Exmouth is the gateway to the UNESCO designated Devon Heritage Coast. Start your exploration of this beautiful coastline at Orcombe Point in Exmouth.
The Dorset and East Devon Coast has been officially ranked alongside the Great Barrier Reef and the Grand Canyon as one of the natural wonders of the world. The coast provides a walk through time of 185 million years of the earth’s history and stretches from Orcombe Point at Exmouth in Devon to Old Harry Rocks in Dorset.
The rocks dip gently to the east and as a result the oldest are found in the west, around Exmouth and Sidmouth with progressively younger rocks forming the cliffs to the east. Exmouth is important as it represents the earliest geology of the entire coast.
Due to tilting and erosion the oldest exposed rocks at Exmouth are from the Triassic period. they are magnificent red sandstone cliffs, at Orcombe Point and extend for several miles eastwards. Indeed, the coast contains a virtually complete sequence through some 200 million years of geological time.
Orcombe Point in Exmouth. This part of the cliff line marks the start of the World Heritage Site and is signified by a ‘Geoneedle’ (a pointed stone needle). Here the rocks re 250 million years old and red in colour. This is due to the desert environment that existed in that area. These rocks show the Triassic period and are the oldest section of the coastline.
Exmouth, Geoneedle, Coast Path Walk
After an initial walk along the sea front there is a short climb to the coast path and a visit to the Geoneedle which marks the western boundary of the “Jurassic Coast”. After a section along the coastal path the walk can go inland to intercept the Budleigh Salterton/ Exmouth cycle way providing an easy walk back to the outskirts of Exmouth (near Sandy Bay). OR continue along the coast path up to the fantastic views near the Golf Course before Budliegh Salterton.
The high cliffs you first encounter here are famous as they contain the Budleigh Salterton Pebble beds. The beach here is made entirely of pebbles eroded from local cliffs. The pebbles were formed and transported in one of the giant rivers that flowed in this area into the Triassic dessert about 240 million years ago.
Budleigh pebbles are unique and often a oval shape and are composed of very hard materials so they survive being transported by the waves and can be seen all along the coastline from Slapton to Hastings in Kent.
Here the Budleigh pebbles have dropped below the sea and the Otter Sandstone forms the cliffs from here through to Sidmouth. These sands also formed in vast rivers that flowed to the north. Reptiles, the ancestors to the dinosaurs lived on the banks of these rivers.
The cliffs from Exmouth are from the Triassic Period – 250-200 million years ago. The Triassic period begins in the wake of the greatest mass extinction of all time. Only about 4 per cent of known species survive from the preceding Permian period. The world is a single land mass called Pangaea and what is now the Jurassic Coast lies at the arid centre of this super-continent. Mountains to the south and west are the source of huge rivers that wash stones across the area before their waters evaporate. The period is characterised by red-coloured sandstone and mud.
By the end of the period the continental plates had started to drift apart. There also emerge the dinosaurs, pterosaurs (flying reptiles), marine reptiles and crocodiles, turtles and mammals.
Rare and difficult to find
Reptiles and amphibians such as the Rhynchosaurs
Orcombe Point, Budleigh Salterton, Ladram Bay, Littlecombe Shoot, Jacob’s Ladder, Sidmouth
For more information, please visit www.jurassiccoast.com