Co-ordinates: 58° 42 ’ N – 02° 55’ W
Weather: partly sunny
Air temperature: 12° C
Wind: 15 km per hour
Pressure: 1007 hPa
The sound of the anchor dropping outside the town of Lyme Regis this morning woke up a few people on board. For others already up and about, the views of the soft green coast as we came closer and closer to shore were charming. This lovely little town nestled into the hills of the West Dorset Coast was the first stop on our voyage and everyone on the ship as well as everyone in the town eagerly anticipated this meeting. No cruise ship had EVER stopped at Lyme Regis before so the excitement in town was palpable. Being a Sunday everyone was out and about on the streets and the shoreline, strolling and viewing the Silver Explorer as well as the British war ship anchored near us.
Shortly after breakfast the Zodiacs were launched into the water and landings to shore began. We drove up to a protected stone-walled harbor and were welcomed by a large group of people including the town crier in full costume and bell who loudly shouted greetings at each Zodiac as it came to the landing site. Most of our group took the opportunity to take the morning bus tour to see the beautiful Abbotsbury Gardens and Swannery where hatching cygnets were charming to watch.
Others went on a fossil walk to explore the cliffs around Lyme Regis and to hunt for fossils with a local expert. Lyme Regis claims its fame from the fossils found in the cliffs and beaches, which are part of the Heritage Coast – known also as the Jurassic Coast, which is a world Heritage Site. This coast stretches a distance of over 153 km and the exposed rock formations span a time period of 185 million years of Earth’s history. Many Jurassic period fossils have been found here, a time from which good fossil records are rare. Many of the earliest discoveries of dinosaurs and other prehistoric reptile remains were made in this area.
This small town of about 5,000 people is well known for other reasons as well – the harbor wall “The Cobb” features in Jane Austen’s novel “Persuasion”, and in the film and novel “The French Lieutenant’s Woman” by local writer John Fowles.
After lunch people had the opportunity to explore the town at their leisure and stroll through the winding narrow streets full of charming galleries and shops, ice cream parlors and pubs and café, or to join a history walk around town that stopped at the main places of interest.
Professor Brunsden, a local internationally renowned geologist and head of the UNESCO committee came on board in the evening and before dinner gave a talk about the Jurassic coastline.