Where else do you get to collect fossils from what used to be known as the Upper, Middle and Lower Chalk, and the Greensand within just a few metres? This location is superb for its geology, but also for its cretaceous ammonites and other fossils.
♦ The old way of accessing White Nothe was through the field car park at Holworth House. However, this is no longer open and the nearest place to park at White Nothe is a fair distance away. Access is now best from Ringstead, by walking east.
♦ The car park can be accessed from the toll road off the A353 to Ringstead. Follow the road and take a sharp right at the top of the hill. It will then take you to the low cliff where you will need to walk east. Ringstead is to the south of Poxwell.
♦ Ref: 50.62662°N, 2.32977°W
FIND FREQUENCY: ♦♦♦♦ – White Nothe is a location that is not often visited by fossil hunters, so there is often plenty to be found, especially after a high tide. However, you really need the right conditions for any decent finds.
CHILDREN: ♦♦♦ – This location is not suitable for young children because of the long walk and rocky foreshore.
ACCESS: ♦♦ – It can be a long walk down to the beach and the rocky foreshore can be quite difficult. The car park is also very hard to find.
TYPE: – Most of the fossils can be found on the foreshore, especially after storms, but fossils are also commonly found in the cliff.
This site is part of the Jurassic World Heritage Coastline, so follow the Fossil Code of Conduct. It is also a SSSI, so hammering the cliff and bedrock is not allowed. Damage has already been caused to the heritage site by people using power tools. This is strictly against SSSI rules and any attempt to ignore them may result in prosecution.
From the chalk, echinoids (sea urchins) can often be collected by simply picking them up from the foreshore. There is a quite a variety of species, the most common being Holaster. White Nothe is also well known for giant ammonites, which are surprisingly well preserved. Many brachiopods and bivalves can also be found, along with sea urchin spines and pieces of crinoids.
In the Greensand, there are rich, well-preserved brachiopod and bivalve beds, which yield a great variety of species. Gastropods can also be collected, if the Greensand is freshly exposed on the foreshore, it is as soft as that of the Gault, but exposure to air turns it rock hard. During scouring tides, many very good molluscs can be collected in near perfect condition.
Southeast of Holworth House, there is a range of Lower and Upper Cretaceous rocks, consisting of Upper Greensand and Chalk. The fault at Holworth House dominates White Nothe giving rise to vertical sections.
The chalk is made up of the Basement Bed, the Grey Chalk (with fine rhythmic banding and grey spiky flints representing Thalassinoides burrows), Plenus Marls and the Holywell Nodular Chalk, and the Lewes Nodular Chalk and the Seaford Chalk Formations. Large basal Cenomanian blocks can be seen on the beach. The glauconitic chalk Basement Bed yields many fossils. The chalk comes down to beach level along with the Upper Greensand, which is very soft when first exposed to the air. If soft, many good fossils can be easily be picked out with a knife from rocks on the beach.
You are limited by the sea as to how far you can go. It constantly reaches the cliff face just around the corner from the start of the walk. However, if it is possible to hire a boat, the Upper Chalk sections beyond the headland are very fossiliferous.
Common sense when collecting at all locations should be taken and knowledge of tide times should always be noted. Ensure you visit during falling tide and return in good time as it is easy to be cut off from the tide. At White Nothe, many large boulders can make access very difficult and it is easy to trip or fall over. You should also keep away from the cliff faces.
The use of hammers is not allowed. Hard hats should be worn at all times, as the cliffs are unstable. Take plenty of drink and food if you are planning to do the full walk.
This site is an SSSI and forms part of the UNESCO World Heritage Jurassic Coast. 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 – South Dorset