Going for a Fossil Walk
I was lucky enough to head out for a guided fossil walk with Martin from Jurassic Coast Guides,who was finalist in the Visit England ‘Tourism Superstar’ 2019 awards. The weather was not the best (it was raining heavily) but guess what, we had the beach to ourselves!
The tour starts off with a safety briefing, Martin describes the coastline and dangers to look out for. We do need to mention that exploring the coastline is great fun but there are risks involved. Following the advice and guidance from a professional will ensure that you are able to do this as safely as possible. Keep an eye out for the warning signs, they are there for a reason (like the pre-flight safety demonstration on a plane), check on the weather and the tide times – the best time to go fossil hunting is when the tide is on the ebb (going out). Also, ensure you have suitable clothing – walking boots are the best option as there is some scrabbling over rocks to be done.
What to look for
Next, onto the fun bit – what will you find? You are shown pictures and given descriptions of the types of fossil that you can expect to find in the few hours that you will spend on Charmouth Beach. This beach is well known as one of the best places to find a fossil or two, it is just along the coast from where the legendary “Sea Dragon” was discovered.
Martin brought some samples of fossil that we could expect to find. Saying to me “Colour and texture, colour and texture!” Simply speaking, a metal spiral (ammonite) or a brown bullet (belemnite) were the two main images to get into my head. Then he showed me this stone (well that is what I thought) pouring water over it and these beautiful white stars appeared. These stars are Crinoids or Sea Lilies which were marine animals that fed on plankton. The name sea lily comes from their resemblance to a plant. The next colour and shape to look out for was a black hexagon (20 pence piece) with a dimple in the middle – this would indicate bone.
Finally, I was told to close my eyes, which I did with a feeling of trepidation – thoughts of “uh oh what is this?” going through my head. Martin placed in my hand what can only be described as fossilised poo! Yes, Marine Reptile poo – 185 million years old and it looked beautiful! I never thought I would use that description for this but yes I was holding a thing of beauty in my hands!
Off to the beach
Having never found a fossil before I was paying close attention to the briefing and couldn’t wait to get onto the beach. So much so that as we left the car park I had a sudden panic – “did I lock the car and did I buy a parking ticket?” – the answer to both was a resounding NO! Phew, I went back “paid and displayed” (very good value at only a few pounds) and locked the car.
Fully waterproofed, we headed up to the beach and walked along the foreshore in the direction of Lyme Regis. My head whirled – remember the briefing, remember the briefing … shape and colour, shape and colour. What were the shapes what were the colours AAAARRRRGGHHHHH there were thousands – no millions – of pebbles in front of me. I thought I would never find a fossil! All of a sudden there was a star in front of me looking like a little twig, I showed Martin and he said “you have just found your first fossil – part of a crinoid!”
Even more enthused and not noticing the rain we moved further along the beach keeping our eyes open for more finds – brown bullets were next on the list quickly followed by a wonderful metallic spiral.
Charmouth Heritage Centre
As the tide began to turn, we headed back towards the car park scanning the beach while walking along, and we discovered two larger metallic spirals near a beautiful lump of fools gold! At last the rain eased and we could finally see the cliffs along the magnificent coastline.
Back at Charmouth Heritage Centre, we took time to look through all the latest discoveries from the Jurassic Coast. Here you are also able to see the magnificent Ichthyosaur, which was discovered by local fossil collector Chris Moore and starred in BBC documentary Attenborough and the Sea Dragon. Next door there is a lovely fossil shop where you can buy some amazing fossils that have been found locally and further afield. There is also the fossilised head of the beast on display that is thought to have killed the “sea-dragon”.
Martin has selected some special dates through the summer holidays with the most suitable tide times exclusively for Dorset Coastal Cottages customers to enjoy a Charmouth guided fossil walk:
Wednesday 31st July start at 9:00 am
Tuesday 6th August start at 1:00 pm
Tuesday 13th August start at 9:00 am
Monday 19th August start at 11.30 am
Wednesday 28th August start at 9:00 am
A group fossil walk is for a maximum of 15 people at a cost of £12.50 per person. Simply call Martin with your exclusive code from us to book onto one of these fantastic, fun-filled, family, fossil walks.
Of course, you don’t have to be one of our guests to enjoy a fossil walk with Martin, just give him a call and he will be happy to help you organise your own private guided fossil walk.
A big thank you Martin and Jurassic Coast Guides for a fantastic day out. Through his experience and training, I was able to relax and enjoy my time out fossil hunting along the Jurassic Coast. I can thoroughly recommend a day out with Martin, it’s a fabulous way to learn about fossil hunting, fossils and the Jurassic Coastline. The Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site covers 95 miles and 185 million years of the Earth’s history.
Browse self-catering cottages in Charmouth here.