West, Ian M. 2020. Geology of the Wessex Coast (including the Dorset Coast - Jurassic Coast - the Isle of Wight, - part of East Devon, - and also Solent Estuaries) - Home and List of Webpages. Geological Internet site: http://www.southampton.ac.uk/~imw/index.htm. Revised Version: 22nd July, 2020.

Ian West
Romsey, Hampshire

a Visiting Scientist at:
Faculty of Natural and Environmental Sciences,
Southampton University,

Website hosted by iSolutions, Website archived at the British Library


(This results from more than 20 years of webpage-writing from 1995 to 2018. Older pages are being updated, and almost all is in a state of continual progress. With about 10,000 images. This whole site can be downloaded in order to archive for non-commercial, academic use, but it is regularly updated in parts from time to time, and continually changing to a small extent.)


Go back to top


Go back to top

Old Harry Rocks, Old Harry and Old Harry's Wife, near Studland, Dorset, 19th August 2009

Shag Rock, offshore from Hole Head, Dawlish, shows the Teignmouth Breccias with the usual sedimentary cycles and the lenticular red mud layers, Permian strata, Dawlish, Devon, photograph by Ian West, 30th October 2014

 Kimmeridge Bay, Dorset, in a southwesterly gale, 24th September 2012

Ian West examines the Kimmeridge Oil Shale or Blackstone, near Rope Lake Head, east of Kimmeridge Bay, Dorset, 31st March 2014


Geology of Britain - Introduction with Geological Maps
Geology of Wessex Coast - Introduction with Geol Maps
Geology Wessex Coast - Home and List of Webpages (this)

Barton and Highcliffe - Barton Clay and Barton Sand (Eocene)
Barton and Highcliffe - Coast Erosion and Sea Defences - General
Barton - and Highcliffe - History of Coast Erosion and Sea Defences
Hordle Cliff - Headon Hill Formation
Barton - Highcliffe, and Hordle Cliff, Geological Bibliography
Hurst Spit, Hampshire
Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire

Bournemouth Geology - Cliffs, Eocene sands, clay and plant beds
Hengistbury Head - Eocene strata and Mudeford Spit, revised
Hengistbury Head - Bibliography
Sandbanks Sand Spit, Geomorphology
Brownsea Island, Poole Harbour

Bridport - East Cliff
Bridport Harbour and Beach
Bridport - West Bay - West Cliff to Eype Mouth
Burton Bradstock, Burton Cliff
Golden Cap and Seatown, Jurassic
Eype Mouth, Jurassic (in prep)

CHESIL BEACH, DORSET (See also - Portland)
Chesil Beach - General
Chesil Beach - Hurricanes, Storms and Storm Surges
Chesil Beach - Pebbles, including rare rock types
Chesil Beach - Magnetite, Lodestone, Pebbles from Shipwreck
Chesil Beach - the Fleet Lagoon (in prep)
Chesil Beach - Geological Bibliography

Dawlish Warren Sand Spit, Exe Estuary
Dawlish to Teignmouth cliffs, including the coastal railway line.
Teignmouth to Dawlish, with sea-wall and railway line.
West of Lyme Regis and Axmouth-Lyme Undercliffs
Beer and Seaton
Sidmouth and Ladram Bay
Budleigh Salterton, Exmouth and Littleham Cove
Littleham Cove and Radioactive Nodules(second half of Budleigh Webpage)
Dartmoor Granite
Torquay and Babbacombe

Peveril Point, Durlston Bay
Durlston Bay, Middle Purbeck (Berriasian - Cretaceous)
Swanage - Durlston Bay - Lower Purbeck (Jurassic-Cretaceous)
Durlston Bay - Central Zigzag Part and Coast Erosion
Durlston Head - Lower Purbeck Group and Portland Stone
Durlston Bay - Geological Bibliography
Swanworth Quarry, Portland and Purbeck, with Kimmeridge Boreholes


Whitecliff Bay, Tertiary
Alum Bay, Tertiary coloured sands
The Needles, Chalk Stacks,
Colwell Bay, northwestern Isle of Wight
Brighstone Bay, Compton Bay, Isle of Wight
Isle of Wight Geology - Bibliography

Kimmeridge - East to Hen Cliff, Yellow Ledge and Cuddle
Kimmeridge - East, Blackstone, OIL SHALE, near Clavell's Hard
Kimmeridge - East, Burning Beach, Burning Cliffs - oil shale fires
Kimmeridge - East, Rope Lake Head to Freshwater Steps
Kimmeridge - East, Chapman's Pool, Houns-tout (Hounstout) Cliff and Egmont Bight
Kimmeridge - West to Hobarrrow Bay, Brandy Bay and Gad Cliff
Kimmeridge - Fossils, ammonites, ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, etc
Kimmeridge Clay Boreholes at Swanworth Quarry
Kimmeridge - Bibliography - Start - Main Part.
Kimmeridge - Bibliography Continued.
Petroleum Geology of South Downs and western Weald - including Shale Oil

Lulworth Cove - Purbeck Group - East Side of Cove
Lulworth Cove - Purbeck Group - West Side of Cove
Fossil Forest, Lulworth - Part 1 - the Geology of the Ledge
Fossil Forest, Lulworth - Part 2 - the Fossil Trees
Stair Hole, Purbeck and Wealden
Dungy Head and St. Oswald's Bay
Lulworth Area - St. Oswald's Bay and Dungy Head
Durdle Door, Lulworth
White Nothe to Bats Head (west of Durdle Door)
Mupe Bay and Bacon Hole (in Army Range, east of Lulworth Cove)
Lulworth Area - Worbarrow Bay, in the Army Range
Lulworth Area - Geological Bibliography
Lulworth Area - Strata and Fossils (additional notes)
Worbarrow Bay

Lyme Regis west to Monmouth Beach, Pinhay Bay and Undercliffs
Lyme Regis and Black Ven east to Charmouth
Lyme Regis - Town and Seafront
Charmouth, Stonebarrow Hill, St. Gabriel's
Liassic Fossils
Lyme Regis - Geological Bibliography
Lyme Regis - Burning Cliffs and the Lyme Volcano
Golden Cap and Seatown

New Forest - Geology Guide
New Forest - Geology - Bibliography
Beaulieu River Estuary
Lepe Beach and Stone Point
Lymington, Keyhaven, West Solent
New Forest - Studley Wood and Upper Latchmore Brook (nr Bramshaw Telegraph)
Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire
Hordle Cliff - Headon Hill Formation

Cheddar Gorge Geology
Carboniferous, Mendips - Bibliography
Burrington Combe [in preparation]
Mendip Hills, Carboniferous - Quarries etc. [in prep.]
Ireland - Carboniferous Evaporites of County Leitrim, Ireland [paper]

Osmington Mills - Introduction - Upper Jurassic
Osmington Mills - Osmington Mills to Ringstead
Osmington Mills - Corallian Bencliff Grit and Oil-sand
Osmington Mills - Osmington Oolite Formation, Corallian, Upper Jurassic
Osmington Mills - Black Head Area, Kimmeridge Clay
Osmington Mills - Corallian Fossils
Osmington Mills - Corallian Bibliography
Osmington Mills - Region - Ringstead Bay - White Nothe, Dorset
Osmington Mills - Region - White Nothe to Bats Head (in prep)
Osmington Mills - Region -Bowleaze Cove to Redcliff Point (in prep)
Poxwell Quarry and Poxwell Anticline .

Petroleum Geology - South of England
Petroleum Geology of the Western Weald and South Downs (Shale Oil etc.)
Petroleum Geology - South of England - Bibliography [Oil South Bibliography]
Petroleum Geology - Portland - Isle of Wight Offshore Basin
Osmington Mills - Corallian Bencliff Grit and Oil-sand
Kimmeridge - Oil Shale at Clavell's Hard mining area
Kimmeridge - East, Burning Beach, Burning Cliffs - oil shale fires
Kimmeridge Clay Boreholes at Swanworth Quarry
Poxwell Quarry and Poxwell Anticline - Details .

Portland - Isle of, Geology - General Introduction
Portland - Portland Bill, Portland Stone, Purbeck, Cryoturbation
Portland - Portland Stone Quarries
Portland - Quarry - Withies Croft, Portland Stone
Portland - The Chesil Beach - Great Shingle Beach
Portland - Dinosaur Footprints in Purbeck Group
Purbeck - Formation - Fossil Forest and Isle of Portland Fossil Trees
Portland - Portland Harbour, Jurassic
Portland - Coast - Mutton Cove to Wallsend, Portland Stone
Portland - Portland Group Fossils
Portland - Isle of - Geological Bibliography

Purbeck Group, - Facies (Jurassic to Lower Cretaceous)
Purbeck - Evaporites (late Jurassic)
Purbeck - Durlston Bay, Swanage - Peveril Point, Upper Purbeck
Purbeck - Durlston Bay, Middle Purbeck Group
Purbeck - Durlston Bay - Lower Purbeck Group.
Purbeck - Durlston Bay - Central Zigzag Part and Erosion
Purbeck - Durlston Head - Lower Purbeck and Portland Stone
Purbeck Group - Geological Bibliography - General
Purbeck Group - Geological Bibliography - Topics, Alphabetic.
Purbeck Group - Durdle Door, natural arch
Purbeck - Group - Fossil Forest Exposure, thrombolites, evaporites
Purbeck - Group - Fossil Forest and Isle of Portland Fossil Trees
Purbeck - Ridgway Railway Cutting, Weymouth - Purbeck Group
Purbeck - Portesham Quarry, north of Weymouth.
Purbeck - Poxwell Quarry, east of Weymouth.
Purbeck Group - Dinosaur Footprints of the Isle of Portland
Purbeck Group - Dinosaur Footprints of Quarries in the Isle of Purbeck
Purbeck - Group - Bibliography - Vertebrates
Purbeck - Group - Analogues

Solent - Estuaries - Geological Introduction
[with some photographs and notes, re Hythe, Southampton Boreholes etc.]
Solent - Beaulieu River Estuary, Geomorphology
Solent - Boreholes with geological data
Solent - Geology Bibliography - General
Solent - Geology Bibliography - Topics, Alphabetically
Calshot Spit, Stanswood Bay, Tertiary and Pleistocene
Chilling, Brownwich Cliffs and Hill Head, Southampton Water
Lepe Beach and Stone Point - Geology, Geomorphology
Lymington, Keyhaven and West Solent - Pitts Deep - Geology
Pitts Deep and Tanners Lane, Solent - Geology and Coast Erosion
Solent - Submerged Forest off Hayling Island
Sarsens and Erratics of the Wessex Coast
Solent - Geology of Fawley Power Station, Tertiary and Pleistocene
Hurst Spit, Geomorphology and Rocks.
Hurst Spit - Historic Coastal Events
Hordle Cliff - Headon Hill Formation
Selsey Bill and Bracklesham Bay

Studland and South Haven Peninsula - General
Studland - Peninsula - Poole Harbour Side, Tertiary and Pleistocene.
Studland - Tertiary Cliffs and the Agglestone Rock
Harry Rocks to Ballard Point, Chalk Cliffs
Studland and Harry Rocks; Geological Bibliography
Brownsea Island, in Poole Harbour - Tertiary Geology
Studland - Area - Sandbanks - Sand Spit, Geomorphology and Sediments

Harry Rocks to Ballard Point - Geology, Chalk Cliffs.
Swanage - Bay and Ballard Cliff - Cretaceous Geology
Durlston Bay, Peveril Point, Upper Purbeck Group
Durlston Bay, Middle Purbeck Group.
Durlston Bay - Lower Purbeck Group.
Swanage - Durlston Bay - Central Zigzag Part, Purbeck Group.
Swanage - Durlston Head - Lower Purbeck Group & Portland Stone.
Swanworth Quarry, Worth Matravers, Portland Stone.
Durlston Bay - Bibliography

St. Aldhelm's Head, Geology, Portland Stone
Chapman's Pool, Houns-tout (Hounstout) Cliff and Egmont Bight
Winspit and Seacombe, - Portland Stone
Dancing Ledge and Adjacent Coast.
Anvil Point to Blackers Hole, Portland Stone.
St. Aldhelm's Hd to Durlston Head - Bibliography
Swanworth Quarry, Worth Matravers, Portland Stone.

Ridgway Railway Cutting and Weymouth Relief Road.
Portesham Quarry, Purbeck Group
Fleet Lagoon, back of Chesil Beach
Portland Harbour, Jurassic exposures

SABKHA AND ARID ENVIRONMENTS [some of these pages may be held offline at the present time]
Sabkhas - and Arid Environments - Introduction
Sabkhas [Q] - Sabkhas, Salt Lakes and Arid Environments
Sabkhas - Select Bibiography of Sabkhas, Salt Lakes and Evaporites.

Earthquakes and Tsunamis, South of England [in prog.]
Cyprus - Geology of Salt Lake and Akortiri Peninsula
Staithes, Yorkshire - Lower Jurassic
Questions and Exercises in Geology
Vertebrate Remains, Eocene, Pyrenees.

Publication List of Ian West.
Evaporites and Associated Sediments of the Basal Purbeck Group of Dorset, 1975
Holocene Deposits of Fawley, Hampshire, and Development of Southampton Water, by F. Hodson and I.M. West, 1972
Review of Evaporite Diagenesis in the Purbeck Formation of Southern England. 1979.
Detrital Portland Chert and Limestone in the Upper Purbeck Beds at Friar Waddon, Dorset.

Go back to top

Click on images for large, high resolution versions!
(do not use browser zoom on the low resolution versions)

Ian West at the extensional fault at the eastern end of the Clavell's Hard mining ledge, Kimmeridge, Dorset, 2010

Stair Hole, viewed from the western side, with  Lulworth Cove beyond, West Lulworth, Dorset, Wessex coast

This is the first page of a large set of Geological descriptive pages on the Wessex Coast of southern England, much of it a UNESCO World Heritage Site ("Jurassic Coast"). This is a classic area of East Devon, Dorset, Hampshire, West Sussex and the Isle of Wight. These geological webpages form one of the world's largest geological web sites with more than 100 separate web pages. The first versions were placed online in 1997 and they are improved and enlarged on a daily basis. There are now thousands of full screen, colour photographs of varied geological and geomorphological features and there are also associated geological bibliographies. The text in each webpage has linked references to the appropriate bibliography. The study and descriptions have emphasis on the superb coastal exposures of Dorset, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. Triassic, Jurassic, Cretaceous and Palaeogene strata are well-seen in the cliffs of this beautiful coastline. The various localities, many of them well-known classic sites, are described in terms of stratigraphy, sedimentology, geomorphology, faunal content and coast erosion and progradation, in addition to general background information on the environment. In additional there are some associated webpages on other specific geological topics such as sabkhas and Pyrenean geology. A search entry box will be found below.

This site has very heavy use - more than half a million requests per week, including each photographic image. Thus, it is no longer necessary to keep any records of use, and there is no objective in obtaining additional visitors, although they are, of course, very welcome. The main aim is to improve the quality of the site academically for existing users and to provide an even greater quantity of detailed and reliable geological information.

Some safety guidance and safety warnings are given in specific webpages. These warnings are not comprehensive and may not be sufficient for all types of groups visiting the coast. The objectives of the website relate primarily to field work by geologists, researchers, university students, visiting groups or scientific societies and the safety warnings are intended primarily for these types of visitors. This website is frequently used by schools and such use is welcomed. However, some field localities, cliff sites etc, which are commonly visited by geologists may be unsuitable in terms of safety for school parties or individual children, and the website is not specifically planned as guidance for this type of field use. It is hoped that schools and school parties find it useful, but more stringent safety rules may be needed in the field (the author has experience only of leading university, society and oil company parties). Thus this is primarily a geological website for geologists, but it is intended also to be useful for other purposes, including information for general visitors and school parties. .

The technical level of the website is not at mathematical research level, but only at intermediate geological level, easily readable by anyone with a degree in geology, equivalent amateur experience, or just a geological interest.

Go back to top

Some Selected Links on Wessex Coast Geology

Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site.
The Dorset and East Devon Coast World Heritage Site is England's first natural World Heritage Site - it is known as The Jurassic Coast. It covers 95 miles of coastline from East Devon to Dorset, with rocks recording 185 million years of the Earth's history.

The Channel Coastal Observatory , Southampton University, Southampton
Large-scale, vertical, aerial photographs of the Wessex Coast are available free for downloading to persons who register with this organisation. In addition there is much more technical information, such as Lidar and Multibeam Bathymetry. This is a highly recommended website. The following notes are from the Channel Coastal Observatory website.
"..The Channel Coastal Observatory is the data management and regional coordination centre for the Southeast Regional Coastal Monitoring Programme. The programme provides a consistent regional approach to coastal process monitoring, providing information for development of strategic shoreline management plans, coastal defence strategies and operational management of coastal protection and flood defence. The programme is managed on behalf of the Coastal Groups of the Southeast of England and is funded by DEFRA, in partnership with local Authorities of the southeast of England and the Environment Agency. The Channel Coastal Observatory is hosted by New Forest District Council, in partnership with the University of Southampton."

Dorset Geologists' Association Group.
This very active, local organisation holds field trips and lectures in Dorset and surrounding areas. These is not necessarily limited to famous locations but also to less well known coastal and inland areas. They are involved in many other activities, such as keeping local records, and these are listed on their website. Their Newsletter, which is online, contains reports on field trips.

Dorset Historic Coastal Photographs.
Exmouth to Milford on Sea 1800-2000 (including the East Devon and Dorset World Heritage Site). by Doreen Smith of the Dorset Group of the Geologists' Association.
These pages grew out of an original project to celebrate 150 years of the Geologists' Association and 200 years of the Geological Society. To this end I began collecting postcards, magic lantern slides, etchings and whatever else I could obtain on the subject of the WHS coastline. [continues]

UK Onshore Geophysical Library .
This is the major source of onshore seismic data for the UK, including that of the Wessex Coast area, suc as Devon, Dorset, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.
"With over 75,000km of available seismic survey data as acquired by the onshore exploration industry, the Library strives to locate all available data items pertaining to each seismic profile, with the aim of providing a fully reconciled archive of original pre-stack field records de-multiplexed to SEG-Y."
Shown here is a north-south seismic section across the Weymouth Anticline, modified and with some notes added. See the original seismic section by going to the website: UK Onshore Geophysical Library.

Weymouth Relief Road, Dorset

DIGS, 2009. The Purbeck Limestone Group: Virtual geology field trips to Purbeck limestone quarries in south Dorset. CD. For more details see: DIGS in the Purbeck Group Bibliography.

Gesource: geography and environment gateway for UK HE and FE.
GEsource is the geography and environment hub of the Resource Discovery Network (RDN). GEsource provides access to high quality Internet resources for students, researchers and practitioners in geography and the environment through five distinct subject gateways: Environment, General Geography, Human Geography, Physical Geography, and Techniques and Approaches.

Wessex Hang Gliding and Paragliding Club.
"Eye in the Sky" - superb oblique aerial photographs of the Wessex Coast. See Home Page of Wessex Hang Gliding and Paragliding Club.

Go back to top


I am very grateful to the many people and organisations who have helped in one way or another to make it possible to run this website. Individual acknowledgements are given in particular webpages on specific places. Southampton University has supported this site over the years. I particularly thank the Head of the School of Ocean and Earth Sciences, the Dean of the Faculty of Natural Science and the Environment, Professor Jonathon Bull, Professor Max Barton, Dr. Ian Croudace and others who have helped keep the website running. I particularly thank Frances Bradbury for regular help over the years. I very much appreciate the cooperation of the Channel Coastal Observatory in making available excellent aerial photographs of the region of study.

I particularly appreciate the generous cooperation of iSolutions, Southampton University. Mark Watts of Computer Services of Southampton University is thanked for solving a problem of image files that had temporarily ,misplaced. It is very good to know that this website is backed up on tape by computer services, in addition to my various personal, external hard drive backups. My family have assisted in many ways with regard to this website and their help is greatfully acknowledged.

Go back to top

Ian West on the main beach of Worbarrow Bay, 15th August, 2019

Dr. Ian West is a university geologist, long a member of staff of Southampton University, now officially retired, with status of Visiting Scientist, but very busy with geological website and works almost every day (from home, but in contact with the university server). He is a carbonate-evaporite sedimentologist and Jurassic enthusiast, who has long studied and researched on the Wessex Coast (and also in North Africa etc). He started by collecting vertebrate fossils from the local strata, in the early 1950s. He is often out on the cliffs of the Wessex Coast studying and photographing for this website. In addition to geology, Ian is also a former New Forest, Escort Rider and has ridden about 7000 miles as a ride-leader.

This website is run, privately and unfunded, from his study at home in Romsey, Hampshire with the helpful cooperation of the Faculty of Natural and Environmental Sciences,
, Southampton University, and iSolutions (computer services) Southampton University. These webpages have been written with the generous background support of Ian's daughters, Tonya Loades and Joanna Bentley, and this is very much appreciated.


Ian West has been awarded the R.H. Worth Prize for 2008 of the Geological Society of London for this website, the Geology of the Wessex Coast, of which this webpage is the introductory part. The main agent, in addition to Ian West, (ianmichaelwest@gmail.com), regarding this website is his daughter, Tonya West, at her farm at Coppits, Copythorne, near Newbridge, New Forest, Hampshire, email - tonyawesty@hotmail.co.uk (copyright and photography agent).


Copyright © 2020 Ian West, Tonya Loades and Joanna Bentley. All rights reserved. This is a private, academic website intended to be useful for research, reference and educational purposes. Images and text may not be copied for publication or for use on other websites, without permission, or for any commercial activity. A reasonable number of images and some text may be used for non-commercial, non-charged, non-online and non-published academic purposes, including field trip handouts, student projects, dissertations etc, providing the source is acknowledged. All images so used must contain the original caption, including the copyright statement. Some images are not those of the author and the copyright is that of the original photographer and these are not for any use without specific permission from the source photographer. This particularly applies to aerial photographs, but also to some sets of field photographs.

Disclaimer: Geological fieldwork involves some level of risk, which can be reduced by knowledge, experience and appropriate safety precautions. Persons undertaking field work should assess the risk, as far as possible, in accordance with weather, conditions on the day and the type of persons involved. In providing field guides on the Internet no person is advised here to undertake geological field work in any way that might involve them in unreasonable risk from cliffs, ledges, rocks, sea or other causes. Not all places need be visited and the descriptions and photographs here can be used as an alternative to visiting. Individuals and leaders should take appropriate safety precautions, and in bad conditions be prepared to cancell part or all of the field trip if necessary. Permission should be sought for entry into private land and no damage should take place. Attention should be paid to weather warnings, local warnings and danger signs. No liability for death, injury, damage to, or loss of property in connection with a field trip is accepted by providing these websites of geological information. Discussion of geological and geomorphological features, coast erosion, coastal retreat, storm surges etc are given here for academic and educational purposes only. They are not intended for assessment of risk to property or to life. No liability is accepted if this website is used beyond its academic purposes, particularly with regard to matters of risk to life or property.