https://insideDIO.blog.gov.uk/2019/05/01/repairing-access-to-the-fossil-forest/

Repairing access to the Fossil Forest

A member of the Vertical Technologies team, dressed in a helmet and reflective jacket swings a rope down the cliff to a colleague.
Vertical Technologies staff working on site. [Crown Copyright/MOD2019]
In 2015, an overhanging rock face began to collapse, damaging the public stairway that leads down from the South West Coast Path Trail to the Fossil Forest, located within Lulworth Ranges. Due to the risk to public safety the site had to be closed. DIO has since worked with Lulworth Estate, Natural England, Dorset Council and Vertical Technologies to repair the stairway and re-open the site.

As the Fossil Forest is an important visitor site for universities, schools and specialists, we’re also creating a seating and viewing area for visitors, designed by Aileen Shackell Landscape Design. This will give visitors the opportunity to enjoy, explore and learn more about the Fossil Forest.

What is the Fossil Forest?

You’re probably wondering what the Fossil Forest is, well let me explain. Step back 144 million years, during the Jurassic period, when dinosaurs first roamed the earth. During this time, there was a drop in sea levels and a number of islands were formed and surrounded by saline lagoons. A tropical forest grew on what is now Lulworth Ranges. After a change in climate, it flooded and became a saline lagoon. This killed the trees and evidence of their stumps, trunks and roots became preserved as fossils, still visible today.

Removing ordnance

Lulworth Ranges is a live firing area, so it was essential to check that there was no unexploded ordnance on the site. We carried out a survey using hand held equipment to check for unexploded ordnance. Luckily, none was found. This check was required to allow the Vertical Technology Team to safely drill into the ground to install netting.

Keri Thomas, from the Environmental and Ordnance Liability team at DIO carrying out a check with a piece of equipment on the cliff edge of the South West Coast Path Trail in Dorset. She is standing on grass at the edge of the cliff with a sea view.
One of our members from DIO's Environmental and Ordnance Liability team carrying out an explosive ordnance check [Crown Copyright/MOD2019]

Rock netting the cliff

Netting was installed by Vertical Technologies from the top of the cliff down to the rock front to catch any falling rocks. This is essential to help protect the new steps that will be be repaired and replaced by Dorset Council's engineering team over the summer holidays.

Working with our partners

We partnered up with the Lulworth Estate, Dorset Council, the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty team and Natural England to deliver the project. Natural England granted us permission to carry out this work as the area is located on a Site of Special Scientific Interest. We’re hoping to have this work completed by the end of autumn this year.

The image shows metal netting over the rocks. It is taken from the top of a steep slope looking down towards the sea.
Rock netting installed on the cliff at Fossil Forest. [Crown Copyright/MOD2019]

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