How to take your family to Jurassic Park without the children being eaten by dinosaurs? Enjoy a holiday on the Jurassic Coast.
‘The Jurassic Coast is a World Heritage Site on the English Channel coast of southern England. It stretches from Exmouth in East Devon to Studland Bay in Dorset, a distance of about 96 miles, and was inscribed on the World Heritage List in mid-December 2001.’
Obviously you won’t see it all on a week’s holiday or a day out, but whether you enjoy beautiful scenery, geology, fossil hunting or relaxing at the seaside, any part of this coast is worth visiting.
Adults don’t like talking to young children about death if they can avoid it, or scaring them with tales of monsters, but most young children love dinosaurs; they know they are long dead and yet they are full of life to the child. They love their plastic dinosaurs as much as their cuddly teddy and adore the fact that they were huge and scary.
For our half term holiday with Team H we stayed in two cottages in a village where the borders of Dorset, Devon and Somerset meet. On any English holiday it will rain, but it will also stop raining at some point so it is always worth setting out. Fossil hunting was the main aim and the beach to head for was Charmouth.
Charmouth, Dorset is one place where everyone is looking down, but not at their phones, they are all looking for fossils. There is a pleasant village with the river Char running gently out to sea; you can step over it at low tide or walk across the little bridge. The row of beach huts is deceptive, walk a little further and this is not a normal seaside beach. Gaze up at black layered cliffs. Don’t go too close, there are regular mud slides and crumbling of the cliff edge. This is why fossil hunting is so popular, new fossils end up on the beach and people are welcome to collect them as they would otherwise be washed out to sea. You can also book a guided walk. At the free Charmouth Heritage Centre you can learn about prehistoric times and volunteers will identify your fossils. The grassy hill is in contrast to the beach and a pleasant walk, but don’t go near the edge. The beach has a lovely heritage centre and a cafe, but the rest is unspoilt coast. When we set off to walk along the beach the first thing we saw was a father and son climbing up the cliff chipping away with their hammers; there is always someone who has not read the boards about dangerous cliff falls!
The second full day of our holiday brought the torrential rain the weatherman had forecast. We went into Seaton, a seaside town with an electric tramway that runs along the estuary of the River Axe to Colyford and the village of Colyton. Fortunately lots had changed since the last time we were there and next to the tram station was the new Seaton Jurassic, an excellent centre to escape the rain. Visitors are escorted in and the children given passports for the time machine. It’s all very interactive and older children can stamp their passports and answer clues. It is also quite dark and mysterious with lots of turns and tunnels, so make sure you don’t lose little ones. The final part takes you outside to gardens. Most importantly there is a good restaurant. We had lunch and by that time it had stopped raining and we went on the tramway. The little ones loved being on the open topped tram, the day remained grey, but it was still a pleasant gentle ride with a lovely little station and playground in Colyton.
The next day was fine and Team H decided to get up very early and catch low tide at Charmouth for more fossil hunting, followed by cooked breakfast at the cafe. We followed them, but not quite so early.
Yes you can find fossils, not necessarily big ones, but if you are sharp eyed you should find some ammonites and children can take anything they find into the heritage centre to show the volunteers, who will tell them how old it is and you can also put your fossils under a microscope.