|Classic scene: Meryl Streep on The Cobb at Lyme Regis|
is one of the most timeless moments in cinema (Sygma)
By Graeme Willingham
The cloaked and hooded Meryl Streep in The French Lieutenant's Woman 1981 movie would have been swept off the cobb at Lyme Regis by the huge waves and gale force winds that lashed UK's West Dorest in January. Lieutenant's Woman, one of the most unforgettable scenes in cinema.
Two boats sank in the harbour, some beach huts outside the harbour were damaged, but fortunately the cobb, or breakwater, built in 1313, again stood firm and protected the main beach, which strangely, is foreign ... it's made of sand imported from France.
Southern England's coast is dominated by rocky and pebble beaches, but at Lyme Regis the council created a sandy beach at the town centre's seafront, flanked though on one side by a natural ankle-breaking rocky (well, big irregular-sized grey pebbles) beach, and the other side by a beach of easier-to-navigate smaller uniform light tan coloured pebbles, also imported. This beach is about 2m high so acts as a backup breakwater for the seafront wall.
Behind the sandy beach is a collection of fish'n'chips shops (Herbies was prominent), cafes, restaurants, ice cream kiosks, pubs and tourist shops, combined making a quaint seaside community worth investigation
When we visited Lyme Regis on a hot July day last year (it's approaching that time again), the sandy beach was packed with beachgoers (pictured). Crowd wise, a bit like Bondi. But only a bit. The built-up pebble beach was well patronised too, but the rocky beach was virtually deserted, apart from a set of tentative tourists trying their luck hobbling into the "open sea", and a couple of angry mums rounding up their escapee kids on an unapproved excursion of discovery towards fossils in the crumbling grey cliffs which are part of the Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site.
Along the cobb, kids and adults were fishing, and couples were sitting, looking back to the beach and cute township across safely moored fishing boats.
The cobb has to be walked, to the very end. To where Ms Streep stood, drenched by spray, staring out to sea.