The Cobb - Lyme Regis Harbour
The harbour for Lyme Regis is called the Cobb. No satisfactory explanation of the name exists but a man made construction has served as a refuge here since at least 1313. The earliest known drawing, made in 1539, shows a basic shape similar to the present construction, and this was built after the westerly gales breached the breakwater in 1824. There have been additions since that date but the major part of the Cobb dates from then.
To get to the Cobb and the village adjacent to it (which is also called Cobb) you can either walk west to it from the Square along the Marine Parade and Cart Road or from one of the two main car parks: Holmbush on the left as you leave town towards Exeter and the Devon coast, or Monmouth beach which is west of the Cobb and accessed down the steep hill next to Holmbush.
There is only one way onto the main part of the Cobb, entering past the new RNLI station on the right and the brand new slipway to your left. The slipway is used by all those launching boats into the water and removing them. In winter all the non-commercial boats are taken from their moorings for safe storage on land. As you pass the station you will see that there is a road round the harbour and also steps up to the outward wall. Walking the wall is the best way to see the Cobb, although the Health and Safety do their best to put you off with gaudy yellow notices. Meryl Streep managed to get to the end of the Cobb in the film The French Lieutenant’s Woman in bad weather so it can be done (although rumour has it that it was a stunt man dressed in her cloak). However, in Jane Austen’s Persuasion, Louisa Musgrove jumps off the steps, falls, and is concussed - so mind how you go!
One of the buildings on the Cobb has been converted to house a marine aquarium which you are strongly recommended to visit. It is not open in winter and the population of the aquarium varies as the inmates are not normally permanent residents, but there are always some enormous lobsters with claws appropriate to a JCB. The buildings are on the Victoria Pier, which is used by the working boats because it is the deepest part of the harbour, though even here at very low tides there is not enough water to allow mooring.
The end of the Victoria Pier offers the classic view of Lyme Regis. On a calm summer evening with the lights going on and enough of the day left to hint at the colours of the buildings, Lyme looks more like a small Mediterranean port than an English seaside resort.
The view from the end of the Cobb is panoramic, highlighting the coast from Charmouth past Stonebarrow and Golden Cap to West Bay and beyond to Chesil Beach. Here, too, on a summer’s evening the view of the cliffs with their vertical ridges of blue lias brought into sharp relief by the setting sun is very dramatic and looks like the work of a theatrical designer rather than that of nature.
Abridged from “Lyme Regis Walkabout and Local Historical Guide” by kind permission of Marguerite Chapman, Serendip Books, Lyme Regis.