Living on the Jurassic Coast, we have our favourite beaches for fossil hunting and although we have made some exciting finds, we have not really known or understood some of what we were looking at.
Last weekend we took part in a guided fossil hunting walk at Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre.
The two hour session started up at the Centre, where we got to explore some of the finds that have been made in this famous fossil hunting location and enjoy a 20 minute talk from one of the Centre Wardens, Ali.
Ali talked about the fossils of Charmouth, how and where to find fossils on the beach and showed us examples so we knew what we were looking for.
I was really impressed by how much knowledge the kids already had about fossils and Eliza proudly recited the poem “She sells sea shells” to the group, which is apparently based on Lyme Regis’ famous pioneering 19th Century paleontologist , Mary Anning.
The walks are timed perfectly to coincide with low tide and once the talk was finished, the group was given a safety briefing before heading out onto the beach with the wardens, Ali and Lester.
Our walk was the day after a rather large storm, so we were very hopeful that we would make some exciting finds, as the waves would have thrown up lots of shingle onto the beach and the rain would have shifted some from the cliffs.
We headed around 20 minutes along the beach, to an area where there was evidence of a cliff fall, with the kids collecting sea glass as we went.
Sebastian made the first discovery of the day with an ammonite and our finds came in thick and fast from there.
Sebastian was definitely the ammonite magnet, but we also found belemnites, coprolites, crinoids and trace worms.
Both our guides were amazing and on hand to help identify all our discoveries and break open the occasional rock with their specialist tools.
They positively encouraged us to ask lots of questions and show them finds that we were not sure of. Some of our finds were just rocks, but most were fossils in some form.
The great thing about fossil hunting in Charmouth, is that you can keep your finds and we came home with pockets full to the brim.
We stayed on the beach for a good couple of hours and I am confident that we can now visit other beaches and know where and what to look for.
The wardens also shared some of their favourite beaches for fossil hunting locally, with a few surprises. We have visited Ringstead Bay and Burton Bradstock before, but never found anything of interest so are now planning a return visit to see what we can find.
The other great thing about visiting a beach after a storm, is getting to see what has been washed up and the kids spend ages playing on a huge tree that was laying on the beach, roots and all.
Guided Fossil Hunting walks cost £8 per adult and £4 per child and are bookable at charmouth.org/chcc/. I would advise booking in advance as they get booked up quickly, especially during the school holidays.
There are also fossil walks that go from Lyme Regis and all over the Jurassic Coast.
Have you been fossil hunting with the kids before?