Fossil Hunting on the Dorset Jurassic Coast
The coastal village of Charmouth is, along with the neighbouring
town of Lyme Regis, a 'Gateway'
to the Dorset World Heritage Site.
unique Jurassic geological strata this stretch of coastline lead to the
areas world wide recognition as a centre for fossil hunting was significant
in the early development of the fields of geology and palaeontology.
Charmouth is located on the river Char, which cuts though
the dramatic cliffs of this ancient ancient coastline. There is ample
car parking and public toilets located adjacent to the Charmouth Heritage
Centre, adjacent to the mouth of the river. There is also a café and Fossil
shop on the ground floor of the Heritage centre.
Charmouth is an ideal spot for a traditional family holiday
set in amongst some beautiful scenery , it provides a quiet location for
a day at the beach.
Fossil hunting is the main activity along this stretch
of coastline. There is a constant stream of people walking along the beach,
towards the cliffs at Golden
Cap, hunting for fossils.
Ammonites, belemnites and crinoids are all found in the
pebble banks, but after heavy storms, there are occasionally more dramatic
and impressive finds. The constant cliff erosion means that large numbers
of fossils are deposited onto the beaches, especially following stormy
periods, these include ammonites belemnites and section of crinoids, but
also ichthyosaurs, giant marine reptiles and bones from dinosaurs. "Rock
hammers" are available (though not really needed) for hire from the beach
hut café, to the east of the main car parks.
The beach to the east of the car park and Heritage Centre
is the best for amateur hunters. You will need to cross a bridge over
the river, just a few hundred meters east of the car parks, and follow
the path across the field, towards the green beach hut café, at the foot
of the cliffs. On most days there is a steady stream of people to follow,
all walking along the strand line.
Charmouth Heritage Centre
The Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre was established to
educate the public about the fossils and geology of the area and to promote
the safe and sustainable collection of fossils.
The heritage centre is located on the upper floor with
a café and fossil shop below. In the Heritage Centre, there are displays
of local fossils and exhibits of the local marine life.
This is a great place to start your day, especially if
you are here with children - once you have visited the centre, buy a few
ammonites from the fossil shop below, to hide in the pebbles on the beach
later; there are a lot of people out very early, so best be prepared!
There is an excellent café in the centre and the Fossil
Shop is a fascinating insight to the range of fossils found in
the area, including an ichthyosaur head found on the cliffs locally.