During scouring conditions, Coralline Crag is exposed below beach level at this location, which yields hard blocks full of shells, echinoids, bryozoans and corals.
♦ Head to the seafront car park at Thorpeness. Note that this is not to be confused with Thorpe Ness, which is further up the coast.
♦ Head north along the shore until you reach the cliffs.
♦ Ref: 52.18878°N, 1.62294°E
FIND FREQUENCY: ♦ – Fossils at Thorpeness can only be found after storms and scouring conditions, when the crags below beach level are exposed.
CHILDREN: ♦♦♦ – This location is suitable for children, but finds are uncommon.
ACCESS: ♦♦♦♦♦ – It is easy to find and park at this location, and it is a very short walk.
TYPE: – Fossils can be found on the foreshore and derived fossils can be found in the glacial cliffs.
You can find fossils from the Coralline Crag at this location. In spite of its name, the Coralline Crag contains far more bryozoans than corals, but both are extremely common. Shells and echinoid fragments are also packed in the blocks. The fossiliferous blocks can be found along the foreshore in the shingle after storms. These blocks are being washed ashore from a large offshore reef, known as the Sizewell Coralline Reef.
In addition to these blocks, during scouring conditions, crag shell beds have also been recorded, although at the time of writing, it is not known if these are Red Crag or Norwich Crag. During scouring conditions, search the base of the cliff for crag shell beds.
The fast eroding cliffs at Thorpness are composed mostly of the Norwich Crag, which is unfossiliferous. A sequence of pale and dark yellow banded sands can be seen; these are shallow marine deposits from some two million years ago.
Lying below the Norwich Crag and where not obscured by slumped material, the Thorpeness Member of the younger (upper) Red Crag Formation may occur. Again, is not fossiliferous in this location and is more white than red. There is a lack of shelly material and iron staining that is otherwise abundant elsewhere in Red Crag deposits. This is a possible indicator of alternating fresh/salt water estuarine conditions. At Thorpness, the Red Crag is of Ludhamian age. It is not easy to be able to distinguish in the field between the coarser sands of the Red Crag and the well-sorted, finer-grained sands of the overlying Norwich Crag.
The Coralline Crag blocks, however, are rich in fossils. These are washed ashore after storms and originate from the large Sizewell Coralline Reef Platform out to sea. Lumps of this honey-coloured, fossil-rich rock are frequently scattered on the beach, though no outcrop is locally visible.
The grey and brown clays at the top of the cliff were deposited by the Anglian ice sheet about 450,000 years ago, in cold, glacial conditions. They are underlain by overlain by rusty-brown glacial meltwater gravels forming a broad channel feature which cuts into the Crag beneath. Intricate looping patterns can be seen in the clay layer, caused by frost disturbance in the subsoil during the Devensian glacial period, perhaps 16,000 years ago.
Common sense should be used when collecting at all locations. Tide times should be noted, with collecting carried out on a retreating tide, if possible.
Fossils at Thorpeness can mostly be picked up after storms and scouring conditions, so specialist equipment is not necessary other than containers for your finds.
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 – Thorpeness