The Etches Collection
This week I visited The Etches Collection, which is the culmination of one mans passion and life of collecting fossils in Kimmeridge, Dorset. A real gem of a place to visit, this fine collection of fossils have all been collected by one man – Dr Steve Etches MBE. The museum opened to the public in October 2016 and is a dedicated learning centre for schools and academics. This fabulous modern museum is fully wheelchair accessible with a lift and accessible toilet. The education room houses a handling collection, with a magnifying glass projecting the fossil onto the wall, activity sheets & even “paint your own plaster fossil”. Children can really see what it means to be a geologist and can even dress up a in hard hat and fluorescent jacket while using the fossil excavation pit, where there is a replica fossil hidden beneath sand for them to discover.
Steve Etches started collecting fossils at the age of 5 and has since amassed a collection of over 2350 fossils. His fascination with fossils has become more than a hobby, winning awards from the Geological Society, Palaentological Association Geologist’s Association and in 2014 being awarded an MBE by The Queen. This inspiring story goes to show that anyone with a keen interest and dedication can become an expert in their field.
About 10% of his fossil collections are on display in the museum, the rest are in a reserve collection stored safely in the museum or are being carefully prepared on site by Steve himself. Steve is always discovering new fossils down in Kimmeridge Bay, so the collection is always increasing. Over the years Steve Etches has discovered 11 new species, making his collection very important in the academic and scientific fields. The museum helps visitors, of all ages, learn and understand about the seas of Dorset some 157 million years ago.
The fossils have all been collected from Kimmeridgian era of the upper Jurassic period which is some 157 million years ago, and make up an amazing Museum of Jurassic Marine Life!
157 million years ago, Dorset was part of the Pangea super continent and was much closer to the equator and with a shallow sea. The type of fossils found are primarily top chain sea living predators!!! Very few land dwelling dinosaur fossils are found. Those in the collection are thought to have been washed into the sea via a flood or a river…..
Divided into four sections, “Adapt and Evolve”, “Eat or be eaten”, “Escape and Evade” and “Reproduce”, the museum leads you through a wonderful under sea journey and the lives of the fossils in the collection, evolution and life…..
One creature discovered by Steve Etches was named after Kimmeridge Bay where it was found – the Kimmerosaurus. This is a long necked, small mouthed plesiosaur, it’s name meaning “lizard from Kimmeridge”. Steve has actually discovered 11 new species to date……..
At one end of the museum you can see Steve Etches’ workshop – this is where he brings the new fossils that he has found to prepare and preserve for future displays.
Magnificent examples of Ichthyosaur jaws and teeth are on display, some are in excess of 2 metres (6 feet) long! In the stair well of the museum there is a marvellous model called “Goliath” made by the renowned Paleo Artist Andrew Cocks. This head of a large Pliosaurus is eating an Ichthyosaur, which has a fish in it’s mouth!!
Regular talks and tours take place in Kimmeridge with Steve Etches, and one on one and private tours can also be arranged via the museum. There is also a shop where you can buy drinks, snacks and of course your very own fossil souvenirs.
Well worth a visit – and once you have bought a ticket it is valid for a whole year!