Ever since I was tiny, I have adored rockpools, and not much has changed over the intervening years! Fortunately my husband and my kids share this passion, and so we are more likely to be found heading for a rock-strewn coastline than an uninterrupted sweep of pristine sand!
Charmouth's rockpools are wonderful, as the cliffs continually collapse to generate boulders between which the seawater gets trapped. In addition to looking for marine animals (sea anenomes, shrimps, small fish and a wealth of shellfish), the wave action slowly breaks up the boulders, so rock pools are a good place to look for fossils which have been exposed on newly exposed bedding planes. The bucket that you brought along to hold your fossil finds will also come in useful when collecting seaweed and beasties from the rockpools, and there is also enough sand to make sand castles to be decorated with your rockpool loot.
On the subject of seaweed - there is a lot of it over the rocks and it is VERY slippy, so come with sensible footwear - wellie boots would be a good idea if you're visiting outside the summer season, as being Britain, the water is also more than a little on the chilly side!
Charmouth is located at the mouth of the River Char, and you have to cross a bridge across the small estuary to access the beach from the car park. This is a pretty place that seems popular with fishermen who establish their collapsible chairs on the grassy banks and dangle their tackle to their heart's content.
I confess that I have never really understood the allure of fishing - I have read statistics that list it as the world's most popular hobby, but strongly suspect that this includes tens of millions of coastal folk in the developing world who have to fish if they want to eat! Anyway, scepticism aside, it's a harmless enough activity in this form, and the fishermen seemed to be enjoying it.
Estuaries are usually good spots for birdwatching, as they attract a combination of wetland and marine species, and we saw some interesting waders as well as the obligatory swans, ducks and seagulls (all looking smugly well fed, probably as a result of sharing many tourists' picnics!)
Let me put this bluntly: you cannot come into Mary Anning's back yard and not go fossicking! (And if you don't know who she is, shame on you, and go educate yourself by reading her potted biography under my Lyme Regis page)!
For the uninitiated, 'fossicking' is a slightly archaic word for fossil hunting - perhaps you will be disappointed to hear that it's nowhere as rude as it sounds, and makes an ideal outing for young and old alike. It seems to be a much favoured activity for young families as well as grandparents with their grandchildren in tow. Best to think of it as a sort of natural history treasure hunt without the hassle (and expense) of having to buy prizes, with the downside that you don't know where said prizes are hidden!
Charmouth was one of Mary Anning's favourite fossicking spots, as the soft Lias cliffs are undermined by the wave action and regularly slump to expose new fossiliferous material. What can you find? Well take your Jurassic choice: ammonites and belemnites (straight, bullet-shaped variants on an ammonite theme) are pretty common, but if you get lucky, then fossil fish are a possibility, and the jackpot is a massive ichthyosaur or plesiosaur (you just need to think where you might fit that in the lounge ...). On a more serious note, any finds of potential scientific significance need to be reported to the authorities, but nobody will mind you taking away a small ammonite or two.
Fossicking is one of those things that you either have a knack for or you don't - I am a geologist by training, but am hopeless at finding fossils, and on varsity field trips where I was struggling to unearth a single fossil fish scale, fellow students were discovering entire fish. Fortunately, like skiing, fossicking is not something you have to be good at to enjoy!
Just be careful, as the cliffs are subject to regular landslides, and as even the cautious Mary Anning - who knew this coastline much better than you ever will - lost her beloved dog in exactly this sort of unfortuate event. It's therefore sensible to exercise restraint and be cautious of mountaineering activity ...
The highlight of our time in Dorset was when we took Small Daughter (then just under 4) and our baby son fossicking at Charmouth. She was the only one of us to find a fossil and I can still see her earnest little face alight with excitement and pride as she held her tiny ammonites aloft - possibly the proudest day of her young life (see photo of her with an ultraserious expression displaying her treasure). Despite the indifferent weather, that day at Charmouth was one of the most magical days I can remember us ever having on holiday and makes me smile every time I think about it. For months thereafter, she would initiate conversations with grownups with discourses on ammonites in the hopeful expectation that all adults were as au fait with this concept as her own family: such is the fate of those who are challenged by being born into a family of unrepentent nerds!
What do you need for fossicking? Well, the rock is pretty soft, so really all that you need is a bucket to collect your treasures (and comfy clothes and footwear to clamber over the beach), although the more Serious Collectors come armed with a geological hammer to enhance their beach credibility and distinguish them from the Amateurs!
It's free, it's fun, it's educational, it's healthy and it appeals to all ages ... so what are you waiting for???
The Street, Charmouth, Charmouth, DT6 6PJ, United Kingdom
Good for: Business
Had a few pints after our 10 hour coastal walk sept 13th 2008
lot of people eating dinner from the local caravan parks, there was also a cafe and fish and chip shop 20 yards away which was busy
very pretty from outside, sort of olde worlde ish on the inside
smart looking B&B opposite, we saw some B&B accomodation in the village
Favorite Dish: only tried the otter ale and lagers, they were average
1 other pub in the village 100 yards away is favoured by the locals, our taxi driver, and cheaper, just up the hill to the west
Visiting churches is one of the absolute highlights of a trip to Europe, and provides a fascinating insight into the culture which has shaped European cultures of the past couple of millenia.
Unlike some other religions - where access to places of worship may be restricted to members of that religious group or a specific gender - the vast majority of Christian churches will allow tourists to visit at most times, including routine services (although some may charge an admission fee for doing so, and access may be denied for private events such as weddings and funerals). However, tourists need to bear in mind that most churches are still active places of worship, and so visitors need to exhibit a certain sensitivity to display respect to the culture and avoid giving offence to people at prayer.
The following guidelines are based on wonderful advice offered by Homer (homaned) - who does this for a living - in a forum response, and although specifically written for Christian places of worship, would apply equally to places of worship for other religions
So, here is a general list of do's and don'ts for people wishing to photograph during a church service:
READ THE SIGNS
If photography is not permitted - because, for example, it may damage paint on delicate murals - this will usually be indicated by a pictogram of a camera with a red line through it. Under most circumstances, you can assume that photography will be allowed (unless otherwise indicated), but may not be permitted during services. If in doubt, ask for clarification - this shows respect and will very seldom be met with anything other than a helpful response.
TURN OFF YOUR FLASH!
Every camera on the market has a button on it which will turn off the flash. The number one most alarming and distracting thing that can happen during a liturgy, and one which will even get you kicked out of some churches, is the bright flash that goes off when you take a picture. Not only is it distracting, but it usually makes the picture turn out dark, because your camera's flash only has about a 10-15' range. Turn off the flash, and hold the camera up against your eye, using the viewfinder, and you will likely get a better picture (and you definitely won't have any red-eye problems!).
DON'T MOVE AROUND ALL OVER THE PLACE! (UNLESS YOU HAVE PERMISSION)
Instead of walking all over down the main aisle and in front of everybody, pick a good place from which to take a picture at the beginning of the liturgy, and stay there. Unless you're a professional photographer with practice at stealthily moving during liturgies, you're a distraction, and you're being disrespectful. Even if you're a pro, try to stick to one out-of-the-way place, and use a zoom lens and zoom in to get pictures. Walking in front of people is a surefire way to distract and disrespect and closing in on priests or other celebrants just to capitalise on a photo opportunity is offensive.
TURN OFF THE CAMERA'S SOUND!
Every camera has some way to mute all its 'cute' beeps and clicking noises. If you press a button, and hear a beep, or if you take a picture and hear an obnoxious shutter clicking sound, you need to turn off those sounds (the muting option is usually in one of the menus). Along with the flashing, it's an obvious sign that someone is taking pictures and not showing much respect for those trying to pay attention to the liturgy.
TURN OFF the 'focus assist' light!
If your camera can't focus without the little laser-light that shines in everyone's eyes before your camera takes a picture, then don't use your camera. You have to turn that light off! It is very distracting to be watching a lector or priest, and see a little red dot or lines pop up on his face all of the sudden. It's as if some rifleman is making his mark! Turn the light off (again, look in the menus for the option to turn off the 'AF assist' or 'focus assist' light). If you can't turn it off, put a piece of duct tape or some other opaque material over the area where the light is, so the light won't shine on someone.
TURN OFF THE CAMERA'S LCD!
You should never use the LCD to compose your shots anyways; just put your eye up to the viewfinder, and that will not only not distract, it will also steady your camera against your face, making for a better picture (especially if you don't have the flash on). And if you must review the pictures you've taken, hold the camera in front of you, down low, so people behind you don't notice the big, bright LCD display on your camera
CERTAIN PARTS OF THE CEREMONY ARE PARTICULARLY SENSITIVE
Photographing the blessing of the eucharist (bread and wine) and distribution of communion to the congregation are considered to be particularly sacred parts of the service, and it is offensive to photograph these activities.
The main thing is to try to be respectful of the culture and of other people present at the service. Don't distract. And, if you are asked to not take pictures, or if there's a sign saying 'no photography allowed,' then don't take pictures. You can always ask a priest's permission before the liturgy, but if he says 'No,' put away your camera and enjoy the freedom you have to focus on the privilege of being able to share an experience with people who consider these religious rituals core to their culture and identity, rather than focusing on your camera's LCD!
Homer's Rules ... Homer rules!