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Fossil Hunting on the Jurassic Coast

We’ve teamed up with Martin Curtis from the award-winning Jurassic Coast Guides to offer guided fossil hunts and guided walks along the Jurassic Coast. We caught up with Martin to find out all about fossil hunting on the Jurassic Coast…

What do you love about fossil hunting?

I love that exciting feeling you get when you discover a fossil for the first time on the beach. You’re the first person to see that creature since the day it died all those millions of years ago, you instantly connect with it. Just think of the journey it’s been on to be found by you! While on the beach hunting for fossils, you are so focused looking that any troubles in life become insignificant. It’s very relaxing and soothing for your mind and think of all that fresh air and exercise you get while you’re there…I can’t think of any better outdoor activity to experience!

Is fossil hunting a good activity for beginners?

Fossil hunting is the perfect activity for beginners…with a little bit of training you’ll be spotting fossils on the beach in no time at all. From then on it’s all about building on what you’ve learnt and spending time on the beach. The great thing about fossil hunting is that you don’t need to be a specialist. It’s all about training your eyes. 

What is the best time of year to go fossil hunting?

The best time of year to go fossil hunting is during the winter months when we get more storms and heavy rain. This softens up the cliff fall material on the beach. The sea then washes the clays away, depositing the fossils onto the foreshore. Throughout the year the sea also comes up onto the beach and turns the material over like a washing machine. This then releases more fossils that were buried under the beach during the winter months giving a constant supply of fossils all year round.

West Bay Storm

What makes the Jurassic Coast such a great location for finding fossils?

The cliffs at Charmouth and Lyme Regis used to be a sea bed during the Jurassic Period. During the mid Cretaceous period movements under the earths crust uplifted the seabed and it then became exposed and formed the cliffs along this stretch of coastline. Approximately 195 million years ago the seas at this location were teaming with marine life and as the marine life died it sank to the sea bed floor and was quickly covered with sediment.

This process happened so quickly that the dead creatures remains were preserved really well. The material in the cliffs is a soft mudstone and readily falls to the beach. The sea then washes the mud away leaving the fossils on the beach for us to find. This natural erosion and action from the sea deposits fossils on the beach every day of the year.

What are your top 3 reasons to go fossil hunting?

  1. It’s a great experience for the whole family and suitable for all ages and abilities
  2. It’s the perfect way to enjoy and see this amazing coastline
  3. It’s an amazing feeling to discover and set your eyes on your very own fossilised treasure from the Jurassic period

What is the favourite thing you’ve found while fossil hunting?

The best fossil I’ve ever found is a complete fossilised shark poo. Every fossil hunter wants to find a fossil poo and this was an amazing find as it was so big! I’ve also recently found some rare shark teeth. Shark material is hard to find as shark skeletons were made of cartilage which is softer than bone and as a consequence it did not fossilise very well. Recently I also found my first fossilised Beetle. These are extremely rare and hard to find as fossils as these would of lived on land and somehow have been washed out to sea.

Martin’s favourite discovery – a fossilised shark poo

What are your favourite places on the Jurassic Coast?

My favourite place on the Jurassic Coast is the summit of Golden Cap. At 191 meters high it’s the highest viewpoint on the south coast of England and from here you can see nearly two thirds of the Jurassic Cast World Heritage site. If you’re visiting the Jurassic Coast for one day, a walk to this point will give you the best opportunity to see as much of the Jurassic Coast in one visit. As far as I’m concerned it is the best place to see this world famous coastline.

Ringstead and Kimmeridge are also big favourites as I spent a lot of time there as a child, fossil hunting and rockpooling with my parents.

Golden Cap Holiday Park on the Jurassic Coast in Dorset
The view east from the summit of Golden Cap

Book Fossil Hunting on the Jurassic Coast

To find out more about fossil hunting trips and guided walks with Martin from Jurassic Coast Guides, visit our Fossil Hunting in Dorset page!

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