The Beach Below The Spittles

Rusty painted metal junk on the seashore with rocks

I discovered an interesting stretch of shoreline when I visited Lyme Regis yesterday. The cliff location is known as The Spittles and it is situated immediately east of the new sea wall. The tide was going out but not as far as in March 2010. Enough to disclose an array of boulders with scattered fossils, broken coloured glass, and rusting metal. The man-made junk resulted from a major landslide in 2008 when the contents of an old town rubbish tip (which had been in existence from 1920 to 1973) cascaded shore-wards with the rocks and mud. The junk continues to wear out of the cliff face to the present time.

There are some interesting items to be found. The rusting metal components, often with remnants of paint, provide intriguing contrasts with the natural environment in which they are lodged. There is a striking similarity between the metal colours and textures and those of the dead and dying autumnal colours of seaweed. As the water receded, it left intricate patterns in the sand around the rocks and even in fine sediments of smoother rock surfaces.

Low Tide at Lyme Regis

View from Lyme Regis over low-tide beds of seaweed towards the Cobb

The tide went out a long way on 10th March 2012. A very long way. For the first time ever I was able to see the glory of the hitherto hidden acres of golden-fronded kelps, brown fucoids, and red seaweeds carpeting the rocks at Lyme Regis. Usually when I visit the water is high on the shingle beach but on this occasion I could follow the water as it went out over the sand and rocks to get an entirely new perspective by looking up the shore, to the Cobb, the town, the fossiliferous cliffs of Black Ven and Charmouth to the east, including sight of Golden Cap. I didn’t know it at the time but this was the last time I was going to see the old breakwaters at Church Cliff.

Beds of seaweed exposed at low tide in Lyme Regis

Low-tide expanse of sandy shore at Lyme Regis in Dorset, UK.

Seaweed beds at low tide in Lyme Regis, Dorset, UK.

Seaweed beds at low tide in Lyme Regis, Dorset, UK.

Seaweed beds at low tide in Lyme Regis, Dorset, UK.

Seaweed beds at low tide in Lyme Regis, Dorset, UK.

Seaweed beds at low tide in Lyme Regis, Dorset, UK.

Seaweeds at Lyme Regis in Dorset, UK, along the Jurassic coast.

Seaweed beds at low tide in Lyme Regis, Dorset, UK.

Seaweed beds at low tide in Lyme Regis, Dorset, UK.

Seaweed beds at low tide in Lyme Regis, Dorset, UK.

Seaweed-filled rock pools at Lyme Regis in Dorset, UK.

Seashells & Shingle at Whitstable

The shingle shore at Whitstable in Kent is protected by massive wooden groynes or breakwaters. At the time of my visit, the tide was high and the flint and other mostly worm-holed pebbles were steeply banked. The flat top of the beach was stabilised by vegetation with pink and white valerian and yellow ragwort the most colourful flowers. Pale bands of white empty oyster shells (mostly the rock oyster Crassostrea gigas) were high, dry, and dull on the shingle between the groynes; while lower down splashed by waves or heaped up against the wooden sea defence structures was a great variety of other empty shells including winkles, cockles, mussels, limpets, slipper limpets, whelks, netted whelks, Manila clams, and sting winkles. These were jumbled up with wet and dry seaweed, horn wrack, small pieces of driftwood, and flotsam. There was a marked contrast in the appearance of the shells and stones between the water’s edge where the wet shells were brighter and more colourful and the upper shore where everything was dry.