Fossil Hunting in Charmouth
Fossil Hunting in Charmouth
Everytime we drive down to Cornwall, we pass the Jurassic Coast of Dorest by about five miles, and every time we pass, I say the same thing, “we should go fossil hunting in Charmouth one day.” Well, with the kids off this half term, we finally got around to fossil hunting in Charmouth.
Charmouth sits on the Jurassic coast in Dorset, and for those that didn’t know, it’s one of the best places to go if you’re thinking about Fossil hunting for the first time. Half term gave us the perfect opportunity to get our hands dirty and have a go at discovering, what lived more than 185 mya. This is our account of the day.
Fossil Hunting in Charmouth
When we mentioned fossil hunting to the boys, the first thing they thought about was digging up a dinosaur. “Yah! Let’s go, let’s go. Let’s go and dig up a dinosaur.” Kids and their imagination, isn’t it just great?
However, dinosaurs weren’t on the agenda, but to be honest, I didn’t know what to expect. What were we going to find, whilst fossil hunting in Charmouth? What if we didn’t find anything? What if…
To avoid disappointment, about a week before our planned day out, I did a little research. By the time I had finished, I was confident we wouldn’t come home empty-handed and at the same time, I was also sure we wouldn’t be digging up any dinosaurs.
After a few hours of researching, according to the site ukfossils.co.uk, Charmouth looked like a great place to start. And so, with the weather and tide times in our favour, we planned our day for half term and headed off on our first ever trip and went fossil hunting in Charmouth.
After an hour and a half of ‘are we there yet?’ we arrived at Charmouth, and to say the boys were excited, was an understatement. We parked the car, grab our bags, put on our wellies, and headed for the beach.
Once we were on the beach, you could tell this place had a reputation for its finds. There were people everywhere, with hammers in one hand and bags in the other. I was feeling confident.
After the first hour had passed us, without any finds, we stopped for lunch and decided to rethink our strategy. All I could hear in the background were kids shouting ‘I’ve found one’ and I for one was feeling frustrated. What were we doing wrong? Was there a tactical solution?
Whilst I was sat there, eating my sandwich, I watched other fossil hunters and then realised what we were doing wrong. These people were doing things slightly different, and as a result, they were finding fossils.
These successful fossil hunters were doing one of two things. They were either on their hands and knees searching one small area thoroughly or, they were in a group, searching a dedicated area together, before moving on to some place else, as a group.
We, on the other hand, were just scouring the beach, looking like we had lost some money!
So, after lunch out came the tools (minus the hammer), we all agreed on an area to look, and bingo, thirty minutes later, we started to find our first fossils. After that, they just kept coming.
Harrison and Mum were first, followed by Joshua, then me. They weren’t anything special but to us, they meant a lot. Our first trip fossil hunting in Charmouth had been a success.
Click on the images for a better view but don’t forget to hit the back button!
First Find – Ammonite. This was the first find of the day. Whilst Joshua and I we were digging, Lucy suddenly says, “Oh! Oh! Oh! I think I’ve found something.” And sure enough, she had.
Joshua’s find – Ammonite. Joshua was just picking up the rocks that he had broken and decided to take a closer look at them. Joshua’s find was, “is that one?”
My Finds – Belemnites. At last, it was my turn. I managed to find one rock with about ten fossils in it. It was worth the wait.
Fossilised Leaf – Lucy and Harrison then went on to find this fossilised leaf.
After the cold got the better of my wife, we headed back to the car, dropped off our finds, changed the boys, and headed over to the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre, where we spent at least another hour.
All in all, we had a fantastic day out and it’s most definitely one we’ll all be repeating again in the not too distant future.
Fancy Going Fossil Hunting in Charmouth?
Below is a list of information that could make your experience even better. Remember, be prepared, research before you go, and above all, have fun.
Oh! and don’t forget, there’s a whole Jurrasic coast to choose from, so don’t just stick to fossil hunting in Charmouth, go explore!
Before we went, I did a little research and I’m so glad I did because it paid off.
Where to go. – First of all, I had no idea of where we were going, so I simply Googled, ‘best places to go fossil hunting in Dorset.’ Needless to say, fossil hunting in Charmouth or Lyme Regis were top, and out of the two, we decided to go fossil hunting in Charmouth.
Click and drag the map left or right to discover the Jurrasic Coast of Dorset.
This was purely due to the direction we were travelling from. Charmouth was the first place we came too, whilst Lyme Regis was a little further up the road.
There are of course plenty of other places to go along the Jurassic coast because it stretches from Durlston Head (Swanage) to Orcombe Rocks (Exmouth). But wherever you decide to go, you could dig up different results, due to the different periods of time, certain areas relate to.
For example, if you go anywhere between Pinhay Bay and Ringstead, you’ll be digging in the Jurrasic zone, but if you dig from Pinhay Bay to Bindon Landslide, then you’ll be digging in the Triassic Rocks, moving on to the Cretaceous Rocks from Beer to Hooken Landslide, back to the Triassic Rocks until you reach Orcombe Rocks in Exmouth.
Tide Times – This is a must if you want to the make the most from your day. On the day we went, high tide was just after 6:00 am whilst low tide was a little after 11:30 am. Because high-tide wasn’t until after sundown, we knew we had plenty of time to achieve a few hours of fossil hunting, without worrying about being cut of by the tide.
Weather – Because we all had the week off, we weren’t restricted to any particular day during the week. Therefore, we were able to check the week’s weather forecast and pick the best day. If you are able to do this too, it’s certainly recommended.
Sites like accuweather.com are great for this information although I would recommend checking no more than 5-6 days before you intend to go, due to regular changes.
What to Wear When Fossil Hunting
There is no doubt you’re going to get dirty when you go Fossil Hunting. And even if you don’t, your kids definitely will!
Because we went during October, we made sure we all wrapped up in warm clothes, although I have to say, it wasn’t long before the boys had taken off their coats. Both myself and my wife had taken a clean change of clothes, whilst we had taken two changes of clothes for the boys.
Boots are also recommended as we did some hunting on the shoreline. This was the boys most enjoyable part of the day, as you can imagine. Kids and water, what is it about this combination?
Fossil Hunting Tools
It is recommended that you take some fossil hunting tools with you, even if you intend to go, just for a few hours. Whilst I took a few gardening spades and forks (all hand-held), I also took an old chisel too. The one thing that was most needed (a hammer), however, was left behind. This proved to be a vital tool, as using heavy rocks to break other rocks open, soon became tiring.
The other piece of equipment that we never even thought about were safety goggles, especially for the little ones. You’d be amazed at how far those little splinters can travel.
Fossil Hunting Tools – Minimum Requirements
Whilst the intention is to have fun, fossil hunting can be a little dangerous, so here are some basic safety rules when fossil hunting.
- Know your tide time – Fossil hunting is best done after a few hours of the falling tide. Be sure to know when the tide is coming back in, especially if you wander up the beach. Don’t get caught be the rising tide. Tide Times for Charmouth
- Keep away from the cliff edge – There are many landslides along the beach. Don’t be tempted to climb up them, they can be dangerous.
- Beware of big waves – If you’re searching on the shoreline, please be aware of the bigger waves, especially in the winter time.
- Stay away from the cliffs – Rock falls can happen at any time.
- Don’t walk through the mudflows – Wellies are known to go missing!
Follow these basic safety rules and your day should be fun. Oh! And just to be on the safe side, you might want to tell somebody where you’re going and ring them once you are back. Just in case!
Parking – When we got to Charmouth, we discovered there was plenty of parking and what’s more, it was reasonably priced too. The cost for the whole day was just £3.00.
What I will add, however, when we returned to the car, both of the car parks was full, as was the street parking, too. So you might want to arrive early.
Toilets – There are public toilets at the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre.
Cafe – If you’re in need of a cup of tea and a sandwich, there are two cafes open within walking distance of the beaches.
Fossil Shop – Just in case you’re unsuccessful, or you want to take home a bigger souvenir of your first ever trip, fossil hunting in Charmouth, you could pop into the shop and buy one from the huge selection on offer.
For starters, it offers a short movie on how to search for fossils. Their short film ‘Finding Fossils at Charmouth’ explains how fossils develop over the years, what to look for, but most importantly, how to go about finding them. I wish we had known this before we went Fossil hunting in Charmouth.
There is a small charge of £1.00 for adults and 50p for children.
Amongst other things, there are also plenty of organised events and activities, ranging from family guided tours to craft fayres and activity days for children.
For more information, please contact the centre directly on 01297 560772 or visit their website for more information – www.charmouth.org/chcc
If you’re planning to go fossil hunting in Charmouth, or anywhere else along the Jurassic coast, then you might find this local information useful.
Tourist Information Centres
Exeter – 01392 665700
Budleigh Salterton – 01395 445275
Ottery St.Mary – 01414 813964
Sidmouth 01395 516441
Honiton – 01404 43716
Axminster – 01297 34386
Seaton – 01297 21660
Lyme Regis – 01297 442138
Bridport – 01308 424901
Dorchester – 01305 267992
Swanage – 01929 422885
Wareham – 01929 552740
Poole – 0845 234 5560
Bournemouth – 0845 0511 700
Christchurch – 01202 471780
Traveline – | Web: www.travelinesw.com | Tel: 0871 200 22 33
Local YHA locations include Beer, Portland, Lulworth Cove, Litton Cheney and Swanage.
Web: www.yha.org.uk | Tel: 01629 592700
Visitor Centres and Museums
Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery, Exeter – 01392 265858
Fairlynch Museum Budleigh Salterton – 01395 442666
Sidmouth Museum – 01395 516139
Honiton Museum – 01404 44966
Lyme Regis Philpot Museum – 01297 443370
Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre – 01297 560772
Bridport Museum – 01308 458703
Fine Foundation Chesil Beach Centre – 01305 206191
Portland Museum – 01305 821804
Dorset County Museum, Dorchester – 01305 262735
Lulworth Cove Heritage Centre – 01929 400587
Fine Foundation Marine Centre Kimmeridge – 01929 481044
Durlston Castle Visitor Centre – 01929 424443
Swanage Museum & Heritage Centre – 01929 421427
Studland Beach Visitor Centre – 01929 450500
Wareham Town Museum – 01929 553448
Walks along the Jurassic Coast
South West Coast Path – 3.8 Miles
Jurassic Coast Cruise
Take a Jurassic Coast Cruise from Poole Quay | Web: www.citycruisepoole.com
Jurassic Coast Trust
Tel: 0871 2829242 | Web: www.jurassicskyline.com
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Fossil Hunting in Charmouth