Lulworth Cove

Lulworth Cove
Lulworth Cove

Lulworth Cove is a cove near the village of West Lulworth, on the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site in Dorset, south England. The cove is one of the finest examples of such a landform in the world, and is a popular tourist location, with over 1 million visitors a year.

It was featured on the TV programme Seven Natural Wonders as one of the wonders of the South.


Lulworth Cove

The cove has formed because of there are bands of rock of alternating resistance running parallel to the shore (a concordant coastline). At sea the clays and sands have been eroded away. A narrow (<30 metre) band of relatively resistant Portland limestone forms the shoreline. Behind this is a narrow (<50 metre) band of slightly less resistant Purbeck limestone. Behind this are 300-350 metres of much less resistant clays and greensands (Wealdon clays, Gault and Upper Greensand). Forming the back of the cove is a >250 metre wide band of chalk, which is considerably more resistant than the clays and sands, but less resistant than the limestones. The entrance to the cove is a narrow gap in the limestone bands. This was formed by a combination of erosional processes by wave action and glacial melt waters. The wide part of the cove is where the weak clays and greensands have been eroded. The back of the cove is the Chalk, which the sea has been unable to erode.

Missing image

How coves form. Lulworth cove has been produced as in example A, while Stair Hole is in stage two of example B.

Stair Hole

The cove is a particularly good example as less than 1/4km away is Stair Hole, an infant cove which shows what Lulworth Cove would have looked like a few hundred thousand years ago. The sea has made a gap in the Portland and Purbeck limestone here, as well as small Arch. The sea has made its way through to the Wealdon clays and begun eroding these. The clay shows obvious signs of slumping, and in Geological time it is eroding very rapidly. The Purbeck limestone in Stair Hole shows one of the best examples of limestone folding (the Lulworth crumple) in the world, caused by movements in the earth's crust (tectonics) millions of years ago.

Conservation, Tourism, Education & Management

Template:GBthumb West Lulworth acts as a gateway to this part of the Jurassic Coast. As well as the cove, across Hambury Tout (the large chalk hill to the west) is Durdle Door, a natural arch. To the east there is a fossilised forest. Lulworth is also close to Kimmeridge, famous for its rocky shore and fossils. The sea floor in and around the cove yields many fossils, and oil sands beneath the sea bed form the largest British oil field outside the North Sea area, and contain the highest quality oil in Europe. Geologists and Geographers have been interested in the area since the beginning of the 19th century, and in the 1830s the first serious study of the area took place. Since then the area has drawn Geology students from all over Europe. In 2001 the coast's unique geology was recognised and it was granted World Heritage Site status by UNESCO. Lulworth was one of a number of gateway villages on the coast with a Heritage Center—part visitor center, tourist information and natural history museum—which in 2002 received 418,595 visitors. Most of the area is privately owned, but planning permission is virtually impossible, and the coast and its visitors are heavily managed. Much of the land to the east is owned by the Ministry of Defense and used for tank training, only open on weekends and hollidays. Land to the north and around the village is owned by the Lulworth estate (see: Lulworth Castle). Hambury Tout is owned by the National Trust. Over a million people walk across the hill to Durdle Door annually, so this is a particular focus for management (in the aerial photograph the wide path produced by millions of walkers is visible).

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