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Dr Beach Discovers Two Iconic Dorset Beaches

Dr Beach Discovers Two Iconic Dorset Beaches

Going to beach again anywhere in the world will never be the same again for me.

Having spent the weekend with Dr Beach I now view coastal sojourns in a new light.

St Catherine’s Chapel and Chesil Beach the fictional location for Moonfleet.

Not that I will assess each beach with the 50 criteria that Professor Stephen Leatherman applies to each one of his.

However, I will adopt a selection of his top guides from now on.

Key factors are: One, clean sand. Two, clean water. Three, safe beach. No rip currents, big waves and no shore breaks.

Other key benchmarks from his list are: beach width, beach shape, straight or cove, steep or gentle slope, seaweed and access. Leaving 45 others to ponder on should I have the time?

With 50 Criteria To Judge Each Beach By

Enthusiastic he certainly is. I had the chance to show him one of the most interesting geological beaches in the world, Chesil Beach. Located in the county of Dorset on the South Coast of England and is in fact referred to as a ‘Tombolo’!

Abbotsbury Hill view point looking at the ‘Tombolo’

A shingle isthmus that joins two pieces of land together. The word comes from the Italian language meaning pillow or cushion.

He had long wanted to discover it for himself. This is a beach that earth scientists are often taught about because uniqueness and of its size. 18 miles long!  Also its make up from tiny pea size pebbles in the west. To ones the size of small potatoes at its eastern end at Portland.

Dr Beach on Chesil.

Shingle sample. Prof Stephen Leatherman checks out the pebbles at Abbotsbury.

Forming part of what is known as the World Heritage Jurassic Coast. Although, its very much younger than that. Being around 15,000 to 20,000 years old. The period of the last Ice Age.

Linking The Coast For Nearly 18 Miles

However, it does form a coastal link between the Portland limestone rocks of the what is referred to as the ‘Isle of Portland’. Dated in the late Jurassic period. And, the iconic yellow/red carbonated-cemented sandstone beds in the Bridport Sands along with softer Frome Clay and Oolite that make up the sheer cliffs found at West Bay at the beach’s western end. Those are from the Lower Jurassic period.

Dr Beach on Chesil.

West Bay pebble sample.

Professor Leatherman all of his professional life has wanted to see the beach and gather samples for scientific research. Which he was able to do during his recent visit to Dorset. Also stopping at the midway point of Abbotsbury allowed him to test there too. It is thought there could be around 180 billion pebbles in the beach!

Dr Beach Weymouth.

Taking a sand sample in Weymouth some of the finest he has encountered.

Visiting the nearby beach at Weymouth which was an entirely different type of beach from that of Chesil with its gravel construction. Weymouth, is made up of some of the finest near white sand that Dr Beach has encountered in the UK or around the world. It has such fine sand that if it were any smaller it would be clay particles and cloud the water rather than be washed around by it.

Really fine sand at Weymouth.

Best US Beach Links To Chesil

Talking of Chesil Beach, Professor Leatherman said after touring its length, “I was in awe of its length and its general scale. In some places it’s height and steepness running into the sea was more than I imagined.

Dr Beach on Chesil.

Professor Stephen Leatherman exploring Chesil Beach for himself.

“I had to come and see it myself. Certainly it was more spectacular. It was bigger, higher and steeper, especially at the Portland end. It has been a great joy to come here there is nothing like it in the world. This was a great experience.’

Professor Leatherman even linked the beach to the current number one beach in the USA, Ocracoke Island Beach in North Carolina.

Ocracoke Island Beach in North Carolina.

He said: “With Chesil Beach having such well known connections to smuggling and is featured in the novel Moonfleet, by J Meade Falkner. Plus, Ocracoke Island Beach being linked to a base for the infamous Pirate ‘Blackbeard’.”

Moonfleet Novel With Smugglers And Blackbeard

Moonfleet book links the beaches of Chesil in Dorset and Ocracoke Island Beach in North Carolina.

“Now with Blackbeard’s Ghost getting many mentions in the Dorset based novel. Where for real, unloading spirits or tobacco to dodge the revenue men did no doubt happen here on Chesil.”

Speaking of his visit: “Today seeing the gradation of pebbles from pea size at West Bay to potato size at Portland has been enlightening. I have taken samples for scientific research at three points along it length which will be measured and assessed when I return to Miami.” He added.

The Portland end has larger pebbles about potato size.

Of Weymouth beach he said: “I have never seen such super fine sand around the British coast and very few beaches in the United States has it. My rating would be a top score for the sand. Its whiteness would be a 4.5. The top, being rated as a 5. California has some great beaches but does not have sand like this. This is super”.

Weymouth Has Some Of The Best Sand In The World

“Another impressive point is that how safe the beach is. No rip currents, no shore breaks, a gentle sloping angle. These main three important points are in Weymouth which has all of these and I would rate this very highly indeed.”

Weymouth Sands.

How did he become Dr Beach?

His students when he was teaching at the University of Maryland near Washington DC kept forgetting his name, so they gave him the nickname ‘Dr Beach’! Even the President of the college started to using it and it’s now Stephen’s registered trade name.

As well as his work on beaches he is advises state and national bodies on climate change, hurricanes and flooding issues in the USA. He is a ‘goto’ person for beaches with the media too.

Often appearing on a whole host of media and TV outlets like CNN, ABC, Oprah Show, the Weather Channel and also the Travel Channel.

Geoff Moore

Award winning blogger and travel writer/photographer, I have travelled the world in one way or another for 30 years. I am a member of the British Guild of Travel Writers for over 13 years. In the ever-changing world of publishing and online media it now requires that I have media skills across all areas. That now also includes video production. My travel images appear in magazines, newspapers and publications all over the world I am now blogging about all aspects of travel.

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