Lyme Regis visitors usually spend their time searching for fossils. But the tourist center has made further exploration appealing. With their favorite town walk in hand, I followed directions to Theater Square and was rewarded by an exhilarating coastal expanse with the sun lighting up Golden Cap, the highest point on England's south coast.
From there, my trek took me past the museum, through downtown and onto the Marine Parade with views of Cobb harbor, made famous in Jane Austen's "Persuasion" and the film "The French Lieutenant's Woman." Closer at hand, the walking guide pointed out fossils embedded in the walls of local houses.
Soon I was climbing the steep hillside through the Langmoor and Lister gardens. Fortunately, there were plenty of benches to admire the greenery and view (and catch my breath). From the gardens, my path took me between the vintage houses of Sherborne Lane, a wandering trail that dates from the 8th century.
At the bottom of Sherborne, my exploration turned inland beside the River Lim -- known locally as the "Buddle." I strolled leisurely along one of England's longest fords, where packhorses once walked down the riverbed to get to town. I passed fish ladders for sea trout and old mills below overarching trees. When I reached Horn Bridge, where the old Roman road from Dorchester to Exeter crossed the river, it was time to detour through Slopes Farm. Now I was in a meadowland with no evidence of a town.
Leaving this gentle farmland at Woodmead Road, I took a moment to look across the town's roofs and the bay to Golden Cap once again. Then I made my way to Silver Street and the Mariners Hotel where Beatrix Potter once stayed. Her children’s book “The Tale of Pig Robinson” features views of Lyme Regis.
After passing the faint painting of an origami crane holding a goldfish done by Banksy, a well-known graffiti artist, I turned off the road along a narrow, raised walkway squeezed between the River Lim and a rushing watercourse for the town mill. Beyond an old spring known as Leper's Well, I found myself in the artisan quarter surrounding the mill. I took the opportunity to stop in at the Lyme Regis brewery for a local brew.
The walk ended, fittingly, at the cemetery next to St. Michael's Church and the grave of Mary Anning, a Lyme Regis native who became famous for finding the fossil trove in nearby cliffs.