The dramatic and beautiful coastline around Lyme Regis is continually on the move with regular cliff falls and large mudslides revealing new fossils to discover.
Fossils are eroded from the cliffs around Lyme Regis during stormy weather and tumble onto the beaches where anyone can discover them.
Fossil hunting is a fun and rewarding activity – all you need is a bit of patience and a good eye and you could find your own piece of history.
Many fossils simply lie exposed amongst the beach pebbles and rocks, just waiting to be found. As the cliffs collapse into the sea and the waves wash against them, fossils are dragged out onto the beaches with the most recognisable the spiral shaped ammonites.
The fossils found on the beaches and in the rocks of the cliffs along the coastline are the remains of the marine life from the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous geological periods, spanning 185 million years from between 250 and 65 million years ago.
The best beaches for fossil hunting are Monmouth Beach (particularly for ammonites) and East Cliff Beach between Lyme and Charmouth. It was on these beaches that pioneering paleontologist and fossil collector Mary Anning scoured the shore and crumbling cliffs. In 1811, she discovered a 5.2-metre-long skeleton, an ancient species, which was named Ichthyosaurus – meaning ‘fish lizard‘. Today, Mary's legacy lives on where scientists, amateurs and adventurous children search the coastline for the next big find.
It should always be remembered that the cliffs are extremely dangerous and that safe fossil hunting is done away from the rock faces amongst the fallen rocks that lie on the beach. When you are planning a fossil hunt, always check the tides. A falling tide is the safest time to venture on the beach.
If you are trying fossil hunting for the first time, a guided fossil hunt is easily the best way to increase your chances of finding a fossil, build confidence and learn from an experienced collector. Regular guided walks are organised by local experts with Lyme Regis Museum and Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre running regular guided fossil hunting walks throughout the year.