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Arriving in Beer in the evening, MrElaineous and I only had a brief moment to look around before settling into the B&B for the night. What we saw certainly seemed picturesque. There was a stream running along the village’s main road so you were never far from the burble of running water, and tidy stone cottages lined the roadways. It was a promising start.
We set an alarm to propel us out of bed early the next day and it felt like we had the sleeping village all to ourselves to explore. We headed straight for Beer’s natural harbour, where the first thing that caught my eye was that there was no horizon. Silver water merged with grey clouds, and the perfectly still water looked more like a mirror than the sea. The second was the cobbles: rather than sand, the beach was composed of perfectly round stones that were both beautiful to look at and difficult to walk on as they shifted easily underfoot.
The wave action was non-existent and looking at the crystal clear water against the shore made me feel like I was standing on the edge of a lake rather than the Atlantic. Yet there’s no escaping that the beach at Beer combines both seaside work and play, mixing fishing boats and coastal cruisers with deck chairs and beach huts. It’s possible to buy seafood fresh from local fisherman, or fish and chips at a standard beachside café; the local and the tourist are both catered for, and it was easy to see how this helped get Beer on the Village of the Year shortlist.
From the beach we climbed to a nearby park that overlooks the sweep of the harbour and cliffs, and it was obvious why there were so many benches along the route—the views were still stunning, even as the mist began to roll in—and why each bench had its own dedication. While pausing at one I spotted a stone painted with what looked like the universe. On the back it read “If you like me, keep me”. So I did.
Heading back to the B&B for breakfast and we were in for another treat. A hamper full of breakfast goodies had been delivered to our door, and we could settle in at our own table overlooking the High Street and dig in after working up an appetite during the walk. After a brief pause to rest and digest, it was time to head back out to explore further along the coast.
Beer was well and truly awake now, with shops open and tourists following our previous footsteps down to the beach. But we were surprised to see that the weather had gotten worse since our earlier jaunt: the cliffs had disappeared in the mist and although we could walk to the nearby town of Seaton, we couldn’t actually see much of coast itself.
This stretch of English shoreline is actually quite special: Beer sits within the 95-mile long Jurassic coast, where you can find three geologic time periods on the surface: the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous period cover 185 million years of the earth’s history. The shifting geology shows how England changed from red sand desert to shallow sea, leaving a mark on the landscape that can still be read today. It is no wonder that this was England’s first natural World Heritage Site and is a site of international scientific interest.
We were familiar with what is perhaps the coast’s best known location, the fossil-rich town of Lyme Regis, where ammonites can be found along the shore and the 19th-century fossil-hunter Mary Anning is rightly lionised for her role in palaeontology. [Fun fact: It is said that Mary was the inspiration for the tongue twister “She sells seashells by the seashore” as she was known for selling fossils to visitors to help support her family.] But I was curious to learn more.
We decided to visit the Seaton Jurassic exhibition. I have to admit my expectations were low; I thought it would be a little local museum with a few rocks and shells, maybe some posters of the local geology. How wrong I was.[Check back next week for Part 3, or sign up for the mailing list to have the latest blog post delivered directly to your inbox (and get a free eBook as a bonus!). Click here for Part 1 of the Bound for Beer series. ]