Where to find fossils in England
Fossil hunting can be a dangerous process. Some good sites are beaches, since the sea erodes the cliffs where the fossils are. But you can be cut off by the tide coming in, or an eroding cliff can end up falling on you! Also serious fossil hunters often use geological hammers to break up rocks. These can be dangerous, and in some places they are forbidden. These fossil hunting sites give safety tips. They also give a lot more information about where you can go and what you should do.
Some of these museums have large collections of fossils. Some offer a fun introduction to dinosaurs for families. Some have small collections of local fossils. They may identify any fossils that you find or local fossil walks. Consult their websites or contact them to find out about them and what they offer. The map shows where they are.
Good places to hunt fossils
Some of these websites are rather technical, and some are just tourist information. Still they indicate where the good places are and what you may find. I suggest that you contact local museums for more information, and these might even run local fossil walks or workshops for hunting fossils. Consult the general information websites for more areas, and more information about these areas.
Finally, you can buy excellent, cheap fossils at many rock shops and museum shops around the country, especially near known fossil locations. It doesn't have the thrill of finding your own, but the quality is likely to be better! It is an excellent way to handle fossils and learn about them.
The following places are not especially wonderful. It's just that I've been there, and they aren't the usual places (Lyme Regfis, Whitby...)
Bracklesham Bay is in Sussex, south of Chichester. The Bracklesham beds are just off the coast, and some of them are exposed at low tide. The beds are full of fossils, and they get washed onto the beach. Wait until nealy low tide, then walk along the beach from Bracklesham towards Selsey Bill, along the sand. You will find plenty of turritella and bivalves, looking remarkably like modern shells. There are also plenty of Foraminifera, round shells of single celled creatures looking like little coins. You may be lucky enough to find shark and ray teeth.Exposed clay beds:
Closeup of the clay:
Pieces of the clay with fossils in:
A bivalve with clay and other pieces of fossils, and broken bivalves:
Llantwit is a village about 15 miles west of Cardiff, near the coast. It has a railway station. You can walk to the coast - try to find the footpath rather than the road as it's a lot more pleasant. There's a cafe by the sea. The seaside is bizarre in appearance, with a layered cliff, and flat stone slabs below, with round stones on. Some of the stones have fossils in, but it's not exactly somewhere that's it's easy to walk along and find small exciting interesting fossils. Or at least I didn't find it so. (On the other hand, there's a church in the village with wonderful Celtic knot crosses in. Nothing to do with fossils. Sorry.)
Penarth is a seaside resort right next to Cardiff. (Yes, I did go to Cardiff on holiday.) You can get to it from Cardiff Bay, walking along the Barage, then along the coast. But don't go too close to the cliff. It's an amazing colour, but looks dangerous, and there was the constant sound of falling pebbles from it. You could see large rocks fallen from the cliff on the beach. There were quite a few fossils in stones on the beach, possibly brought in by waves. These are all ammonites.
Fossil Grove is in Victoria Park, Glasgow. It is now in a small building inside the park. A notice in the building says the following:
"The fossils represent an extinct type of plant known as lycopods or scale tree - so called because of the scale-like markings left on the trunk and branches when the leaves fell off. Scale trees grew to a height of 45 metres with a straight trunk and crown of branches. Inside the trunks were not hard and woody but filled with a soft pith. The closest living relatives of these giants are small plants known as clubmosses. These primative scale trees are not related to the trees of today such as oak, elm or pine. The Fossil Grove was discovered in 1887 during the creation of Victoria Park. Whilst cutting a path through the disused quarry which is now the rock garden, workmen discovered the tops of the fossilised tree stumps. The importance of the site was quickly realised. The stumps were carefully excavated and the building added to protect them. The Fossil Grove was once part of the vast swampy forests of the Caroniferous or coal age 330 million years ago. The trees were alive and growing over 100 million years ago before the first dinosaur and long before the first bird or mammal evolved. The geography of the world in those distant times was very different from today. Scotland was close to the equator, and tropical forests stretched right across what is now North America, Britain and northern Europe. Plant debris from these forests decayed and over a long period of time turned into coal."
© Jo Edkins 2007 - Return to Fossils index