Book review: Geology of south Dorset and south-east Devon and its World Heritage Coast, The British Geological Survey

Jon Trevelyan (UK)

I don’t normally review BGS memoirs – they are excellent publications, but largely written for the professional or the seriously committed amateur geologist. (I have to admit to owning several, which cover my favourite fossil collecting areas of the UK.) However, this is one ‘Special Memoir’ that I am quite willing to make an exception for.

The coast between Orcombe Rocks in southeast Devon and Old Harry Rocks in south Dorset was granted World Heritage status in December 2001 in recognition of its outstanding geology. In addition, the area is world-famous for its richly fossiliferous rocks from the Lower Jurassic of Lyme Regis and Charmouth. Therefore, I suspect that there is just a slight hint of populism by the BGS in its publication, in that the text covers this hugely popular and important geological site and, unlike its other memoires, there is likely to be a popular demand for it.

The book deals with the 1:50 000 geological sheets for Dorchester, West Fleet and Weymouth, and Swanage, and parts of Sidmouth, Bridport, Bournemouth and Newton Abbot. It describes the diverse geology of the coast and neighbouring land, which ranges from the Late Permian to the Quaternary. This represents in excess of 200Ma of geological time and includes several different palaeo-environments – from arid deserts and subtropical seas, to cold, periglacial tundra. And, as you would expect, the stratigraphy is described in detail and incorporates revisions of the Triassic, Jurassic, Cretaceous and Palaeogene successions.

Therefore, this is an impressive volume – the graphics and photographs are by far the best I have seen in a memoire and the text is as detailed as you would expect. You will need to know quite bit of geology to get the most from it, but reading it with a dictionary of geology beside you is the answer to this. If you want to know exactly what is going on – in a beautifully produced book – then this is for you.

Geology of south Dorset and south-east Devon and its World Heritage Coast, The British Geological Survey, Keyworth, Nottingham, Dorset (2011). 161 pp., softback, ISBN: 978-0-85272-654-9.

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