A trip to the tip

As beachcombing visitors to Lyme Regis will already know, the east beach there is a fertile source of industrial and domestic debris. I’m a confirmed rustaholic and collector of unconsidered trifles, so it’s one of my favourite coastal destinations!

From Victorian times until the 1970s, land east of the town was used as a municipal rubbish dump. When it started, the cliff-line was probably further out to sea, but by the 70s, it must have been obvious that coastal erosion would soon start eating into the dump. Of course, people were far less concerned about landfill and pollution then, but still…

You can see the original land surface and rock strata at the top of the cliff, overlain by yellowish rubble studded with all sorts of garbage – old cars, ironwork, galvanised tanks, concrete, brickwork, masonry, plastic (of course), packaging, bottles and broken glass and china, and other domestic discards. Some of it has slipped down the slope intact (the process is called rotational slip and is common all along this stretch of the coast), and the rest has disintegrated in a slurpy mess of sticky grey Jurassic clay. Here, you can see both kinds of deposit: the old tip with a capping of stones and marram grass roots:

Tip strata on the beach – the Anthropocene in action

Whilst it is possible to excavate items from the mud, it’s much easier to wait for the sea to do it for you. A visit to the beach after rough weather will almost always turn up something of interest – whether it’s sea glass, rusty remnants or other reminders of older times, like these spoons:

or an old iron:

– or mangle rollers, bits of cookers, engine blocks, electric motors, rebar, waterworn bricks, 1960s packaging … the list goes on.

Other people find quite a few coins and more interesting treasures, though I never have.

And once you’ve had your fill of rubbish, there are always tiny pyritised ammonites to find in the gritty deposits between the bigger rocks!

If you fancy a visit, the best place to park is the Charmouth Road carpark – only £2 all day at the time of writing. Just walk down the steps to the concrete walk and turn left, then you’ll come to the beach. Before you plan your trip, check the tide times, as you can easily get cut off at high tide – best not to assume an easy escape more than 2 hours each side of low tide. And whatever you do, keep away from the foot of the high cliffs which are often subject to rockfalls, and the wet mud where you can easily get mired.