Book review: Geology of the Jurassic Coast: The Red Coast Revealed – Exmouth to Lyme Regis, by Richard A Edwards; and Geology of the Jurassic Coast: The Isle of Purbeck – Weymouth to Studland, by Paul Ensom and Malcolm Turner

Jon Trevelyan (UK)

The Jurassic Coast Trust is certainly producing some good books these days. I have already reviewed one (The Jurassic Coast: An Aerial Journey through time by Peter Sills) and I think these two might even be better. As is well known, in recognition of its wonderful geology, the coast between Orcombe Rocks in southeast Devon and Old Harry Rocks in south Dorset was granted World Heritage status in December 2001. These two guides cover the western and the eastern thirds of this remarkable coastline. One covers the area dominated by the red cliffs of the Permian and Triassic to the west, while the other deals with the limestones of the Purbeck, Portlandian and Chalk to the east.

The books are really in two halves – the first half covers the broad geology of the respective areas, with the second going into detail about particular locations, including covering human aspects of the geology and also such logistical necessities as parking and access.

One of the things I really like about these books is that they try to paint a picture of the actual environments in which the rocks were laid down and of the flora and fauna that lived at the time. This ought to be done more often in popular geology books. For instance, the red Mercia Mudstones make more sense and are more interesting if one knows they were formed in playa lakes, drying out in the desert sun. And if you can imagine rhynosaurs browsing by the lakes that formed the Otter Sandstone, then the geology is undoubtedly brought to life.

Both books have lovely colour photographs and diagrams, and both eschew using complex geological terms, but without patronising the reader. I assume that a third book will one day be published, covering the central area. Frankly, I can’t wait to see it.

Geology of the Jurassic Coast: The Red Coast Revealed – Exmouth to Lyme Regis by Richard A Edwards, Coastal Publishing, Wareham, Dorset (2008). 128 pp., softback, ISBN: 978-0-9544845-4-5

Geology of the Jurassic Coast: The Isle of Purbeck – Weymouth to Studland by Paul Ensom and Malcolm Turner, Coastal Publishing, Wareham, Dorset (2011). 128 pp., softback, ISBN: 978-1-907701-00-9

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