The village of Charmouth perches on the side of a hill overlooking the valley of the River Char. It is a few miles east of Lyme Regis, and was once linked to the town via two coastal roads across Black Ven, which have subsequently been destroyed by landslips. The main road from Bridport to Honiton used to pass through the centre of the village, leading to massive traffic congestion, but the village has now been by-passed, which makes it much quieter.

Landslide at Stonebarrow (Autumn/Winter 2000)

Charmouth, like Lyme Regis, is also a place famous for its fossils. A car park is situated at the beach, at the end of Lower Sea Lane. To the west of the Car Park is Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre, a cafe, a fossil shop where hammers can be hired and fossils identified, and the start of the footpath to Lyme Regis. Due to landslides the path may be closed in places and diverted inland.

Walking westwards along the beach, the toe of the Higher Sea Lane landslide and, further west, the boulder arcs and mudslide lobes of Black Ven are encountered. Great care should be taken while looking at the landslide deposits, as there are many areas of quicksand within the landslide complex, even during the height of Summer. DO NOT attempt to cross or climb the landslide complex, if you see anyone else doing it, they are either expert fossil collectors who know the dangers involved, or very stupid. Check the tides before attempting to walk to Lyme Regis along the beach, as there are many areas where the tide comes up to the base of the cliff. Check with the Heritage Coast Centre. If in any doubt at all, do the safe thing and don't go, or at least don't go too far. Explore the Heritage Coast Centre, look at the exhibits, watch the video.

Digging in the cliffs is dangerous, as landslides and rock falls may occur at any time, but especially after heavy rain. Following exceptional amounts of rain during the Autumn and Winter of 2000, a large part of Stonebarrow Hill fell into the sea.

The beach to the east of the River Char is sandy, and is the best place to find ammonite and belemnite fossils that have been washed from the cliff and sorted by the sea. The ammonites, preserved as iron pyrites, form a type of placer deposit on the beach identified by its rusty brown to black colour. If unsure what to look for, visit the Heritage Coast Centre, where the staff will be willing to help.

The beach is accessed by way of a footbridge crossing the river. Due to the appalling weather of Autumn and Winter 2000 the bridge was damaged due to flooding and high seas.

Footbridge over the River Char, damaged by flooding and high seas (Winter 2000).

Landslides also occured in the early part of 2001, when the beach again had to be closed. However warning signs and the possibility of further cliff falls failed to impress the danger onto some people.

Small Landslide at Charmouth (Winter/Spring 2000-01)