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L E T ' S   M A K E   A R T   O N   T H E   B E A C H E S


It was such a privilege to receive funding from the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to run six site specific art sessions on 3 west Dorset beaches for 2 - 4 yr olds and their parents/ carers. The sessions are now finished but you can read about and look at what we got up to. I have also created instructions for some of the activities so that you could do them yourselves.

If you are looking for information about upcoming art sessions on HIve Beach, starting March 2022, please go to the events page.

E A S T    B E A C H,   W E S T   B A Y  

We had two magical sessions on East Beach at West Bay. We were so lucky with the weather... warm and sunny and calm.

The brilliant things about this beach that I wanted to explore and play with were, of course, the towering cliffs of golden sandstone; also the steep slope of the beach; and then the fact that throughout the summer there are scores of people lining the harbour walls fishing for crabs.

A favourite OOPS WOW activity is to make ourselves into decorator crabs - collaging camouflaging bits and bobs onto a prepared 'shell'  just like certain crabs do with seaweed and corals found on the sea bed. Then later on in the session, once the glue has dried, the children can wear their shell and try their luck at sneaking past the SHARK (me). Art that can be worn and played with is always a bonus. I hear from parents that some children treasure and incorporate these crab shells in their play for years after the session.

We also made paint from the sandstone that makes up the famous cliffs. These cliffs are made from golden sandstone,  known as Bridport Sands and it was deposited in what would have been a tropical sea approximately 180 million years ago! You can find instructions to make this paint here.

We then used the steep bank of the beach to make a painting of the cliffs using the paint we had made from the cliffs. We made the paper wet and then enjoyed watching the paint flow down the slope. We enjoyed the colour and feel of the paint we had made, and how it looked with the little pebbles from the beach on it. We then moved on to another piece of paper on the bank and did the same with ready mixed paint in the colours of the sea.

C H A R M O U T H   W E S T    B E A C H

The two sessions on Charmouth Beach were very different from each other, the second one ending up on a pretty windy day! There is so much to explore on this beach, it was hard to choose what to focus on, and in fact we did LOADS!


Starting off with a bit of Land Art, choosing and arranging stones in lines of the same colour; this was a great arrival activity that people could get involved with while we waited for the others. I love how the lines of pebbles we made, echo the sedimentary lines in the cliff behind. Many children (and adults) really respond to this sorting and organising type of activity and is a total mainstay of Land Art. It is also a great way to look a bit more closely at where you are.

Charmouth has many wonderful seaweeds, they grow on the intertidal ledges and get washed up onto the beach. We used these to have a go at making a cyanotype print - this is where the sunlight reacts with chemicals on the pre-prepared paper and you (hopefully) get left with a white 'shadow' of what you placed on the paper! magic or what? More information about this process is on the beach activities page

While we were waiting for our cyanotypes to take, we played with some other magic. Using liquid watercolour, we enjoyed covering our paper with lots of gorgeous colours, then we shook some chunky sea salt onto our pictures to see what would happen. We also played with oil pastels, then watercolour, then salt. Scroll through the pictures above and look at the wonderful effects that are created. I think it is reminiscent of the honeycomb worm reefs that you can see on the rocks on the far west of West Beach. If you want to have a go at this activity, the instructions are here.

Finally, we couldn't have a session without playing with paint... this time made from the dark grey shale in the cliffs and ledges on West Beach. I made this paint before the session as it is a longer process than the other two, you can read about how to do it here.

H I V E   B E A C H   B U R T O N   B R A D S T O C K

We had two virtually windless sessions at Hive Beach, the sea was a bit closer than expected on the second one, it being soon after a high spring tide and a couple of days after a storm . This beach is also famous for it's cliffs - the towering Bridport Sandstone ones to the West and then, slumped down to the West, where we were, we get to see the Frome Clay, oozing out directly onto the beach, sometimes in slow moving streams meandering towards the sea, as well as soft squidgey slumps on the cliff face that you can poke your finger into... or loose a welly, if you're silly!

Our arrival activity for this session was to take a small sample of dried clay from the cliffs and put it in a pot, which we then poured water onto so that it would re-hydrate. You can find instructions for making paint like this here. While this was happening we made our own towering cliffs out of cardboard; layer on-top of layer on-top of layer, just like the cliffs. Once we had done this, we painted them with left over sandstone paint from the West Bay sessions. You can find instructions for how to make your own towering cliffs here.

Apparently there arent many fossils in the sandstone, but near the top of the cliffs, there is a layer of different stone called 'Inferior Oolite' which is full of fossils. We had fun saying "Oolite", and then imagining what kind of sea creatures might have lived (and died) in the tropical seas here 180 million years ago. We then had a go at making such creatures out of clay and other bits and bobs.

Finally, of course, we wanted to play with the paint we had made with the re-hydrated Frome Clay from the cliffs. This paint is lovely and squidgey and quite quickly people were getting their hands and feet involved. Luckily we had the sea right there to wash off in.

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