Hopes Nose is one of the most famous locations for Devonian corals, trilobites and bivalves in the UK. In fact, the Natural History Museum in London has a large number of 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.
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 that contain the fossils, including (in particular) corals and bivalves. These rocks can also be found on the foreshore. Occasionally, trilobites can be found, but the corals, bryozoans and trilobites from this layer are often 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.
Remember that this site is an SSSI with stricter rules than normal. Collecting fossils and hammering is strictly prohibited. Fossils can only be photographed (which is extremely worthwhile) and must not be removed.
At Hopes Nose, the rocks are Middle Devonian of the Eifelian Stage, approximately 380 to 391myrs old. Indications suggest that the marine life lived and died in shallow, quiet water. The thinly bedded limestones vary from calcareous muds to fragmental limestones. The Corals and Bryozoans from the Devonian Rocks of Torquay are well documented. Some of the best corals and Bryozoans come from here. They can be quite hard to see, but once you find one you are bound to find many more. Trilobites and Bivalves can also be found but are much rarer. They clean up very well, corals in Limestone can be polished. Other fossils that can be collected include Crinoids and Stromatoporoids.
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