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Lyme Regis Coastal Management Case Study

Case study 12 - Local/regional scale coastal area - landforms, processes and management

Key ideas:

Processes: erosion, deposition and transportation including longshore drift which is removing the sadn on the beach exposing the cliffline to erosion - could lead to people'shousing and property getting lost to the sea
Landforms: beaches, cliffs, headlands and bays
Management: sea walls, groynes, rip rap, beach replenishment

Why bother?

Lyme Regis has a long history of coastal erosion and landslips. Houses and businesses have been lost. If nothing is done, it's certain that the town and its people will suffer further losses.
Lyme Regis is built on some of the most unstable land in Britain and it's very exposed to the sea - on one of the most actively eroding stretches of coastline.

The protection scheme

The Lyme Regis Coast protection scheme was started by West Dorset District Council in the early 1990s. Most of the money comes from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
Phase 1: a new sea wall and promenad east of the mouth of the river Lim. It was finished in 1995.
Phase 2: this will protect the foreshore and stabalise the land behind immediately behind it. Work started in 2005, and will cost £17 million.
Further phases are being planned. So the work wil go on for many years yet.
The aim of the scheme is to provide long-term protection for homes and buisnesses in the town, and at the same time to protect the coast and the special naural enviornment that makes Lyme Regis so attractive to tourists.

The scheme and benefits

The views illustrated below depict this highly varied coastal frontage at various points in time.  They depict the nature of the coastal structures such as the harbour at West Bay (Figures 7.1 and 7.2) and The Cobb at Lyme Regis (Figures 7.14-7.16) in the early nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  Further views show the character of the foreshore at Charmouth (Figures 7.3 and 7.4) and the cliff top landscapes over the same time period (Figures 7.5-7.7 and 10).  The images also illustrate the changing patterns of development since the 1840s (Figures 7.11-7.13). 

Figure 7A: ‘View of Lyme Regis from the East’.  Mid-nineteenth century lithograph.

Figure 7.1: ‘Bridport Harbour’ or West Bay by William Daniell RA. 1825. The aquatint engraving shows how the historic harbour arms cross the wide beach interrupting the west to east sediment transport along the coast.

Figure 7.2: This view of the same scene (but from a lower vantage point) was painted in watercolour by David Addey in 1990.  The harbour and flood defences were improved ten years ago.

Image Courtesy of David Addey.

Figure 7.3: ‘Lyme Regis from Charmouth’ by William Daniell RA. 1825. Lyme Regis was a small resort at this time.  The view in Figure 7.4 by David Addey (1990) shows the extensive beach at Charmouth at Low Tide.  Daniell’s view was taken from the stone building on the right of the picture. 

Image Courtesy of David Addey.

Figures 7.5 and 7.6: An extensive view along the cliff top from Charmouth looking eastwards by Alfred Robert Quinton, c.1920.  The cliff tops contain numerous buried heritage sites, which are exposed through rapid coastal erosion and landsliding (e.g. Dog House Hill, Chideock MDO7655).

Image Courtesy of J. Salmon Limited of Sevenoaks.

Figure 7.7: A panoramic view of the coast from above Lyme Regis past The Spittles, Stonebarrow Hill, Charmouth and Golden Cap by G. Hawkins, c.1830.

Figure 7.8: The coastal geology and geomorphology was mapped and described by the Rev. W. Conybeare and William Dawson in 1840.  They provided detailed maps of the landslips, as well as finely lithographed views of the major landslide events.

Image Courtesy of Dorset County Museum and Heritage Service. 

Figure 7.9: In addition to their maps and plates, Conybeare and Dawson produced detailed views of the coastline from the sea, which provide an accurate record of coastal conditions and developments along this part of the East Devon/West Dorset coast.

Image Courtesy of Dorset County Museum and Heritage Service. 

Figure 7.10: ‘Above Lyme Regis Looking Across Marshwood Vale, Dorset’ by Thomas Girtin. Watercolour, c.1797. Girtin’s view illustrates, in colour, the nature of the cliff top landscape of West Dorset two hundred and twenty years ago. 

Image Courtesy of Christie’s.

Figure 7.11: A fine lithograph of the beach at Lyme Regis by Daniel Dunster.  Lithograph. C.1840.

Image Courtesy of Lyme Regis Museum.

Figure 7.12: A mid-nineteenth century view looking over the developing town of Lyme Regis from the east side close to Black Ven.  The unstable nature of the coastal cliffs can be seen in the foreground.

Image Courtesy: Private Collection.

Figure 7.13: Lyme Regis has been protected progressively over the last twenty-five years with several phases of major coast protection and landslide stabilisation works.  These have included the addition of rock armour at the end of The Cobb and, more recently, further works at the eastern end of the seafront below The Spittles.

Image Courtesy of the Wight Light Gallery. 

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