Hopes Nose is a headland two miles east of Torquay, which forms a finger-like rocky tip at the northern end of Torbay. All around this area are fossils, together with remnants of extinct corals which were formed when the Devonian seas were relatively shallow. The best place to see these is on the foreshore at Hope’s Nose when the tide is low. It’s in this area where you’ll also find Devonshire cup corals (Caryophyllia smithii) and brachiopods. Hope’s Nose is an SSSI location, so collecting from, or hammering the bedrock, is not permitted. However, it remains one of the most famous locations for Devonian corals, trilobites and bivalves in the UK. In fact, the Natural History Museum in London has many specimens on display from this site.
♦ Head into Torquay. The best way to find Hopes Nose is to follow signposts to ‘Kents Cavern’.
♦ When you reach Kents Cavern, the narrow road winds down and around, heading towards Torbay. Follow this road.
♦ The road then runs along the promenade. You will immediately see cliffs, which are part of Hopes Nose.
♦ Park in one of the road cuttings along the promenade and walk eastwards towards the cliffs.
♦ Ref: 50.46347°N, 3.48159°W
FIND FREQUENCY: ♦♦♦ – Although we have set the ‘find frequency’ as ‘Medium’, collecting Devonian corals is something that requires a little understanding and acceptance that these fossils are poorly preserved and often difficult to see. However, they are still just as important as, say, ammonites from the Jurassic. You just have to take a step back to see the big picture and be satisfied with the finds that you do make. Note that this is a SSSI, with strict rules. Therefore, do not hammer on the cliffs or bedrock. Only take pictures of what you see.
CHILDREN: ♦♦♦ – This location is too dangerous for families with children. This site is really for the enthusiast or professional.
ACCESS: ♦♦♦ – There is a good parking along the seafront. However, please note that access to this location is sometimes not possible during storm surges, and the highest tides. In addition, the foreshore is very rocky.
TYPE: – There are foreshore ledges and sandy deposits in the cliffs, which contain corals, as well as rocks on the foreshore within which you can find the same sorts of fossils. This location is an SSSI and has strict rules for fossil hunters, which includes no hammering and no collecting of specimens. You can of course photograph the specimens.
The Devonian limestones of Torbay include parts of a Middle Devonian reef system. Hopes Nose area is full of corals, occasional bivalves, bryozoans and, sometimes, trilobites. However, you are more likely to come across corals and bryozoans than anything else.
Fossils can be seen both in the limestones and the solidified calcareous mud within sandy deposits. During the Devonian, there were abundant colonies of corals, which mean that fossils tend to be found together in groups.
Within the layered rocks in the cliffs, you can see some that are sandy with bright yellow colours. It is these rocks that contain the fossils, including () corals and bivalves. These rocks can be found as fallen blocks or rocks on the foreshore and this is where collection is confined. In the past, trilobites were found here but these are now extremely rare. Any corals, bryozoans or trilobites from this layer are usually poorly preserved and very fragile.
The best fossils are seen in the harder limestones, which can be found near Hopes Nose Point. It is not always possible to gain access from Torbay and you may need to drive up to the lighthouse and drop down from there. However, there are far more rocks to search through by walking from Torbay. Well-preserved corals and bryozoans from the limestone can also be found just before the sheer cliff, which is often inaccessible near Hopes Nose because of the rocks piled up on the foreshore.
Some of the best corals and bryozoans come from here. They can be hard to see but once you find one you are bound to find many more. They clean up very well and corals found in limestone can be polished. Other fossils that can be collected include crinoids and stromatoporoids
Remember that this site is an SSSI with stricter rules than normal. Collecting fossils and hammering is strictly prohibited. Fossils within the bedrock can only be photographed (which is extremely worthwhile) and must not be removed under any circumstances.
At Hopes Nose, the site contains excellent exposures of thin-bedded limestones of Mid-Devonian Daddyhole Limestone Member of the Torquay Limestone Formation (Eifelian stage of 380 to 391Mya) with a shelly fauna and tuff beds.
Rocks display an abundant fossil fauna including well preserved corals, particularly cup corals (e.g. Caryophyllia smithi, a solitary animal which can be up to 3cm across), bryozoans, bivalves and occasional trilobites and stromatoporoids, especially present on the extreme northern tip of the headland. The eastern side of Hope’s Nose shows the limestones arched into anticlines and synclines cut off at the top by a thrust plane.
The fossils found here are both reefal and lagoonal, and at Hope’s Nose the rich coral–stromatoporoid (coralline sponge) faunas or brachiopod-trilobite assemblages are well-documented.
Common sense when collecting at all locations should be used. Hopes Nose has some very steep and tall cliff faces. Keep away from the base of these, as rocks do occasionally fall. Hard Hats are recommended. However, the biggest danger at Hopes Nose is from the tide. The waves can be extremely powerful and the sea always reaches the base of the cliffs at high tide. Therefore, prior knowledge of the tide times is absolutely essential and it is important to return before the tide turns.
Fossils cannot be removed from the site and hammers are not permitted. However, the corals are beautifully revealed by the natural erosion of the rocks and make for spectacular photographs. Therefore, the only equipment you need is a camera and perhaps a ruler or something to show scale.
This site is an SSSI. This means you can visit the site, but hammering the bedrock is not permitted. For full information about the reasons for the status of the site and restrictions please download the PDF from Natural England – SSSI Information – Hopes Nose