Chesil Beach and The Fleet IPA
Location: Eastern edge of Lyme Bay in Dorset, west of Weymouth, starting near Abbotsbury on the B3157.
Grid Reference: SY 611 808
Believed to be between 4000 and 7000 years old, Chesil Beach is one of the three major shingle and pebble beaches in Britain.
The IPA stretches over 17 miles from West Bay to Portland and encloses The Fleet which is the largest tidal lagoon in the country. The beach with its associated features is of the highest importance to the study of coastal geomorphology and boasts a variety of marine habitats.
On the landward side of the beach, there are impressive populations of sea kale, yellow-horned poppy, sea pea and shrubby sea-blite whilst sea holly, Portland spurge and little-robin may also be found. Its shingle environment provides a home for many plants adapted to an unstable substratum, including sea pea, sea bindweed, sand couch and sea campion.
By contrast in the lagoon there are no less than 150 species of algae, as well as extensive areas of eel-grass and spiral and beaked tassel-weeds. This flora together with stands of common reed support a wide range of bird and animal life.
There are outstanding communities of aquatic plants, in particular stonewort species. The Fleet is considered of European importance for stoneworts in Stewart (2004).