The best of Dorset in words and pictures

Treasure of Dorset – Golden Cap

Colin Varndell captures one of Dorset's highpoints

If you were to ask most members of the public to name the highest point on the south coast of England, many would likely say the White Cliffs of Dover. They would, however, be wrong. Although 350 feet in height from the sea, the White Cliffs of Dover would be dwarfed by the 627-foot-high Golden Cap, which lies a couple of miles east of Lyme Regis, west of Seatown and south of Morcombelake.
The reason for Golden Cap’s name is immediately obvious on seeing a picture of it. Although made up of a vast number of layers of different kinds of stone, the two main lower strata are of Green Ammonite beds beneath Eype Clay. Above these, green glauconitic sand has mostly weathered into yellow-brown sands known somewhat unappealingly as ‘Foxmould’.
FJ Harvey Darton was rather more lyrical in his appreciation: ‘So high, so far, so lonely, you cannot be in the world. Why, the very gulls and daws that are floating below you are yet five hundred feet above land. The sea itself could not rage here: the huge arc of cliffs holds out arms to calm it. Portland is not rock now: it is but a grey shadow. West Bay piers look the toys that in truth they are. And inland there is only a glowing ember of
the earth’s old fires: one of those flushing forests of the fire that hold shepherds and sheep and trees and all pastoral delights.’
To experience Golden Cap, one has to climb it and, no matter from which direction one approaches, the final hundred feet are the hardest; they are, particularly on a clear day, worth it.
❱ The last part of Colin’s exploration of Dorset’s Jurassic Coast – Bexington to Lyme Regis – is in the July issue.

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