Location, location, location: Where do I go to find fossils?
We’ve put together this handy guide to help you choose a location. We can’t promise you’ll find a dragon the size of a London bus of course! But we do have a whole collection of blogs to tell you what to take etc etc – here’s the index. And we do have lots of Fossils and Crystals for the enthusiastic collector. The British Isles has a rich and varied geology and many types of different fossils can be found.
Location of Fossil Beds:
We are often asked to identify and verify fossil finds. Absolutely key to this is location. Fossils only occur in the location where the animal or plant lived, died and was buried. They still lie in the bed where they died. In the rock from that time period. This rock layer and the fossils within it can only resurface through some feat of geology, erosion by weather, building work or excavation. They can’t end up in a random location. So as a beginner, you are advised to start in a well-known fossil site.
Location of popular and abundant fossil sites in the UK include:
- Jurassic Coast , Dorset to East Devon, cliff exposures are renowned for loads of fossils. If you can’t find fossils here you aren’t looking! There is plenty of information locally to help you get started. Click on the heading to go to the very useful official Jurassic Coast site where you will find plenty of local information. Also safety guides etc that can be generally useful.
In particular you might want to head for:
- Lyme Regis, Dorset: the birthplace of modern palaeontology and the jewel of the Jurassic Coast. World renowned for fossils from the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous. Also the home of the fantastic official visitor site and the famous fossil hunting pioneer Mary Anning. Anning was born, lived and collected in Lyme Regis and is buried there. You can read Tracy Chevalier’s brilliant novel about Mary Anning’s life, ‘Remarkable Creatures’ to get into the zone! Also worth a visit for the annual Lyme Regis Fossil Festival, every Spring. Of course you’ll want to see the treasures at Lyme Regis Museum.
- Charmouth, Dorset: close to Lyme but a good alternative if you prefer to get away from the crowds a bit more.
- The Isle of Wight, requires a ferry trip for most of us but is worth the journey. A good place for dinosaur fossils. There are more different types of dinosaur found on the Isle of Wight than any other location in the world of a comparable size.
- Wren’s Nest Nature Reserve, Dudley, West Midlands. Sea floor from 420 million years ago. Brachiopods, Trilobites, Crinoids, Bryozoans and Corals. More fossils than you can shake a stick at! As ever, check locally for regulations.
- Whitby, Yorkshire, a great place for Ammonites and super seaside fun! Fabulous walks, as at the other sites.
- British Geological Survey: (also international) Get to know your local Geology. Construction work frequently exposes sites for short periods of time. They are then gone and lost forever once construction is complete. Obviously health and safety rules and rights of access will apply strongly!
Many of the locations are also home to some great fossil walks companies, local museums and shops with very knowledgeable owners.
Fossiling: What do I look for?
In short anything and everything!
- Scree slopes, slopes with loose material at the bottom are usually full of fossils.
- Recent storms can weaken rock and expose new areas. Keep an eye out for areas where a slump has happened and a new outcrop is exposed.
- When looking on beach keep your head low. Systematically scan from left to right with your eyes.
- A guide or some notes on your chosen fossil site can be very handy, full of great tips on where exactly to look and what times of year are best for finding fossils. Fossil hunting is often weather dependent.
- There are many resources available via Google. You can use it to find fossil sites local to you. Also see the great BBC publication: ‘Fossil Detectives‘.
- Take only what you need. Sharing with other collectors is all part of the fun
- Stay safe and have fun!
Main Photo Credit: www.geeksyndicate.co.uk