Walking in the Footsteps of Dinosaurs
I recently received a newsletter from The Jurassic Coast Trust offering the opportunity to join an escorted walk, in the “Footsteps of Dinosaurs” led by Alan Holiday from the Jurassic Coast Trust/Dorset Geology Society. I have a dinosaur obsessed seven year old son, so I found myself and my boy standing outside The Square and Compass pub in Worth Matravers on a sweltering hot Friday afternoon about to head off on a short walk with another family.
After a brief stretch of road, we joined The Priests Way crossing fields following the path/track with a quarry rumbling away in the distance. Then a little gate appeared on the side of the track with a tiny sign saying “Dinosaur Tracks”, we crossed a field to an old disused quarry…
Keates’ Quarry was a bedding plain that was probably on the edge of a vast lagoon from Portesham in the west all the way to the Paris Basin in the south/east during the Jurassic/Cretaceous periods. The lagoon rarely connected to the sea, but had fish and sharks swimming in it, with flying reptiles and Sauropods watering at the edge.
These Sauropods were probably Brachiosaurus and their footprints have left large indentations in the limestone enabling you to stand in a 140 million year old footprint. All of this information was being relayed by Alan, our guide for the two hour excursion.
It was at this point that the fascinating talk started to fail on my seven year old. The adults were all listening attentively, trying to get their heads around the enormity of something that old. The children, however, were only interested in finding fossils, bugs or insects. This is not a great site for fossil hunting at a child’s level, as there are only tiny fossils of plants that are barely visible. Numerous times a rock was picked up and rushed over to Alan for a closer inspection only to be told that there were either no fossils or just tiny plants that you could not see without a magnifying glass.
After an hour at the site, we wandered back through the fields to the pub. Our group dispersed either in search of a pasty and pint at the pub or ice creams elsewhere.
Keates’ Quarry is worth a visit with the Jurassic Coast Trust if you can join a trip this summer, but is probably of more interest to older children. It is certainly worth a short detour if you are walking to Seacombe Cove or following the Priests Way to stand amongst 140 million year old tracks, there is an information board at the site to explain the detail.
For younger children, I would recommend Kimmeridge Bay and the Etches Collection. Visit Charmouth Beach as seen on TV for a guided fossil walk with Jurassic Coast Guides. Here, there is a high chance of discovering your own fossil on the beach which is far more exciting for the younger paleontologists! Afterwards, why don’t you pop into the Charmouth Visitor Centre and have a look at their interactive displays? Read Chris’ blog about the tour he took earlier this year coming back with an impressive haul of fossils!