The Somerset Coast offers a rare treat for those who study rocks and interest was intensified when a group of scientists studying Mars claimed that a type of rock found on the red planet was remarkably similar to those on Watchet’s West Beach. Long before that, the Pink Gypsum or Alabaster found here and at Blue Anchor Bay was used for decorative purposes.
Starting in the West at Minehead, the coast is sandy giving way to shingle before becoming rocky on the way to Watchet with a backdrop of crags all the way to Hinkley Point punctuated by a small stretch of shingle at Lilstock. Shingle runs from Hinkley towards the mouth of the Parrett River where there is salt marsh and estuary mud before one of the longest stretches of sand in the UK which comes to a dramatic head literally with Brean Down. This natural pier is an extension of the Mendip Hills formed from the second oldest type of rock on the Somerset Coast, Carboniferous Limestone, which goes even further out into the sea popping up as the island of Steep Holm.
Between Blue Anchor and Hinkley Point the cliffs are especially spectacular, making up Somerset’s own Jurassic Coast because of their yield of marine fossils. Below, the beaches are characterised by Blue Lias ‘pavements’ and the exposed ancient rocks make this one of the most important geological sites in Europe.