Fossil Hunting on Charmouth Beach
Ever since our trip to Charmouth Beach last Summer my daughter has been desperate to become a modern day Mary Anning and take part in some fossil hunting of her own. However, as we have absolutely no idea what we are looking for or how to look for such a thing, we decided to seek some help…
Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre sits on the beach at Charmouth and has ample (and reasonably priced) parking close by (and a café below it!). The centre offers a small exhibition as well as advice and resources to support fossil hunting. It also offers the opportunity to sign up to a fossil hunting session run by resident Palaeontologist Phil.
The session begins with a short, engaging session with Phil in a small classroom where you are taught about the history of Charmouth beach and its neighbour Lyme Regis and the famous fossil hunting history this coast holds. We were quickly enlightened about the types of fossils easily found on the beach as well as being regaled by stories of finding dinosaur heads and giant ammonites (all then secretly hoping we would find the next significant fossil (an actual dinosaur skeleton had been found only a few years ago after a landslide…). We were also given some very clear health and safety advice for fossil hunting, not just for the session, but for when hunting on our own…we saw quite a number of parents taking risks and allowing their children to climb the very soft and unstable cliffs…
Quickly, it was time to begin the hunt ourselves…we were told we already had all the equipment we needed – our eyes and although a little disappointed that we weren’t going out with hammers and goggles we made our way onto the beach while it was at low tide…eyes down, we looked for our first finds as we made our way to a ‘good spot’.
I was amazed at how quickly we were all able to find our own fossils, belemnites were the most popular find (one 5 year old had found 400 in just one fossil hunting session the previous week!) but we were also able to find our share of ammonites too, seeking out the curved shaped pieces which came in a variety of different sizes…we were lucky enough to spot a rock which looked like it had the curved features of an ammonite and Phil was only too happy to smash it open for us to reveal the ammonite inside!
Phil was an excellent source of knowledge during the session and demonstrated endless patience as the children (and adults too!) went up to him frequently to ask ‘is this a fossil?’ or ‘can you bash this open?’ Rather annoyingly Phil had eyes like a hawk which allowed him to spot fossils instantly, but this also meant that everyone was able to find something to call their own…Phil also picked up a large stone which he broke open for us revealing an amazing cluster of ammonites. He ‘raffled’ this off for the children, encouraging them to recall fossil related facts from the day, which was a lovely end to the session.
If you are heading to the Jurassic Coast and fancy a bit of fossil hunting, I really can’t recommend this session highly enough. Sessions do get booked up quickly but you can book online before you go using the Heritage Centre website so this would be worth doing to secure your session, especially during school holidays.
N.B. We were provided with the opportunity to experience the fossil hunting free of charge but all the opinions are our own.