While most people remember Blackgang Chine for its popular theme park, the cliffs of Blackgang Chine (which are slowly shrinking the theme park) also yield some fossils. These include trace fossils and occasional, but rare, dinosaur bones.
♦ Blackgang Chine is very difficult to reach. The most difficult (but most direct) way is to climb down from the landslips at Blackgang Theme Park, but this is not recommended. Ladders have been used in the past, but again, this is not recommended.
♦ The two best ways to reach Blackgang are from the coastguard station at Atherfield Point, or to walk along the beach from either Shepherd’s Chine or Whale Chine.
♦ Ref: 50.58624°N, 1.31492°W
FIND FREQUENCY: ♦ – Blackgang Chine rarely yields fossils.
CHILDREN: ♦ – This location is not suitable for children, as access is very difficult.
ACCESS: ♦♦ – Access is very hard and can be dangerous. Check tide times carefully.
TYPE: – You can find fossils at this location in the cliff landslips.
There are three bands of nodules full of fossil moulds of bivalves and gastropods (Pterotrigonia, Senis, Globularia, Thettironia and Anchura). Below these to the base of the cliff are the Ferruginous Sandstones in which trace fossils of burrows (Ophiomorpha) frequently occur, together with shell debris. Bones are quite rare here, but one party recorded picking up quite a large fragment of bone from the foreshore. It is not known if this came from the beds at Blackgang or another location. Fossils at Blackgang Chine can be found mostly in nodules from three layers.
As this location is badly slipped, nodules can be found within the landslips. Also, search the base of the cliff.
The rapidly retreating high cliffs between Blackgang and Chale are well known to be very unstable and have a long history of coastal instability. Coastal erosion and instability has been taking place at Blackgang Chine for thousands of years, particularly since the last ice age when sea-levels rose dramatically.
The coastal slopes at Blackgang Chine comprise a complex pattern of landslide types, developed in Upper and Lower Greensand rocks, arranged within a series of landslide systems. The Upper Cretaceous Gault Clay underlies a well-developed sequence of porous and permeable Upper Greensand, with Chalk above.
The Sandrock of the Lower Greensand forms the lower part of the cliff with some Ferruginous Sands at the base. The Ferruginous Sands consists of dark green and brown sands.
Most the strata low in the cliff, are however, covered by landslide debris that has slipped down from above. Because of the landslides, the area is quite complex to explore because original roads and paths have been cut or destroyed.
Common sense when collecting at all locations should be used and knowledge of tide times is essential. At Blackgang, accessing the beach is hard. Whichever way you choose, be very careful. The sea cuts off both sides of Blackgang and it is 12km before you reach another exit from the shore. Ladders and landslips have been used in the past, but these have their own dangers.
A good eye and a pick is often all you need at Blackgang, but a hammer and chisel will come in handy should you find any nodules. It is best to wrap fossils up and place them in bags, as they are usually quite hard. Fossils found inside nodules can usually be placed directly into a bag.
This site is a site of special scientific interest (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, download the PDF from Natural England.