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.

Seaweed glistening in the sunlight

Sunlight shining through fronds of seaweed

Seaweeds glistening in the sunlight on wave-washed limestone at Spaniard Rocks (near Burry Holms) at Rhossili on the Gower Peninsula in South Wales. Higher in the intertidal zone all the seaweeds were black and crispy after rapidly drying out, and would only regain their beautiful colours and slitheriness when the tide returns.

Dry seaweed on Spaniard Rocks

Dark dry seaweed on the higher parts of Spaniard Rocks at low tide

Sparkling waves splashing seaweeds on rocks

Sparkling waves splashing seaweed

Seaweed Strands with Crinkled Kelp

Thick mats of seaweed wash ashore on beaches along the Jurassic Coast. Dead seaweed is often automatically viewed as horrid, unsightly, and a nuisance – but if you pause and look, there is beauty in it. There are many types of seaweed to be discovered in the masses on this strandline. Their fronds intertwine in a kind of accidental natural weaving. Each species has its own characteristic shape, texture, and pattern. Their combined presence forms greater abstract designs of infinite variety, the individual fronds making strands or threads as in a tapestry. The puckered patterns of the crinkly Sugar Kelp stand out as the most decorative features of the assemblage. The colours change from deep olive brown to golden yellow and cream as the algae decompose. The textures range from leathery to satiny, from slimy to crispy depending on moisture content. Opaque and hardening on exposure to air; or translucent and soft when floating in shallow water rock pools.