West, Ian, M. 2020. Swanage and Ballard Cliff; Geology of the Wessex Coast. Internet site: www.southampton.ac.uk/~imw/Swanage-Ballard.htm. Romsey, Hampshire and School of Ocean and Earth Sciences, National Oceanography Centre, Southampton University, UK. Version: 21st July 2020.
Geological Field Guide for Swanage Bay and Ballard Cliff

Ian West,
Romsey, Hampshire

School of Ocean and Earth Science ,
National Oceanography Centre, Southampton
Southampton University,
Webpage hosted by courtesy of iSolutions, Southampton University
Aerial photographs by courtesy of The Channel Coastal Observatory , National Oceanography Centre, Southampton.
Website archived at the British Library

Related Webpages (also see others)

|Home and List of Webpages |Durlston Head | Studland| Harry Rocks, Ballard Point| Durlston Bay - Peveril Point| Anvil Point|

Click here for the full LIST OF WEBPAGES

Click or double-click on images for full-size high resolution versions!
(Browser zoom will not produce good photographs with sharp captions)

Ballard Cliff seen from the coast path north of New Swanage,  Dorset, summer 2009

A view across Swanage Bay of the landslipped cliff at the southern side of Ballard Down, as seen, as an enlarged image, from across Swanage Bay,  Dorset, 18th November 2018

Location aerial photograph of the northern part of Swanage Bay and Ballard Cliff, Isle of Purbeck, Dorset

Go back to top



Swanage Bay in 1890

Swanage Bay is a sandy bay facing east and protected from the major southwesterly storms. In the southern part there are low cliffs and banks of Upper Purbeck limestone and shale, largely built over.To the north, as shown here as it was in about 1890 , there are excellent cliff sections of Wealden strata. These are the cliffs of soft yellowish and brownish sands and clay with a notable Coarse Quartz Grit. Lignite, plant debris, is common and dinosaur remains are found occasionally in these Cretaceous fluvial sediments. At Punfield Cove, at the northern end of this section there are exposures of Lower Greensand (once regarded as a special unit - the Punfield Formation) with some unusual faunas. Gault and Upper Greensand follow. Beyond this where the Purbeck Hills reach the sea is the major Chalk exposure of Ballard Cliff, beneath Ballard Down. Here the Lower Chalk is cyclical and quite fossiliferous. The Chalk cliffs to the northeast with the Ballard Down Fault and Harry rocks are dealt with a separate Harry Rocks webpage.


Footnote: The old photograph:
This is on Beach Road, probably at the corner with De Moulham Road. The bus is heading back to the town on quiet, still summer's evening, presumably after the horses have had some feed from the man with the buckets. Although quite late in the day, with the sun due west, some people are still sitting and walking on the beach in the warm air. Just down the road on the left, and just out of view, was a small sandpit, where sand had been excavated from a Wealden sand bed. The photograph is from Braye (1890) and lightly tinted.

Isle of Purbeck Location Map

Swanage Bay is a sandy bay situated on the east coast of the Isle of Purbeck, a scenically attractive peninsula of Jurassic, Cretaceous and Tertiary strata. It is within easy reach of other famous localities such as Lulworth Cove and Kimmeridge Bay .

Go back to top


Geological Maps

It is recommended that the reader purchase the 2000 edition of the 1:50,000 British Geological Survey Map, Swanage, Sheet 343 and part of 342, Solid and Drift

The old 1895 geological map of Swanage, Dorset, sheet 343, - see also the new 2000 edition BGS geological map of Swanage, sheets 342 and part of 343

Location and geological map, 1890

Some old geological maps of the area are shown above. Although the details of the town and roads have changed the geology shown here is basically correct. It is useful to obtain the current geological map of the British Geological Survey (formerly the Institute of Geological Sciences), Geological Map - Swanage, Sheet 343 and part of 342. Solid and Drift Edition. 1:50,000. There is an accompanying explanatory memoir by Arkell (1947). The present map, 343 and 342, shows geological outcrops broadly similar to the maps here but the details of the faults are corrected. The main feature is that the Cretaceous Chalk forms an east-west trending ridge, the Purbeck Hills. The most suitable topographic map for the area is the Ordnance Survey, Outdoor Leisure Sheet 15, Purbeck and South Dorset. Scale 1:25,000.

Melville and Freshney (1982) have provided a good brief introduction to the area The field guide by House (1993) is highly recommended.

Map - Geology of the Isle of Purbeck

Here is another old map. The geology of the Isle of Purbeck is shown on part of a map modified from Damon (1884). Modern changes in the geological mapping of the area have only been of detail. Some place names have changed since Victorian times.

Go back to top


Access and Safety

Before examining these cliffs and beaches, note that rock falls are common, especially at Ballard Cliff. Safety helmets should be worn, especially by parties of students. There is a steep footpath over Ballard Down to Studland, but the chalk cliff itself must not be climbed.

Car or minibus access to Swanage is easy, although traffic can be heavy in the height of the summer holiday season. Coach access is easy and there is a coach park in Swanage. The party should walk from the coach park or a dropping-off point near the sea. It is not usually possible to drive the coach very close to the main cliff sections of interest, but the walk is not long.

Go back to top


Swanage Bay Cliff Section

Swanage Bay cliff section

This cliff section, from Strahan (1898) shows the sequence and attitudes of the strata in the northern part of Swanage Bay. To the south there is more Wealden, although much of it is not exposed and is covered by the development of the town. Details of the Wealden will be provided in a section of this webpage in due course. The major stratigraphical change to the south is the occurrence of the underlying Purbeck Formation just south of the pier, and well-exposed at Peveril Point and in Durlston Bay.

Go back to top


Sequence - General Introduction

Simplified diagram of the stratal succession in the Lulworth Cove area of Dorset, England

The diagram above shows a simplified scheme of the succession of strata at Lulworth Cove. At Swanage Bay the sequence visible is from the Purbeck Formation to the Chalk. The Wealden, the Upper Greensand and the Chalk, in particular, are well-exposed.

Go back to top


Wealden Cliffs and Reefs of Northern Swanage Bay

Limited exposures of Wealden strata at New Swanage, near the centre of Swanage Bay, Dorset, August 2009

The sandy beach near the exposure in the cliff of an important Wealden sandstone, the Quartz Coarse Grit, and the location is near the centre of Swanage Bay, Dorset, 16th July 2020

A small landslide of Wealden clay in the general area of beach huts in central Swanage Bay, Dorset, 16th July 2020

A quiet part of the beach in  New Swanage area, near the centre of Swanage Bay, Dorset, as seen in July 2020

Holiday crowds on the beach at the Wealden cliffs, in the northern part of Swanage Bay

The Wealden cliffs in the northwestern part of Swanage Bay, Dorset, seen from Swanage Pier, 14th August 2009

The upper part of the Wealden succession, mostly mudstones, is seen in the cliffs of the northern part of Swanage Bay, Dorset, 2009

Minor coastal erosion and collapse at the old footpath down to the beach in Swanage Bay between the stretch with beach huts and the Ballard cliff, as seen on the 16th July 2020

Reddish clay palaeosols in the Lower Cretaceous, Wealden Group, north of the ravine, Swanage Bay, Dorset, 27th June 2009

Collapse, as a result of recent coast erosion, of a small part of the Wealden strata of Swanage Bay, Dorset, January 2020, reported by the BBC

Shallow water reefs of Wealden sandstone and grit seen in an aerial photograph of the northern part of Swanage Bay, Dorset

There are exposures in the cliffs of the Wealden succession in Swanage Bay consists of mudstones, sandstone and the Coarse Quartz Grit, a fine-grained conglomerate with some iron cementation. Much of the former exposure has been covered by vegetation and the northern extension of the town. The best exposures remaining are in the northwestern part of the bay.

The Wealden deposits of Dorset are of Lower Cretaceous age, and belong to the Valanginian, Hauterivian and Barremian Stages. At the time of deposition the North Atlantic Ocean was being to form, far away to the west. The sediments are continental and dominantly of fluvial origin. The conglomerates and grits representing river channel deposit; the finer sediments are the overbank and flood plain deposits of the rivers. There are the remains of some Unio shells, the freshwater mollusc. Arkell (1947) calculated the Wealden thicknes as 2,315 feet or 706 metres. Similar figures were estimated by Strahan (1898). The lower part of the Wealden is obscured by the town and the road along the beach. The average dip in the obscured section is about 20 degrees.

Wealden fossils occur in the soft Wealden mudstones, sandstones and grits of Swanage Bay. Rare dinosaur remains occur and a dinosaur footprint has been found. I have found, for example, an Iguanodon tooth like the one shown here in the Coarse Quartz Grit of the ravine, Sheps Hollow, in the northern part of the bay. Generally, though, fossils are not common in the Wealden, although dinosaur bones have been found.

The Wealden deposits of Swanage Bay should be compared with those of Worbarrow Bay, further west where there is a better exposure. Across the sea to the east the upper part of the Wealden succession is well-exposed at Brighstone Bay in the Isle of Wight and it is notable for dinosaur remain.

Wealden fossils etc.

Go back to top


Cliff collapses on Jurassic Coast at Swanage - Maritime and Coastguard Agency - Press Report with Photographs 28 December 2019

This was in the BBC News.


Image caption
"The multiple landslips happened at North Beach, Swanage on Friday, the coastguard said. Heavy rainfall has caused a series of landslips at Swanage on Dorset's Jurassic Coast. The multiple large rockfalls at North Beach were reported to the coastguard by members of the public on Friday. Swanage Coastguard has urged people to avoid the tops and bases of cliffs, not to climb over rockfall debris and be aware of the tides. The fall means the beach will be cut off during high tides between Burlington Chine and Sheps Hollow. The coastguard said warning signs and tape have been put up in the area of the cliff collapse."

Go back to top


Lower Greensand of Punfield Cove

Punfield Cove, part of Ballard Cliffs and the northwest part of Swanage Bay are seen from a boat, 28th August 2007

Punfield Cove, cliff section

Lower Greensand fossils

The Lower Greensand of Punfield Cove in the northern part of Swanage Bay, has been a subect of much interest to geologists. Unfortunately, the exposure the now covered in dense vegetation and there is little to see. When I examined it in the 1950s there were still some reasonable sections and the Punfield Marine Band could be found. Something might be seen now, but I have not, as yet, struggled through the vegetation to find out!

These Aptian deposits have some peculiar features for the Lower Greensand and contain molluscs and crustaceans known from the Cretaceous of Spain. It achieved some fame in 1871 when John W. Judd of the Geological Survey described the succession as a new unit, the Punfield Formation. The problem in simple terms is that the strata beneath the Gault Clay at Punfield Cove should be Lower Greensand, in accordance with the normal sequence in the Isle of Wight. However, the strata have facies characteristics like those of the rather brackish water, Wealden Shales and not the typical marine Lower Greensand. There is an oyster bed and beef much like that in the brackish water parts of the Purbeck Formation. A further complication is the occurrence of fossil molluscs of species known in Spain. The discovery of strata of peculiar facies and Spanish molluscs naturally provoked much discussion.

Punfield Cove, vertical section

This is an old vertical section through the strata at Punfield Cove from Judd (1871), but updated on the basis of the publications of Arkell (1947) and Simpson (1982). Note particularly the "Marine Band" fairly low in the Lower Greensand sequence (and once thought to be the base), the oyster beds with ironstone, and the grey cypridiferous (i.e. with ostracods) shales with bands of limestone and with "Cyrena" (a brackish water bivalve) and oysters and with beef (fibrous calcite). In the original work of Judd the reddish shales beneath the Marine Band were classified as Wealden, but, in fact, they contain marine fossils and represent the Atherfield Clay(Meyer, 1872). A pebble bed beneath is the real base of the Lower Greensand (Arkell, 1947) .

More recently, Simpson (1982) has found that the Punfield Marine Band, once considered to be of brackish water origin, has a shallow marine fauna, including three species of decapod crustaceans, ammonites, ostracods, bivalves and gastropods. It has been correlated with the Deshayesites callidiscus Subzone. When Simpson studied the bed in 1982, it was obscured in the cliff, there having been slumping of the Atherfield Clay, but he found large blocks of the Marine Band on the shore at low tide. In these he discovered Mecochirus magnus, a large prawn ("lobster") known from the Lower and Upper Lobster Beds of the Isle of Wight and also from Spain. It was commonly referred to in the past as Meyeria magna. He also found some crabs. Amongst the gastropods there are species of Cassiope, including one known from Spain. The systematics of the gastropods is complex, however, and Simpson explained some of the problems that exist. He also found 8 ammonite specimens which confirmed a correlation with the Crackers and Upper Lobster Bed of the Atherfield Clay of the Isle of Wight. He suggested that it is even possible that the equivalent of the Lower Lobster Bed may be present in this condensed unit at Punfield. In all, more than 60 species of organisms have been found in the Punfield Marine Band and Table 2 of Simpson (1982) should be consulted for a faunal list.

Simpson commented that the Punfield Marine Band's strong faunal affinities with the Spanish Aptian (gastropods and decapods) and to a lesser extent with the Atherfield 'Group' of Atherfield, Isle of Wight (ammonites and bivalves), stem from the shallow marine channel linking Spain to Dorset and the Isle of Wight early in the Lower Aptian. The absence of the Punfield gastropods and decapods in the French Aptian is accounted for by facies differences.

An unusual fossil which seems to have come from the Lower Greensand of northeren Swanage bay is a fossil fruit discovered by Phillips in 1859. He referred to alternations of sandstone and pale shale above the Wealden sequence of red and purple beds with pebbles and with lignite in places. This seems to be the Lower Greensand sequence, although this was not understood at that time. What he discovered was a small, pyritised, compressed ellipsoid with eight ribs radiating from a small prominence. It has cellular structure preserved. Phillips was not able to identify it but found some similarities to a north Australia member of the Euphorbiaceae , a plant named Petalostigma quadrilocularis . I do not know whether the fruit has subsequently been identified or named. Phillips commented that "Probably further search in the same locality will yield additional data, and render it easy to determine what is now found hard to guess." -- So, look at Punfield Cove for fossil fruits.

Go back to top


Gault at Ballard Cliff landslide

The Gault Clay (Cretaceous, Albian in age) is usually poorly exposed. Generally it is concealed by Chalk debris which has fallen from Ballard Cliff. A photograph shows an unusual exposure resulting from a major landslide of the Chalk in 2001 and with the slip plane probably in the Gault. In the past, probably back in the 1930s, the base of the Gault could sometimes be traced above the Lower Greensand on the overgrown cliffs of Punfield Cove. The basal Gault pebble bed has been seen and it contains, as usual, quartz pebbles (Arkell, 1947).

The Gault consists of black clay with some calcareous stone bands. The black clay passes up transitionally into loam and then into the Upper Greensand. One of the stone bands contains the ammonites Anahoplites picteti and Goodhalites delabechei (Arkell, 1947). The latter may be a Prohysteroceras. Epiholites trifidus Spath has been found in a stone band near the base of an exposure. The thickness of the Gault here is uncertain but Jukes-Browne (1900) gave a total thickness of 157 feet or 48 metres for the combined Gault and Upper Greensand at Punfield Cove.

Go back to top


Upper Greensand fossils

More Cretaceous  Fossil

(Notes to be added)

Go back to top


Introduction - Zonal and Lithostratigraphy of the Chalk

Chart for the Chalk of southern England relating older Chalk Zones to the modern lithostratigraphic schemes of Mortimore and the British Geological Survey

Albian (Upper Greensand) and Chalk divisions, zones and stages in Dorset, England

Very useful for details and diagrams regarding the Chalk at Ballard Cliff and northward to Harry Rocks and Studland Bay is the Geological Conservation Review publication on the area. This is also good for references to the literature. It is available as a pdf file online: Handfast Point to Ballard Point (OS. Grid Ref: SZ043824 - SZ048813), Geological Conservation Review, Vol. 23: British Upper Cretaceous Stratigraphy, Chapter 3, Southern Province, England. 11 pp.

Go back to top


Chalk of Ballard Cliff

An aerial view westward of Ballard Down of Chalk, showing the non-alignment with Nine Barrow Down, Swanage, Dorset

A view to the southwest and down Ballard Cliff, at the northern part of Swanage Bay, showing Chalk exposures and grass-covered fans of debris, 20th July 2009

Ortho-rectified aerial photograph of Ballard Point, Swanage Bay, Dorset, 24th June 2005, courtesy of Channel Coastal Observatory

An oblique arial view diagram to show the exposures of particular statigraphic units at Ballard Point, Ballard Cliff and adjacent area, near Swanage, based, with modifications, on Mortimore et al. (2001)

Members of the Open University Geological Society approach Ballard Cliff, Swanage, Dorset, 27th June 2009

Ballard Cliffs of Swanage Bay, Ballard Point and the cliffs towards Old Harry Rocks, all of Chalk, seen from a boat, 28th August 2007

The central part of Ballard Cliff, Swanage, Dorset, shown in detail and as seen from Swanage Bay, 27th June 2009

Ballard Cliff

This photograph, looking westward from the sea, shows the cliffs of Ballard Down with the Ballard Down Fault and Ballard Point. The relatively accessible Chalk exposure of Ballard Cliff is at the north (left) side of this field of view. The cliff runs roughly east-west and access can be gained to it from Swanage Bay by scrambling along the shore and the foot of the cliff.

Go back to top



Chalk belemnites of zonal importance, in relation to the Chalk of Dorset and the Isle of Wight, England

Cretaceous echinoids

The common Chalk echinoids - Micraster cortestudinarium and Micraster coranguinum, both used for zoning the English, Upper Cretaceous Chalk

Chalk fossils

Go back to top


Ballard Cliff - East - Cenomanian Cycles

Details of Chalk exposures, Ballard Cliff

In Ballard Cliff further out to the east and towards Ballard Point there a good exposure of the lower part of the Chalk succession. There is cyclical bedding in steeply north-dipping Lower Chalk (Cenomanian). Hard argillaceous chalk without flints alternates with burrowed marl. This Lower Chalk sequence is separated from the Middle Chalk by the Plenus Marl, a north-dipping bed of grey crumbly marl that is present in a recess in the cliff. It is easily recognised. The Middle Chalk contain intraformational conglomerates, formed with partially lithified sea-floor was broken up by wave or current action.

Go back to top


Ballard Cliff - Chalk Landslide - 2001

The landslide of 2001 in Ballard Cliff, Swanage, Dorset, seen in an aerial photograph of 24th June, 2005, courtesy of the Channel Coastal Observatory

The landslide of 2001 in Ballard Cliff seen in an oblique aerial photograph of July 2011, near Swanage, Dorset

Ballard Cliff - Landslide

Gault at Ballard Cliff landslide

These photographs were taken in January, 2001 by Dr Clive Boulter. They show the development of a rotational slip in the Chalk, Upper Greensand and Gault at Ballard Cliff. The slip-plane dips steeply southward, towards the sea, and is curves out towards the seafloor, just off the beach. The rotational movement on the curved slip-plane has raised and rotated the Gault Clay, as seen in the right-hand photograph. It provides an unusual example of a section of beach uplifted by a fault, albeit of landslide origin. Uplift of the beach or adjacent sea-floor is common in the case of large rotational slips. West of Lyme Regis a major landslip in the early 19th Century raised the seafloor to such an extent that a lagoon was enclosed behind it. On the west coast of the Isle of Portland, sequential rotational slips have turned fallen Purbeck strata from near-horizontal to vertical. It will be interesting to watch the further development of this landslide at Ballard Cliff.

There have been other landslides and cliff-falls this winter 2000-2001, which, of course, has been marked by exceptional rainfall. A major landslide has occurred in the Lias clays east of Charmouth. On Wednesday, 31st January a quarter mile section of Chalk cliffs collapsed between Dover and St. Margaret's Bay, Kent. 100,000 tons of chalk fell 300 feet into the English Channel. The fall was believed to have been caused by rain being absorbed into the cliff face and freezing, according to The Guardian, Friday, February, 2, 2001, p. 9.

Some landsliding has commenced near the Zizag Path in Durlston Bay, a site of major landslide and mudslide in the 1960s. The problem area is just south of the major east-west faults in the centre of Durlston Bay. Water, held up by clays in parts of the Purbeck Formation, runs down-dip from the south towards the faults (this topic will be discussed later in a Durlston Bay webpage).

Go back to top


Ballard Cliff - Chalk Exposures and Loose Blocks at the Base

Members of the OUGS look for fossils in Chalk landslide debris at the foot of Ballard Cliff, Swanage, Dorset, 27th June 2009

Examining fallen blocks of Chalk for fossils at the foot of Ballard Cliff, Swanage, Dorset, 27th June 2009

Finding Micraster fossils in fallen blocks of Chalk at the foot of Ballard Cliff, Swanage, Dorset, 27th June 2009

A specimen of Micraster just excavated from a fallen block of quite hard Chalk, foot of Ballard cliff, Swanage, 27th June 2009

Inoceramid bivalves in a fallen block of chalk, foot of Ballard Cliff near Swanage, Dorset, 27th June 2007

Go back to top


The Spurious Chalk Rock

A fallen block of the Spurious Chalk Rock, a double band of penecontemporaneous conglomerate, from the Terebratulina lata Zone and at the base of the Upper Chalk, Ballard Cliff

The Spurious Chalk Rock, the double green, penecontemporaneous conglomerates of the Terebratulina lata Zone Chalk seen in fallen blocks at the foot of Ballard Cliff, Swanage, Dorset, 27th June 2009, beds originally seen at Ballard Point by Dr. Arthur Rowe, 1902

The Spurious Chalk Rock is so named because it is a hard band that is below the level of the true Chalk Rock (Stenotaxis planus Zone) and is actually in the T. lata Zone and at the base of the Lewes Nodular Chalk. It was once mistaken for the true Chalk Rock. A block of this with two glauconitic penecontemporaneous conglomerate beds is seen on the shore at Ballard Cliff. It has fallen from the level of the dangerous bluffs about two thirds way up this cliff.

Go back to top
Footnote: Body on the North Beach, Swanage.

The Guardian, Saturday, March 10, 2001. "Police are investigating the mysterious death of Sir Richard Foster, director of National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside, whose body was found on a beach in Dorset... Sir Richard's body was found by a walker on the popular North beach in Swanage. A spokesman for Portland coastguard said: We received a call from a member of the public yesterday morning saying that a body had been washed up on North beach. Initial examination and investigation suggested that no other person or vessels were involved...." continues.

Go back to top


I much appreciate the help of the members of the Open University Geological Society, Wessex Branch, for obtaining photographs of the base of Ballard Cliff, and for revealing their fossil discoveries. In this respect I am particularly obliged to George Ragett. I am very grateful to Dr Clive Boulter for permission to use his photographs of the landslide at Ballard Cliff and photographs taken from the paddle steamer Waverley. I much appreciate some guidance on Chalk fossils and stratigraphy from the British Geological Survey Chalk specialist - Dr. Mark Woods, whom I met while studying the cuttings of the Weymouth Relief Road.

Go back to top


Bibliography and References on Swanage Bay and Ballard Cliff


Arkell, W.J. 1947 (reprinted 1953). The Geology of the Country around Weymouth, Swanage, Corfe and Lulworth. Memoir of the Geological Survey, 386 pp. (Classic book on the geology of the region, out of date now, but of historic significance). By William Joscelyn Arkell.

Bird, E. 1995. Geology and Scenery of Dorset. Ex Libris Press, 207 pp. ISBN 0 948578 72 6. Copyright Geostudies, 1995. Black and white, soft cover book, 31 maps, diagrams and cross-sections, 58 monochrome photographs, notes, references and index.

British Geological Survey 1:50,000 geological map - Swanage, Sheet 343 and 342.

Braye, J. 1890. Swanage (Isle of Purbeck): Its History, Resources as an Invigorating Health Resort, Botany and Geology. 2nd Edition. William Henry Everett and Son, Salisbury Square, Fleet Street, London, 119 pp. (John Braye). [interesting reading, with historic data]
There is much of interest here and this is a very good book. There is much about the beautiful and pleasant aspects of this place. They are well-known. It was not always so good, and in the early 19th century had some of the health problems that, were unfortunately, usual in the towns in the area. Example extract from Swanage as a Health Resort [in 1890], - a very healthy place now but there once the cesspools there, and sadly some very bad disease, but, of course, major improvements were subsequently made [see 42 et seq]:
"The drainage of Swanage has occupied the attention of those interested in the place for some time, and a vast improvement has taken place in this respect. The cesspools which were formerly open, have been closed; in the days when they were open there was not the same good supply of pure water as now exists, it being then obtained from wells. These wells, with the cesspools, are also filled up and closed, so that there now appears to be a positive improbability of any epidemic occurring here, and there is nothing detrimental to health at all. The drainage is general, and Professor Robinson, of Westminster Chambers, has prepared plans for a thorough system of this, which will ere long be put into operation. About five years ago there was a very slight epidemic of typhoid fever at Swanage, but only two deaths. The fever was distinctly traced to a dairy at Swanage, where the utensils were washed in foul water, obtained from a brook in which a drain had emptied itself. There has been no epidemic of any description since, which speaks volumes as to the healthiness of Swanage. There is not one single place which may be said to be perfectly free from epidemics - and every year discloses this fact - and these are generally of severe type. But here we find that though the epidemic was one of typhoid fever, there was in the air and surroundings at Swanage so much of an invigorating and healthy nature that the mortality was so smal, and those affected were easily restored to their wonted state of health ..... Since this period the drainage has so much improved, and other matters have been so satisfactorily attended to make Swanage as healthy as human power can..... and that a healthy state has prevailed there ever since .... "

Bruce, P. 1989. Inshore along the Dorset Coast. Boldre Marine, Lymington. 115p + charts.


Brunsden, D. and Goudie, A. 1981. Classic Coastal Landforms of Dorset. Geographical Association, Landform Guides, No. 1, 39 pp.


Canning, A. D. and Maxted, K.R. 1979 (reprinted 1983). Coastal Studies in Purbeck: A Geographical Guide. Printed and Published by the Purbeck Press, Swanage, Dorset. 86 pp., paperback, ISBN 0 906406 07 2

Casey, R. 1961. The stratigraphical palaeontology of the Lower Greensand. Palaeontology, vol. 3, 487-621.

Damon, R.F., 1884. Geology of Weymouth, Portland and the Coast of Dorsetshire from Swanage to Bridport-on- the-Sea: with Natural History and Archaeological Notes. 2nd ed., R.F. Damon, Weymouth, 250 pp.

Ensom, P. 2009. A dinosaur track from the Wealden Group (Lower Cretaceous), Worbarrow Bay, Dorset, southern England. Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society, Natural History Reports, pp. 233-234.

"While leading a field trip for the Open University Geological Society (South West Branch) in October 2008, the cast of a single, indifferently preserved, apparently tridactyl track was found on a fallen and partially buried block of fine-grained, pale sandstone at the foot of a cliff at Worbarrow Bay (NGR SY 86949 80313). In addition a second track is hinted at with a single putative digit preserved on one edge. .... The conclusion reached was that Stewart's Bed no. 7 was probably the source, the in situ bed exhibiting some structures similar to the fallen block. ..."
[See reference to Swanage Bay; "The well-defined 'heel' impression is typical of the casts of tracks from similar sandstones of the Wealden Group of Swanage Bay." p. 233.]

Hancock, J.M. 1990. Sea-level changes in the British region during the Cretaceous. Proceedings of the Geologists' Association, vol. 100, pp. 565-594. (Chalk etc.)

Hardy, W.M. 1910. Old Swanage or Purbeck Past and Present: A collection of articles, topographical, historical, antiquarian, biographical and anecdotal. New and revised edition with three supplementary chapters. Dorset County Chronicle Printing Works, Dorchester. 264 pp. By Williams Masters Hardy, author of "Smuggling Days in Purbeck", etc. With twenty-eight full page illustrations, including reproductions of rare prints.

House, M.E. 1969. The Dorset Coast from Poole to the Chesil Beach. 2nd Edition, Geologists' Association Guides, 22, 32pp. (Useful brief guide to the geology of the region. See later editions)

House, M.E. 1993 (and earlier edition in 1989) Geology of the Dorset Coast. Geologists Association Guide No. 22. 2nd edition, 164 pages plus plates. ISBN 0 7073 0485 7. (This inexpensive, conveniently small, paper back guide should be carried in the field as a very useful source of information by all seriously studying the geology of the Lulworth area or other parts of Dorset. It is full of detailed information, presented in a concise manner.)

Judd, J.W. 1871. On the Punfield Formation. Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society, London, vol. 27, 207-227. By John W. Judd, Esq., F.G.S. of the Geological Survey of England.
Jukes-Browne, A.J. 1900. The Cretaceous Rocks of Britain, Vol. 1 Gault and Upper Greensand. Memoirs of the Geological Survey.

Legg, R. 1987. Purbeck's Heath: Claypits, Nature and the Oilfield. Dorset Publishing Company, Sherborne, Dorset, ISBN 0 902129 79 1.

Legg, R. 1989. Purbeck Island. 2nd Revised Edition (first published in 1972). Dorset Publishing Company at the Wincanton Press, Wincanton, Somerset. ISBN 0 948699 08 6. 230 pp. (Much useful historic and topographic and some geological information. Short sections on dinosaur footprints, quarries etc).
Melville, R.V. and Freshney, E.C. 1982. British Regional Geology: The Hampshire Basin and Adjoining Areas. British Geological Survey (formerly the Institute of Geological Sciences), London, Her Majesty's Stationery Office. 146 pp.

Meyer, C.J.A. 1872. On the Wealden as a fluvio-lacustrine formation, and on the relation of the so-called "Punfield Formation" to the Wealden and the Neocomian. Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society, London, vol. 28, 243-255.

Meyer, C.J.A. 1873. Further notes on the Punfield section. Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society, London, vol. 29, pp. 70-76.

Monckton, H.W. 1896. Excursion to Swanage, Corfe Castle, Kimmeridge etc. Proceedings of the Geologists' Association, vol. vol. 14, pp. 307-312.

Ordnance Survey, 1:25,000 maps, Outdoor Leisure Series, 15, Purbeck and South Dorset. Larger scale maps - 1:10,000, and 1:2,500 can be obtained from map suppliers for specific areas.

Perkins, J.W. 1977. Geology Explained in Dorset. David and Charles, Newton Abbot, 224 pp. ISBN 0-7153-7319-6. A good explanation of Dorset geology with well-labelled diagrams.
Poole and Christchurch Bays, Shoreline Management Plan - SMP - Key Publications

These are plans for the coastal management or shoreline management of the area. Summarised contents of a version are given below and look for the section of interest. However, this SMP is not the final version, and there will be an update. If you do not find it directly from the links here, search by Google etc for the latest version, using the keywords - "Poole Christchurch SMP".

Poole and Christchurch Bays Coastal Management Group. 2010. (SMP - Shoreline Management Plan)
Poole and Christchurch Bays Coastal Management Plan (or SMP - Shoreline Management Plan). Draft SMP2. Draft version of the SMP, later to be replaced by a final version. Available (or was available) online as PDFs at Poole and Christchurch Bays Coastal Management Plan.

Contents: Draft SMP2
Section 1, Introduction
Section 2, Environmental Assessment
Section 3, Basis for Development of the Plan
Section 4, Appraisal of Options and Rationale for Preferred Plan:
Section 4.1, Introduction.
Section 4.2, Policy Development Zone 1 Central and Eastern Sections of Christchurch Bay (Hurst Spit to Friars Cliff).
Section 4.3, Policy Development Zone 2 Christchurch Harbour and Central Poole Bay (Friars Cliff to Flag Head Chine).
Section 4.4, Policy Development Zone 3 Poole Harbour and Associated Coastline (Flag Head Chine to Handfast Point, including Poole Harbour).
Section 4.5, Policy Development Zone 4 Swanage (Handfast Point to Durlston Head).
Section 5, Summary of Preferred Plan and Implications
Section 6, Policy Summary, including Policy Summary Map.
Appendices (all documents open in a new window)
Appendix A, SMP Development.
Appendix B, Stakeholder Engagement.
Appendix C, Baseline Process Understanding, including Coastal Process Report and Flood and Erosion Mapping. Accessible from a separate page including No Active Intervention (NAI) and With Present Management (WPM) assessments, and summaries of the data used in assessments.
Appendix D, Natural and Built Environment Baseline (Thematic Review).
Appendix E, Issues and Objective Evaluation.
Appendix F, Strategic Environmental Assessment.
Appendix G, Scenario Testing.
Appendix H, Economic Appraisal.
Appendix I, Estuary Assessment.
Appendix J, Habitat Regulation Assessment - Appropriate Assessment.
Appendix K, The Metadatabase, GIS and Bibliographic Database is provided to the operating authorities on CD. It will be included in the final SMP.
Appendix L, Water Framework Directive (WFD)
Appendix M, Review of Coastal Processes and Associated Risks at Hengistbury Head.


Rawson, P.F., Curry, D., Dilley, F.C., Hancock, J.M., Kennedy, W.J., Neale, J.W., Wood, C.J. and Worssam, B.C. 1978. A correlation of Cretaceous rocks in the British Isles. Geological Society of London, Special Report, No. 9, 70pp.

Simpson, M.I. 1983. Decapod crustacea and associated fauna of the Punfield Marine Band (Lower Cretaceous; Lower Aptian), Punfield, Dorset. Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society, vol. 104, pp. 143-146. Abstract: A recent collection made from the Punfield Marine Band has yielded three species of decapod crustaceans which can be recorded for the first time; Mecochirus magnus (M'Coy), Mithracites vectensis Gould and Callianassa sp. This assemblage and its associated fauna consisting of newly discovered ammonites and ostracods, together with many bivalves and gastropods, does not support the currently held view that the bed represents a brackish-water facies. Faunal and sedimentological evidence indicates a shallow marine environment. Correlation with the Deshayesites callidiscus Subzone is confirmed.

Simpson, M.I. 1985. The stratigraphy of the Atherfield Clay Formation (Lower Aptian, Lower Cretaceous) at the type and other localities in southern England. Proceedings of the Geologists' Association, vol. 96, (1), 23-45. Abstract: The stratigraphy of the Atherfield Clay Formation at the type locality (Atherfield, Isle of Wight) is presented, and a comparison made with the ammonite zonal scheme of Casey (1961). The members of the formation are defined and the stratigraphical nomenclature is revised; the Atherfield Clay of Fitton (1847), comprising only that part of the Atherfield succession which represents the Deshayesites fittoni Subzone, is here renamed the Chale Clay Member. The macrofauna of the entire formation at Atherfield is here recorded; it includes a newly discovered assemblage of decapod crustaceans which contain Meyeria ornata (Phillips), a species previously known only from the Boreal Lower Cretaceous. A correlation is made between the sequence at Atherfield and those at Compton Bay and Redcliff (Isle of Wight) and the Dorset coast. A review is also made of the succession in the Weald.
Stewart, D.J. 1978. The Sedimentology and Palaeoenvironment of the Wealden Group of the Isle of Wight. Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Portsmouth Polytechnic (now Portsmouth University).

Stewart, D.J., Ruffell, A., Wach, G. and Goldring, G. 1991. Lagoonal sedimentation and fluctuating salinities in the Vectis Formation (Wealden Group, Lower Cretaceous) of the Isle of Wight, southern England. Sedimentary Geology, vol. 72, pp. 117-134. Abstract: Sedimentation in the Shepherd's Chine Member of the Vectis Formation is characterised by a cyclicity of four principal facies on which a strong asymmetry has been imprinted by erosional events. The four lithofacies are: (1) very fine to fine sandstones; (2) heterolithic sand/silt and mudstones; (3) parallel-laminated (pinstripe) mudstones; and (4) black mudstones. The biota, principally associated with lithofacies 2 and 3 (as shelly partings and coquinas), can be grouped into five molluscan associations which range from freshwater to quasi-marine. These associations are poorly correlated with the lithofacies, but fluctuate within and between cycles. Salinity and storm frequency increase towards the top of the formation, heralding the main marine Aptian transgression. Lithofacies and biotas indicate deposition in a lagoon that was shallow and temporarily emergent. The cyclicity is thought to represent the more distal phases of the advance and retreat of deltaic sand bodies, derived from a westerly direction, into the lagoon. Major storm events broke the symmetry of the cycles. A deltaic facies, represented by the Barnes High Sandstone Member, is thought to be laterally linked, reworked deltaic sandstone lobes.

Strahan, A. 1896. On the physical geology of the Isle of Purbeck. Proceedings of the Geologists' Association, vol. 14, pp. 405-406.

Strahan, A. 1898. The Geology of the Isle of Purbeck and Weymouth. Memoirs of the Geological Survey. Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London. 278 pages with a map. (Old classic work with some interesting points)

Strahan, A. 1906. Guide to the Geological Model of the Isle of the Isle of Purbeck. Memoirs of the Geological Survey. (Small publication)

Thomas, J. and Ensom, P. 1989. Bibliography and Index of Dorset Geology. Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society. 102 pp. Valuable guide to Dorset geological literature prior to 1989.

Woodward, H.B. 1890. The geology of Swanage. In Braye, J. (ed.) 1890. Swanage (Isle of Purbeck) : Its History, Resources as an Invigorating Health Resort, Botany and Geology. 2nd Edition, William Henry Everett and Son, Fleet Street, London, 119 pp.

Go back to top

|Home and List of Webpages

Copyright © 2020 Ian West, Tonya Loades and Joanna Bentley. All rights reserved. This is a purely academic website and images and text may not be copied for publication or for use on other webpages or for any commercial activity. A reasonable number of images and some text may be used for non-commercial academic purposes, including field trip handouts, lectures, student projects, dissertations etc, providing source is acknowledged.

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 cancel 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 in attempting to determine measures of risk to life or property.

Go back to top

Dr Ian West, author of these webpages

Webpage - written and produced by:

Ian West, M.Sc. Ph.D. F.G.S.


at his private address, Romsey, Hampshire, kindly supported by Southampton University,and web-hosted by courtesy of iSolutions of Southampton University. The website does not necessarily represent the views of Southampton University. The website is written privately from home in Romsey, unfunded and with no staff other than the author, but generously and freely published by Southampton University. Field trips shown in photographs do not necessarily have any connection with Southampton University and may have been private or have been run by various organisations.