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Lyme Regis

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Overview





Lyme Regis is a seaside town with a tidal harbour at the head of Lyme Bay on the south coast. It provides seasonal pontoons, moorings for visiting boats in its outer harbour, and the potential to dry out in its inner harbour or anchor outside.

This is a good berth in suitable or settled conditions but strong southerly and particularly south-easterly winds send in an uncomfortable surge into the harbour and make the outer harbour area completely untenable. Although subject to draft considerations, access is straightforward in suitable weather conditions, night or day.
Please note

Any developed south-easterly or easterly condition, or a southerly gale, will cause the sea to break so heavily at the entrance as to make the harbour unapproachable.




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Keyfacts for Lyme Regis
HM  +44 1297 442137     HM  +44 7870 240645      harbourmanagement@westdorset-weymouth.gov.uk           Ch.14/16 [Lyme Regis Harbour Radio]
Approaches
4 stars: Straightforward; when unaffected by weather from difficult quadrants or tidal consideration, no overly complex dangers.
Shelter
4 stars: Good; assured night's sleep except from specific quarters.


Considerations
Restriction: shallow, drying or partially drying pierNote: harbour fees may be charged


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationMarina or pontoon berthing facilitiesAnchoring locationBerth alongside a deep water pier or raft up to other vesselsVisitors moorings available, or possibly by club arrangementQuick and easy access from open waterNavigation lights to support a night approachSailing Club baseSet near a village or with a village in the immediate vicinityScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinity
Facilities
Water available via tapWaste disposal bins availableTop up fuel available in the area via jerry cansShop with basic provisions availableMini-supermarket or supermarket availableSlipway availableShore based toilet facilitiesShowers available in the vicinity or by arrangementHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaMarked or notable walks in the vicinity of this locationPleasant family beach in the areaCashpoint or bank available in the areaMarine engineering services available in the areaElectronics or electronic repair available in the areaBus service available in the areaShore based family recreation in the area

Last modified
September 28th 2017; suggest a correction?

Protected sectors

Current wind over the protected quadrants
Now Force

Summary* Restrictions apply

A good location with straightforward access.

LWS draught

2 metres (6.56 feet).

Today's tide estimates

LW 10:36 HW 06:07
LW 23:01 HW 18:32
Now approaching Neaps

Swell today




Approaches
4 stars: Straightforward; when unaffected by weather from difficult quadrants or tidal consideration, no overly complex dangers.
Shelter
4 stars: Good; assured night's sleep except from specific quarters.


Considerations
Restriction: shallow, drying or partially drying pierNote: harbour fees may be charged


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationMarina or pontoon berthing facilitiesAnchoring locationBerth alongside a deep water pier or raft up to other vesselsVisitors moorings available, or possibly by club arrangementQuick and easy access from open waterNavigation lights to support a night approachSailing Club baseSet near a village or with a village in the immediate vicinityScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinity
Facilities
Water available via tapWaste disposal bins availableTop up fuel available in the area via jerry cansShop with basic provisions availableMini-supermarket or supermarket availableSlipway availableShore based toilet facilitiesShowers available in the vicinity or by arrangementHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaMarked or notable walks in the vicinity of this locationPleasant family beach in the areaCashpoint or bank available in the areaMarine engineering services available in the areaElectronics or electronic repair available in the areaBus service available in the areaShore based family recreation in the area

Last modified
September 28th 2017; suggest a correction?

Position and approaches
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Haven position

50° 43.194' N, 002° 56.173' W

This is the head of Victoria Pier, at the entrance to the inner harbour and immediately north of the seasonal pontoons.

What is the initial fix?

The following Lyme Regis will set up a final approach:
50° 43.110' N, 002° 55.660' W
This is set in about 8 metres CD, on the transit of 284° T that leads up to the harbour entrance and about 100 metres south of a South Cardinal Buoy, Q(6)+Lfl.15s.


What are the key points of the approach?

Offshore details are available in the westbound Route location or eastbound Route location sequenced 'Selsey Bill to Start Point' coastal description.

  • Avoid in all strong southerly and particularly south-easterly and easterly winds.

  • Contact the Harbour Master whilst approaching in open water and take berthing advice.

  • Approach from south-eastward on the leading lights of 284° T taking care at night not to fall southward into the red and onto the boulders of the breakwater extension.


Not what you need?
Try our Advanced Havens Search tool to find locations with the specific attributes you need, or click the 'Next', coastal clockwise, or 'Previous', coastal anti-clockwise, buttons to progress through neighbouring havens. Below are the ten nearest havens to Lyme Regis for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line distance
  1. West Bay (Bridport) - 4.1 miles E
  2. Weymouth Marina - 12 miles ESE
  3. Weymouth Harbour - 12.2 miles ESE
  4. Small Mouth - 12.3 miles ESE
  5. Portland Marina - 12.6 miles ESE
  6. Church Ope Cove - 13.8 miles ESE
  7. Ringstead Bay - 14.4 miles ESE
  8. Durdle Door - 16 miles ESE
  9. Lulworth Cove - 16.7 miles ESE
  10. Worbarrow Bay - 17.3 miles ESE
Ten nearest havens by straight line distance
  1. West Bay (Bridport) - 4.1 miles E
  2. Weymouth Marina - 12 miles ESE
  3. Weymouth Harbour - 12.2 miles ESE
  4. Small Mouth - 12.3 miles ESE
  5. Portland Marina - 12.6 miles ESE
  6. Church Ope Cove - 13.8 miles ESE
  7. Ringstead Bay - 14.4 miles ESE
  8. Durdle Door - 16 miles ESE
  9. Lulworth Cove - 16.7 miles ESE
  10. Worbarrow Bay - 17.3 miles ESE
Alternatively the above can be ordered by compass direction or coastal sequence


How to get in?
Please use our integrated Navionics chart to appraise the haven and its approaches. Navionics charts feature in premier plotters from B&G, Raymarine, Magellan and are also available on tablets. Open the chart in a larger viewing area by clicking the expand to 'new tab' or the 'full screen' option.

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Lyme Regis Harbour 'The Cobb'
Photo: Michael Harpur


Lyme Regis is a seaside town with a tidal harbour that is principally used by pleasure craft. It lies in a wooded valley about four miles westward of Golden Cap, 22 miles north by north-west of Portland Bill and 6½ miles east of Beer Head. The harbour is protected from the south-west by a rocky ledge upon which a sizable stone pier, called The Cobb, sweeps round to provide protection from west to south. A boulder extension, which covers at half-flood, continues about 120 metres eastward from the end of The Cobb, and its outermost end is marked by a post with a red can top mark.

An inner arm to the harbour, called Victoria Pier, forks north-westward from The Cobb from about its midpoint. This arm along with the North Wall, situated along the harbour’s north-eastern side, encloses an inner harbour, the entrance of which lies between the north face of Victoria Pier and the southern end of the North Wall.




Lyme Regis provides visitors with three berthing options.

  • • Drying out inside the inner harbour.

  • • Coming alongside its seasonal walk ashore pontoons.

  • • Picking up one of its yellow mooring buoys set close east of the harbour.

  • • Anchoring close seaward of the moorings.

Vessels that can take to the hard usually enter the inner harbour ±0230 of high water and lie up against the inner north-eastern face of Victoria Pier or raft to an appropriate vessel already alongside. The harbour basin has depths of 2.7 to 4.3 metres at HW Springs but dries to between 0.3 and 1.3 metres CD of hard sand. The maximum boat length that the harbour master will accommodate alongside Victoria Pier is 9 metres, as wall space is very limited.
Please note

The harbour’s hard sand bed may cause vessels to strike heavily on taking to the ground when a heavy seaway exists outside.






The visitor pontoons are set in place outside of Victoria Pier between May and September, immediately to port of the leading line and just before the entrance. Best water may be found at the outer ends where the least depth of 1.3 metres can be expected at MLWS, or 2.2 metres MLWN. Those operating on the margins should check the current depths with the harbour master as it is subject to variance.




Twelve visitors' buoys are laid close north of the leading line about 200 metres or more east of the entrance. These are set amidst local boat moorings, but may be readily identified by their pick-up floats and substantial yellow buoys that are clearly marked ‘visitors’. Visitor mooring buoy depths range from about 0.8 to 2 metres but the inshore buoys can dry on a big Spring tide. Those planning on spanning a low water will find it worthwhile to correlate their soundings with a tidal calculation. Vessels rolling in a swell may be an issue on the moorings, and especially so with the utmost deeper moorings which tend to lose the benefit of the shelter provided by the harbour.

Vessels can anchor at no charge to seaward of the mooring area. Sound in and find a space in the area well north of the leading line and between the outermost visitors' buoys and the south cardinal. Shoal-draught craft can work themselves well in and especially so during neap tides. Conversely, deeper boats will have to lie further out, losing the small measure of protection the harbour offers to the prevailing swell and particularly so on a Spring tide.


Any vessel intending on berthing at Lyme Regis should contact Lyme Regis Harbourmaster whilst approaching in open water. The harbour is generally manned from 8 am to 6 pm, seven days a week in the summer season. Lyme Regis Harbourmaster can be contacted by P: +44 1297 442137, M: +44 7870 240645. Berths may be reserved by phoning in advance or contacting the Harbour Master by e-mail E: harbourmanagement@westdorset-weymouth.gov.uk. The Harbour Master listens on VHF Ch. 16, call sign [Lyme Regis Harbour Radio] during working hours and use Ch. 14 as their working channel.

As of 2017, a flat fee of £20 per night, irrespective of boat length, is charged for any vessel utilising the wall, pontoon or mooring buoys.




Convergance Point Approaches to the harbour are free from danger. A useful landmark for Lyme Regis and Bridport harbours is the conical Golden Cap that lies between the two harbours. The cliffs rise to a height of 187 metres at Golden Cap which is located 3.5 miles east of Lyme Regis. The prominent hill, that takes its name from its flat head and yellow cliffs at its summit, is conspicuous for miles and never more so when the sun falls upon its head.

Keeping a ½ mile from the shore clears all dangers on the approaches to Lyme Regis. Vessels approaching from the west should stand well clear of the harbour as the west and southern sides of the Cobb are foul with rocky ledges and debris.




Initial fix location This is set in about 8 metres CD, on the transit of 284° T that leads up to the harbour entrance. The transit is formed by a rear Fl. G 8m9M, on the inner pier, and an Oc.WR.8s6m9/7M, located 250 metres in front, on the outer end of Victoria Pier by the entrance. The initial fix is also positioned about 100 metres south of a South Cardinal Buoy, Q(6)+Lfl.15s and situated at the end of a submerged outfall, that is located a ¼ of a mile east of the entrance.



Proceed in for a ⅓ of a mile to the harbour entrance on its leading line of 284° T, then break off for the entrance on the final approach. Charted depths are liable to change so a safe margin should be left for clearance and it is advisable to check the current approach depths with the harbour master.
Please note

By night it is safest to keep just inside the white sector until the harbour begins to open. Too much to port will take a vessel uncomfortably close to The Cobb extension.




Haven location Berth as advised by the harbour master. Those intending on drying out alongside should make their way through the entrance and then turn hard to port to come alongside Victoria Pier. Vessels intending on coming alongside the walk-ashore pontoon should turn onto the pontoons before the entrance to the inner harbour. The Moorings are to starboard of the approach. Vessels anchoring should check their holding as the quality of the bottom varies.

Land by tender at the pontoon which is accessible at all states of the tide.


What's the story here?
First recorded as Lim in 774, Lime in 1086 Doomsday, Lyme Regis derives its name from the River Lim, which itself is an old Celtic word for ‘stream’. The suffix Regis, Latin for ‘of the king’, was added after it was granted its 1284 royal charter to distinguish it from other Lyme manors.


Lyme Regis as seen from the root of the North Wall
Photo: Michael Harpur


No evidence of settlement on the site of Lyme Regis exists before 774 when land, in what was then called Lim, was granted by the West Saxon King Cynwulf to the church of Sherborne. Neolithic remains have been recorded in the general area but none in the immediate vicinity of the town. This is not to say they did not exist as it is thought very likely that the Prehistoric shoreline was subject to landslides and all traces of that time period have eroded away. Likewise, there is no physical evidence of a Roman occupation in the town area despite the Exeter-Dorchester Roman road being located a mile to the north of Lyme Regis, and a Romano-British villa and farm situated only two miles away. It would be unlikely that the area’s potential as a saltern could have been overlooked.


Cynewulf of Wessex
Photo: Public Domain
The 774 Cynwulf Royal Charter was all about granting these salt boiling rights to Sherborne Abbey. A similar grant was recorded in 938 by King Athelstan to the church of Glastonbury, and a further one was mentioned when King Eadwig granted land to Lady Huna in 956 - 957. In 1086 Doomsday recorded Lime as having three manors, Sherborne Abbey, Glastonbury, and one that belonged to a William Belet and at least 27 salt workers indicating that it must have had some sizable settlements, presumably around the church. A Mill is also mentioned in the Domesday Book, possibly at the same location as the present Town Mill.


Lyme ranked as one of the major British ports of the time in 1234. In 1284 Edward I granted to the town a charter making it a free borough with a merchant guild and 'Regis' was added to the town's name shortly afterwards. This gave it freedom from tolls and considerable foreign trade privileges, along with its own minor court and some self-governing capability. In return for the privileges, Lyme had to pay taxes and an annual rent to the royal exchequer. The charter was subsequently redefined many times, by Elizabeth I in 1591 and also by James I and Charles I. The fact that it had a chartered merchant guild, an association of artisans, tradesmen, and/or merchants to oversee the practice of their craft, indicated that it had established a market with a flourishing trading community exporting wool and importing wine.


The Cobb, Lyme Regis
Photo: Michael Harpur


The importance of the port is also evident in the demand for two ships for the king's service in 1311, and several requests followed for further ships being placed upon the port. Its capabilities were much increased by the erection of The Cobb which created a key artificial harbour that provided the only shelter between Portland Roads and the River Exe. The first record of The Cobb dates back to 1328 where a document describes it as being damaged by storms. It was originally made of oak piles driven into the seabed, with boulders that were floated into place and stacked in-between. The Cobb enabled the town to fully develop as a port that could more than rival those of nearby Bridport and Dartmouth. It also fostered a thriving shipbuilding centre from the 13th century onwards. The gently curving serpentine wall seen today dates back to 1756 when it was joined to the land and rebuilt in Portland stone in the 1820s.


Cannon overlooking the mooring area from the North Wall
Photo: Michael Harpur


But by the second half of the 14th century, Lyme Regis had started to decline. It is believed that storms and landslips were partly to blame for this regression. Merchants began to leave the area and there were not sufficient resources to rebuild the damage to The Cobb and the affected houses. The French wars and the Black Death are most likely also partly to blame for the decline in the 14th and 15th centuries. There are records of petitions for relief in 1402, 1407 and 1410, but it is not clear whether these were granted.


Prince Maurice
Photo: Public Domain
Henry VIII repaired The Cobb in 1534 - 1535 and the town began, once again, to flourish. Between 1500 and 1700, a vast array of goods passed through the harbour, and several warehouses and cellars were built. The town was then trading with France, as it did of old, but also with far away places such as West Africa, West India and the Americas. During the 17th century, Lyme was one of the south coast’s major trading ports and, with a population of 4,000, one of the country’s largest towns. In 1780, the port was considered to be larger than the Port of Liverpool. It was this brusque trade and level of importance that brought the Civil War to Lyme.


After a series of Royalist successes in 1643 Lyme Regis and Poole were the only garrisons in the county left to the Parliament and the general feeling was that the king would easily win. Being of strategic importance for both parties, the Parliamentarians dug in and, in early 1644, King Charles ordered the capture of the town sending his nephew, Prince Maurice of the Palatinate, with 5,000 troops. Even though the only defences were a bank and ditch, the town was left mostly undefended. The Parliamentary forces withstood an eight-week siege that included steady bombardment and three attempts to storm their lines. In the end, Prince Maurice was forced to give up the siege at considerable cost to his military reputation. By the next year, the Parliament had gained the whole county with the exception of Sherborne and the Isle of Portland.


James Scott, Duke of Monmouth
Photo: Public Domain painting by William Wissing
In 1685, James Scott, Duke of Monmouth, and his followers landed on Lyme Regis’s west beach intent on taking the throne from his uncle, James II. Within a month, after a series of skirmishes, his ill-fated Monmouth Rebellion was crushed at the Battle of Sedgemoor. Monmouth escaped from the battlefield but was later captured, taken to London where lost his head for treason on Tower Hill. Monmouth's supporters were tried during the Bloody Assizes, many were transported abroad and 292 were publicly executed. A dozen of them were hanged, drawn and quartered on the beach to the West of The Cobb where they had first disembarked.


In the following century the town’s importance was soon to falter because it was entirely unable to handle the increase in ship sizes. By the middle of the 18th century the town was in a state of decay and the Cobb was in a poor state, due to storm damage. The trade never really picked up after this and by the late 18th century, especially after 1792 with the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars, it collapsed entirely. Fortunately, by then, the English gentry had come to consider that coastal air and sea bathing was an aid to health. With travel to the European mainland dangerous, the loss of commercial trade in goods was transformed into an entirely new tourist business that turned Lyme Regis into a popular seaside resort.


Mary Anning with her dog, Tray
Photo: Public Domain painting by B. J. Donne
Lyme Regis's fame also grew in the early 1800’s when it became the focus of the new science of palaeontology. The Jurassic Coast is about 65 million years old at Old Harry Rocks, its the most easterly point, but at Lyme Regis and Charmouth it is about around 190 million years old. This makes it the oldest part of the Dorset section, with the Devon end at approximately 250 million years old around Exmouth being the oldest. What appears to have happened in the area between Dorset and Devon is some sort of catastrophic event that caused a mass extinction which laid down a wide variety of creatures at the same time. The finds from the area's Blue Lias cliffs, would lead Mary Anning, 1799 -1847 the daughter of a Lyme Regis cabinet-maker, to became a world-renowned fossil-collector.


Mary Anning’s fossil finds were extraordinary by any measure. She made her best finds during the winter months when landslides exposed new fossils which she collected quickly before they were lost to the sea. In 1811, when she was a child aged 12, she discovered the first specimen of an Ichthyosaur. Although she had made several finds before, this was her first well-known find which brought her into scientific notice. In 1821 she found 6.1 metres (20 ft) skeleton remains of a Temnodontosaurus, and the first complete Plesiosaurus in 1824. In 1828 she made an important find consisting of the partial skeleton of a Pterosaur, and her total list of discoveries is simply phenomenal. Anning findings contributed to important changes in scientific thinking about prehistoric life and the history of the Earth. Yet by the time she died in 1847 she was poor and little appreciated.


Ichthyosaur skull found in 1811
Photo: Public Domain


At the time most people in Britain still believed in a literal interpretation of Genesis, that the Earth was only a few thousand years old and that species did not evolve or become extinct. Anything that contradicted the Gospel was unwelcome by the vast majority. She was little better received by the enlightened scientific community of the time. Being a woman, she was not eligible to join the Geological Society of London and she did not always receive full credit for her scientific contributions. Indeed, she wrote in a letter: ‘The world has used me so unkindly, I fear it has made me suspicious of everyone.’ Though she may not have seen it in her day, she played a pioneering role in the birth of this new science that would change our understanding of the world, and her recognition would eventually come. Soon Charles Dickens wrote of her in 1865 that ‘[t]he carpenter's daughter has won a name for herself, and has deserved to win it and Mary Anning is world renowned in the field today.


Portrait of Jane Austen by her sister Cassandra Austen
Photo: Public Domain
Whilst Mary Anning was uncovering fossils, Lyme Regis was well on its way at the time to becoming the resort that it is today. One of Lyme Regis’ most famous visitors was Jane Austen who set her book ‘Persuasion’ in the town. In ‘Persuasion’ Austen uniquely departed her steady ironic gaze at life's little perplexities of emotion and conduct, to have the major incident of Louisa Musgrove fall from the steps of The Cobb, which is regarded as the most untoward event in any of her books. The poet Tennyson is said to have gone straight to the Cobb upon a visit to Lyme Regis, saying, ‘Show me the exact spot where Louisa Musgrove fell!


More famous artists and authors were soon to follow such as the visual artists JMW Turner, James McNeill Whistler and Sir Laurence Whistler, who have all painted the area. Authors such as GK Chesterton, JRR Tolkien, PG Wodehouse, and Beatrix Potter have also drawn inspiration from the town. Lyme resident John Fowles was inspired to write ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’, a romance between Sarah Woodruff and the fossil hunter Charles Smithson, that was adapted for film in 1982 and featuring the classic scene of Meryl Streep filmed on the Cobb.


Front Beach Lyme Regis
Photo: Michael Harpur


Today town retains its narrow tangle of historic streets that always lead downward to The Cobb. Within its buildings is a buzzing arts community with an abundance of galleries, studios and festivals. The 700-year-old restored working watermill at the heart of the courtyard grinds organic wheat into wholemeal flour whilst also functioning as a gallery, museum and crafts centre. The Marine Theatre offers a wide variety of performances. Close north-east alongside the Cobb is the family friendly Front Beach with its especially imported Normandy sand, though it is scarcely visible beneath the sun worshippers it attracts.


People collecting fossils during the April Fossil Festival
Photo: John Cummings via Attribution-Share Alike 3.0


The beach to the west of The Cobb that the Duke of Monmouth landed on, has taken his name and is called Monmouth Beach. In 2010, one hundred and sixty-three years after her death, the Royal Society included Anning in a list of the ten British women who have most influenced the history of science. Many of her finds can be seen today in the Museum of Natural History in London. Mary Anning and the Jurassic Coast are celebrated in the Fossil Festival held each April. Fossilised remains of sea creatures can be found on Lyme’s beaches, particularly to the east of the town, where it is more than possible to sail away with a souvenir of life as it was 200 million years ago.


Lyme Regis pontoon as seen from the east side of Victoria Pier
Photo: Michael Harpur


From a sailing perspective Lyme Regis, similar to West Bay, provides a convenient berth in moderate or offshore winds between Portland or Weymouth and the River Exe. But those who come here with a family will find a wonderful beach, an intriguing and welcoming old world beach resort that is set in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. A simply wonderful experience is to be had simply watching the setting sun illuminating Gold Cap from its historic pier.


What facilities are available?
The pontoons do not have water or shore power. Water is available from one of the hoses on the Victoria Pier. Power may be available from an outlet on Victoria Pier for those who are drying out alongside. Showers and toilets are in Lyme Regis Sailing Club, situated at the north side of the harbour, which has a bar, galley, and a sun deck. See the harbour staff for a key to the showers.



Calor and Camping Gaz can be obtained from the harbour master, and diesel and petrol by cans from a petrol station which is a 2 km (1½ mile) taxi ride away. There is a wide slipway into the drying harbour bed over which 4-wheel drive vehicles can drive with care at low water. Minor local repair facilities may be found in the area.

There is a choice of restaurants, pubs, cafes and fish and chip shops in and around the seaside town. Excellent shopping can be found in Axminster 6 miles away.

Bus services follow the coast, Exeter, Seaton, Beer, Bridport etc. There is also an Axminster, Bridport, Dorchester, Weymouth services, with mainline trains running from Axminster, Dorchester and Weymouth.


With thanks to:
Michael Harpur S/Y Whistler. Photography Michael Harpur and Eugene Birchall.


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Aerial views of Lyme Regis (1)





Aerial views of Lyme Regis (2)





Aerial views of Lyme Regis (3)





The Cobb Scene from 'The French Lieutenant's Woman' (1981)



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