West Bay, Dorset
Often referred to as 'The Golden Gateway to the Jurassic Coast', West Bay in West Dorset has two beaches and two harbours. An outer harbour / marina has now been formed due to the reconstruction of the West Pier (named 'Jurassic Pier') on a new alignment. West Bay is a seaside location for family holidays, coastal walks, fossil hunting, fishing trips, diving, paragliding, golfing, river boating and so much more. Food and drink kiosks line the perimeter of the old harbour. The BBC filmed the TV series 'Harbour Lights' here starring Nick Berry, though West Bay was renamed 'Bridehaven' for the show.
History of West Bay, Dorset
Records can be traced back to the 13th Century when sluices first existed across the mouth of the River Brit.
In the late 14th Century a local merchant, John Huddersfield began construction of a harbour. At this time the area was known as 'Bridport Harbour'. In the 17th Century the first piers were constructed.
In the 18th Century around 1743, John Reynolds was commissioned to design a more permanent and longer pier entrance. Sluices were also constructed and a shipbuilding yard was established.
In the 19th Century the Great Storm of 1824 caused considerable damage to the piers and harbour. In 1856, John Coode undertook extensive repairs and a rapid establishment in buildings, including Public Houses then took place.
In 1884 the Bridport Railway was extended down to the harbour. By now shipbuilding at the harbour was in sharp decline, so in an attempt to transform the area into a holiday resort, The Great Western Railway (GWR) decided to rename Bridport Harbour as ‘West Bay’.
In 1885, Edward Schroder Prior built Pier Terrace (next to the harbour’s East Pier) in an attempt to exploit the new holiday trade. The majority of land in West Bay at that time was owned either by Pitt Rivers or The Earl of Ilchester. In 1887 an Esplanade was built along the west beach’s seafront together with ‘The Mound’ by the harbour’s west pier.
20th Century. In 1901 a Pavilion was built upon The Mound and in 1916 the Esplanade was extended. The Earl of Ilchester sold West Cliff and bungalows were built on the resulting plots of land. Long term battles took place between the elements and repairing of the harbour piers, Esplanade and The Mound. Alas, The Pavilion ultimately lost that battle in 1942 and had to be demolished following destructive gales!
A new Promenade was constructed along west cliff and the seaward side of west cliff itself reshaped to reduce land slippage. Severe flooding to West Bay took place in 1974 when the sea severely breached East Beach. Various landslides took place on West Cliff, resulting in the installation of drainage in the 1970’s and further strengthening in the 1980’s together with extensive repair work to the Esplanade.
21st Century. A decision was made to spend £16 million to replace the West Pier, strengthen the existing East Pier and develop a new outer harbour with slipway. Due to the way prevailing wind and sea currents have changed over the centuries, the harbour entrance had been rendered unnavigable for almost 50% of the year. A new West Pier built on a different angle and of a ‘Banjo Pier’ configuration has addressed this issue. Extensive rock armouring has also been used to hopefully protect West Bay from serious damage and flooding for at least 50 years.
Meaning 'a steep place' in Old English, Eype is approximately one mile west of West Bay along the coastal path. The beach at Eypesmouth is mainly of small pebbles and shingle, has a car park and fed from a single narrow lane to the main A35 road.
Seatown is further to the west and consists of a car park and pub at the end of a narrow lane. Seatown is considered to be possibly the most successful place to find fossils along Lyme Bay's Jurassic Coastline. Ammonite fossils can often be found laying on the beach after stormy tides, the beach being easily accessible from the car park. Just to the west of Seatown is Golden Cap, the highest sea cliff on the south coast. Its name comes from the layers of sandstone around the top which glow of a golden colour in the sunshine.
The South West Coast Path
The South West Coast Path enters West Bay, Dorset, from east cliff and takes you around the harbour. There are food and drink refreshments available at kiosks before continuing on to Eype over the west cliff. From Eype, the path passes over Thorncombe Beacon and on to Seatown. From here the coast path goes on to Golden Cap and proceeds towards Charmouth. However, due to landslides the path diverts inland.
Good Beach Guide
West Bay / Eypesmouth / Seatown / Hive Beach, Dorset...The sea water quality is rated as having passed the EC Mandatory Standard and receives a Recommendation (the highest award) from The Marine Conservation Society.