Geologising on Lyme Regis

Geologising on Lyme Regis


Last weekend was the most beautiful weekend ever. I finally went to see Lyme Regis and the Cobb. The skies were beautiful and so very kind and blue, and a smashing good time was had, in more than one sense of the word.

The journey down from London was generally supposed to be straightforward – we took the train from Waterloo to Weymouth (£19), was delayed for two hours with a clinically depressed train driver who murmured his way through the delays and finally, unceremoniously deposited everyone in Bournemouth while they went to fix some signal problems on the tracks, and a few hours later, we finally got to Weymouth, spent the night there in a strange house, and from there FINALLY we got the Jurassic Coast bus (X53) (£7.50 Day ticket) to Lyme Regis!

I had read a guidebook to Lyme Regis (Thanks to Rich!) and it advised us we had to acquire the following before getting to the bay:

a geological hammer
some form of wrapping material
some glue for on the spot repairs
a notebook and pen
a stout bag in which to put the collecting kit and fossil finds

And so we did! The shop on the corner of Lyme Regis gladly sold us a “geological hammer”. Although after that helpful instruction of telling us to get a geological hammer, the book didn’t say exactly what we had to do with the hammer. This was proving to be a complete mystery to us city folks. What type of rocks were we supposed to look out for? How should we hold the hammer? And how should we hit the rocks to split them? Why was no one else walking around with a big hammer in hand on the beach? Where were all the other fossilers?


In the picture above, we festooned it with decorative seaweed to celebrate the arrival of the new Geological Hammer at one of Lyme Regis’ many beaches and bays.


We approached the Cobb. No, we did not try to take the Cobb apart. But I did see what I presumed had to be one of the stairs that Louisa Musgrove fell off. Which was very exciting to see. Need I tell you of the historical, wait I mean, literary significance of all this? I have been talking about this for years. If you had spoken to me in the last few weeks while I was getting excited about going to the Cobb, you probably would have heard nothing but this from me: STAIRS! COBB! MUSGROVE! FOWLES! BOOK! ROCKS! FOSSILS! ENGLAND! SEA! SAND! FRANCE! LYME REGIS! COBB! COBB! COBB!

A Stair on the Cobb
The other day I looked in my purchase history on book and I noticed that in the last one year alone I have bought copies of John Fowles’ The French Lieutenant’s Woman four times already and given all four copies away to different people. Yes, I am that obsessed. And there I was about to buy another copy again… I often wonder, why does this novel fascinate me so?

The Cobb
I know, on instinct that my fascination with this book must have something to do with the idea of unknowing, or never knowing. Like Bataille’s L’impossible. It encapsulates the idea of never fully knowing. I’ve given it to the people whom I have been close to or to the people whom I’ve loved because I wanted to explain this idea but of course there was no way to explain it adequately sometime. Except in this way. Which then, unfortunately and fortunately also opens it up to other readings. So will I ever express it adequately by giving someone the book then?

Another stairs, this one more barebones, harder to ascend…
When planning this trip to Lyme Bay, I also thought about the location of England with France since I was coming in from Paris and thinking very very hard about Paris as a city in the last few weeks. In the book, Sarah sits on the Cobb, seemingly waiting for the French Lieutenant whom she is rumoured to have had an affair with and who had returned to France. But is she really waiting for him? She’s not, is she? But why does she sit there? But why is she inventing the mystery? And where is France? What is France? France is still strange to me, I guess I need to step up the french studying a bit so that it will begin to make more sense to me.

The ocean was fantastic and deep blue…


On top of the cobb


The author of this blog, on the Cobb
After sitting and experiencing the Cobb, we wandered to the utterly gorgeous Monmouth Beach, where we decided we would try our hand at “fossiling”.

Unfortunately we still did not know if we were doing it right. However, it was pretty cathartic. There was no one else on the beach smashing up stones so perhaps our technique or choice of location was not quite correct. The thing about this trip and acquiring a geological hammer was that, prior to this point, it felt like all this while I had been nurturing and protecting stones (cradling them, wrapping them in soft cloths, and treating them like pet animals and speaking to them) and this new fossiling activity was very much so different, so violent. It was almost like perpetuating violence against all these little stones whom I had just met, which I had never thought of doing before. I was afraid and almost apologetic to these lovely rocks! Yet there was such a thrill in smashing them. I mean these were the rocks I had always wanted to see! Yet here I was smashing them up into tiny pieces! But I mean, I could have just walked on the coast and left them all alone and the rocks would never bear my mark despite my great interest in them. But now, taking a hammer to them…


Alright, so in the end we didn’t find any fossils, but we did get to see the insides of many nice rocks.

Back on Lyme Bay


Team Fire on Lyme Bay, with Geological Hammer
Lyme Gold

After we had spent the afternoon making some abortive attempts at geologising, it seemed only proper to taste some Lyme Gold, on Lyme Bay.

Actually, I wrote the previous sentence just so that I could use the word “geologising”. It is one of my favourite words (in theory), except maybe not to pronounce it.

The ocean that faces France, as seen from Lyme Bay.

Rainbow on Lyme Bay

And to top it off, a rainbow on Lyme Bay!
I know I am often very hyperbolic so it is hard for people to know when I am REALLY SERIOUSLY EXCITED about something, but, this, this, I can’t describe how this was truly the BEST WEEKEND I’ve had in a very very long time.

Can we have more adventures like this, please?