Why Lyme still chimes with the times

Fos­sil-hunters and food­ies love this Dorset re­sort, says Les­ley Gillilan

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - RENTORBUY -

Land­slides are a fact of life in and around Lyme Regis. The Dorset town is in a per­ma­nent state of “ac­tive ero­sion” — whole sec­tions of Juras­sic Coast can dis­ap­pear within the space of an af­ter­noon. In May, 400 me­tres of cliff plunged seaward, cut­ting off a sec­tion of beach be­tween Lyme and nearby Char­mouth.

Has it put buy­ers off? Ab­so­lutely not. Ac­cord­ing to Martin Hall, of lo­cal agency Palmer Snell, his branch is the busiest of the chain’s 40 West Coun­try of­fices. House-buy­ers here tend to think sea views and Lyme Bay sun­sets, not lias­sic clay land­slips.

That is not sur­pris­ing, es­pe­cially since most of Lyme’s houses have re­mained on firm ground for at least 200 years. The Cobb, a curved har­bour wall, dates from the 13th cen­tury. Jane Austen set part of Per­sua­sion here, while Meryl Streep put Lyme Regis firmly on the tourist map in The French Lieu­tenant’s Wo­man.

The seafront is lined with Ge­or­gian town­houses, all ice cream-coloured stucco. The high street, which slopes down from Uplyme to Gun Cliff Walk, is full of tea shops, an­tiques shops, fos­sil shops, jet­tied up­per storeys and half-tim­ber­ing.

His­tory — from am­monites to Austen —un­der­pins lo­cal tourism. And the beach is part of the town’s Coast Pro­tec­tion Scheme. The old one was re­placed with sand from Brit­tany and peb­bles from the Isle of Wight. A fresh crowd of food­ies will surely be join­ing the fos­sil-hunters now that Mark Hix (of The Ivy) has opened his Oys­ter and Fish House on the front.

Many of the buy­ers who snoop around Broad Street’s es­tate agents are look­ing for hol­i­day homes. Kevin Hunt, of Fort­num Smith and Ban­well, reck­ons that as much as half of the mar­ket is in sec­ond homes. They don’t seem to mind that many of the seav­iew prop­er­ties don’t have gar­dens or park­ing; nor that some of the old­est houses — like the 16th-cen­tury, Grade IIlisted cot­tage for sale at £335,000 (Fort­num Smith and Ban­well 01297 445666) — are on the road into town.

The Arched House (£995,000) has a walled gar­den, sea views and looks out over the River Lym, plus 10 bed­rooms and artist’s stu­dio.

Re­gency-style town­houses at the for­mer Buena Vista ho­tel are priced at about £445,000. At the bud­get end of the Lyme Regis mar­ket, a one-bed­room at­tic flat is for sale at £129,000, while The Ark, a wooden chalet be­tween Un­der­cliff and Mon­mouth Beach, has been snapped up for about £85,000. A beach hut re­cently sold for £25,000 in a “mini auc­tion”.

Clas­si­cal set­ting: the main beach at Lyme Regis (above) and Meryl Streep (in­set) in which helped to put the town on the tourist map

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