstract art along the length of the wall. This wall has since been replaced by a much stronger structure, along with the demolition of the breakwaters.
The amazing thing about the weathered timbers in the old breakwater constructions at Church Cliff in Lyme Regis was the woodgrain. Sinuous curves of ridges and grooves in the water-etched wood seemed to mimic the waves themselves, sometimes gentle, and sometimes with crashing surf. Tiny pale barnacles living in the grooves resembled sunny day sparkle spots on the waves, and were keeping company with small marine snails and black lichen taking advantage of the relative security offered by the wooden hollows.
The corroding ironwork on the now defunct breakwaters at Church Cliff in Lyme Regis revealed fascinating patterns and textures when viewed in close-up. These macro photographs show some of the wonderful details and colours. I only have seen similar rusting seaside ironwork before on the pier structure at Weymouth.
These pictures were taken in 2010. None of them are edited or altered. They show details from breakwaters at Church Cliff in Lyme Regis, Dorset, that jutted out at right angles to the old sea wall. In combination, the structures were designed as coastal defences to protect the base of the soft crumbling cliffs from erosion by the sea. It was clear that the breakwaters, or groynes, had seen better days and were in need of repair. The iron that was supporting and holding the timbers together was very rusty. A lot of the woodwork was missing. In fact, they were very dilapidated but full of interesting colours and textures. The images in this post focus mainly on the corroding ironwork and include context shots to set the scene. Much has changed since these photographs were taken.