Day three was my shortest hiking day (11.4 km / 7.1 mi), but it was important to me to not hike the entire suggested section but to stop in Lyme Regis to look for fossils. Ever since reading Tracy Chevalier’s Remarkable Creatures in 2009, I have wanted to see the fossils for myself. The cliffs there expose a layer of Jurassic limestone rich with fossils and I wasn’t the only person on the lookout.
Since the day before was extremely hot, I knew I wanted to be on the trail asap. I was on the trail, after a quick breakfast, at 7 am and was greeted by somewhat ominous signs mentioning the fact that there is neither a connection to the sea nor inland and the walk is difficult and strenuous.
While reading accounts of the path, I did remember reading about one section that was dark and more or less completely in the woods without a sea view. I soon realized that this was that section. Since I was out so early, I actually didn’t see a single soul until 2.5 hours later when I reached Lyme Regis. I heard a lot of rustling and saw birds flutter by, a mouse scurry across the path and squirrels rushing up and down trees.
The first section of the trail follows the Axmouth to Lyme Regis Undercliffs. The undercliff was formerly open rough pasture, grazed by sheep and rabbits and in certain areas, this is still visible. However, it became heavily overgrown in the 20th century once sheep farming came to an end after a series of slips which made this almost impossible. Recorded slips took place in 1775, 1828, 1839 (the Great Slip) and 1840. The trail winds up and down, so it’s easy to imagine where the landslips once took place. The undergrowth is dense and there are unstable cliffs and deep gullies.
I arrived in Lyme Regis while the sun was shining, but dark clouds suddenly appeared. I was lucky to reach the arcade before a downpour which was over within 5 minutes and I never saw a drop of rain again. I know everyone there was waiting for the heat wave to end, and it did two weeks later when it rained so much that there was flooding. But I was happy it stayed dry while I was out hiking.
Lyme Regis is a touristy, but very cute town, and I could have easily stayed another day or two. After checking into my luxurious B&B, I headed out to explore the town, have a tasty crab sandwich, go for my daily swim in the sea, search for fossils and then have a delicious dinner before falling into bed exhausted.
Where to stay and eat:
Dorset House: One of the best B&Bs I’ve ever stayed at. Gracious hosts, beautiful rooms, exquisite breakfast.
Town Mill Bakery: The best crab sandwich I’ve had on tasty homemade sourdough bread.
The Millside: Everything on the menu sounded spectacular and it was hard to choose. Since the crab sandwich I had had at lunch was very filling, I was only able to order the heirloom tomato salad, gazpacho, and sun-dried tomatoes and the selection of local Dorset & Devon cheeses, homemade crackers, quince, grapes, and celery. Warm welcome and delicious food.