Fossil Hunting at Charnmouth

30 September 

The stormy weather continued to be determined to make sure September finished with a howl. The day offered a short window in the morning that didn’t have any rain forecast and so the beach beckoned. Nestled in a narrow valley leading down to the sea Charnmouth is famous among fossil hunters here in the UK, and there have been some spectacular finds from the dramatic eroding cliffs that bound the sea. On the 26th of December 2013 an almost complete skeleton of an Ichthyosaur was found. Though the usual finds are a little less fantastic but hunters often find ammonites and belemnites along the beach. 

A complete failure at fossil hunting.

First thing that was needed was a cup of coffee before we braved the elements on the beach. The tide was still high and so we needed to wait a little longer so a visit to the Charnmouth Heritage Centre was needed. This stone built building used to be an old cement works, but now houses a great collection of fossils that have been found on the beach over the years. Aunty and I watch an instruction video introducing us to fossil hunting and what to look for, so as the tide was quickly receding off we went with hope but no experience.  

The dark Lias cliffs along Charnmouth Beach.

The beach runs east towards West Bay underneath Golden Cap and has high cliffs made up of layers of dark limestone interspersed with soft clay, giving the impression of a very badly cooked and grey Victoria Sponge Cake. Apparently the layers re full of fossils. By the time we emerged there was already a scattering of people walking slowing with heads down searching. I certainly hope they had better luck than we did, I’m. Not sure that we are natural fossil hunters. The sum total of our finds were a “nice” pebble, lumps of iron pyrites, a flint that looks like a sharks tooth (we got excited for a while there!) And a penny from sometime in the 2010 decade.

Our poor haul of “fossils”!

This huge haul of false fossil finds needed addressing, and so I had to go and buy some fossils from the Charnmouth Fossils shop in the Heritage Centre building. Not as good as finding them ourselves, but they are a neat pair of finds from Charnmouth Beach itself. I’ve bought fossils from the shop before, but on-line. Check him out.

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