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Jurassic Coast tells story of evolution
Looking towards Portland from Lulworth
The Jurassic Coast runs for 153 km (95 miles)

A former teacher who is now a writer is hoping to tell the story of the geology of the Jurassic Coast.

Robert Westwood, who lives near Lyme Regis, is passionate about geology and is keen to explain it in simple ways.

The 153 km (95 mile) Jurassic Coast begins in East Devon and stretches to Old Harry Rocks near Swanage in Dorset.

He said: "It's already known for its fossils but less well known is the fact the coast tells the story of evolution."

Exposed rock

Robert Westwood
Robert Westwood has a life long interest in geology

The Jurassic Coast is considered the only place in the world which displays evidence of millions of years of the Earth's history, exposed in layers of rock in its cliffs.

It provides a record of life on Earth in the Mesozoic era, which is thought to have begun 250 million years ago.

The era contains three periods; Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous.

Robert said: "At the beginning of the era, at the beginning of the Triassic period, there was a great extinction and most of life on the planet was wiped out.

"And at the end of the Mesozoic era, the Cretaceous period, which is around 65 million years ago, an extinction happened again.

"That's what most people know about - it was when the dinosaurs disappeared.

"But in that intervening period, this Mesozoic era, of which the Jurassic is just one period, life recovered and all sorts of wonderful creatures inhabited the Earth.

Hive Beach, near Burton Bradstock, Jurassic Coast
The age of the rocks on the Jurassic Coast are youngest towards the east

"And a record of life on Earth at the time is in the rocks of the Jurassic Coast. But I think the significance of these two great extinctions and the record of life in between them isn't so well known.

"The landslips that are frequent along this stretch of coast have given us vast numbers of fossils to piece together the story of evolution in that era."

Walking the coast

Robert is a regular walker of the coast, which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001 .

He has just put together two books, called Walking the East and Walking the West Jurassic Coast, detailing walks along the route which he has chosen for their geological interest.

View of Lyme Regis from Charmouth Beach
Charmouth has seen several major landslips in recent years

He said: "A little understanding of the processes that shaped this beautiful coastline can make a walk along it more enjoyable. Every location has a story to tell."

The geology varies on the Jurassic Coast because the rocks tilt eastwards.

Robert said: "The youngest rock on the coast, the chalk, is in the east.

"Rocks that are older are underneath, so they are exposed at the western end [because of the tilt].

"The tilting was probably the result of the strata of the great mountain building episode that formed the Alps."

Robert's favourite section of coast is in the east.

He said: "I love the Purbecks and the white cliff to the west of Durdle Door.

"They are truly spectacular."

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