The Caistor St Edmund quarry in Norfolk is particularly good for fish remains, which can be found in the lower beds. Echinoids, brachiopods and bivalves are also common here, along with sponges from the flint spoil heaps.
♦ From south of Norwich, it is best to access this location from the B1332 off the A146 just before the dual carriageway. The road is signposted to Bungay. Follow this road, and turn right towards Arminghall Byway. Follow through the village and you will reach a give way sign. Turn left here and the quarry is further down the road on the left, signposted as ‘Needham Chalks Quarry’.
♦ Alternatively, from Norwich, or west or north of Norwich, it is best to follow the A47 and leave at the junction with the A140. After the slip road, take the exit towards Caistor St Edmund from the roundabout. When at the village, turn left and the quarry will be on your right.
♦ Once at the quarry, parking is permitted near the old vehicles near to reception.
♦ Ref: 52.59460°N, 1.30408°E
FIND FREQUENCY: ♦♦♦ – Fossils can often be found at this site, although the relevant Norwich Crag Basement Bed is only extracted every few years. However, chalk fossils should easily be found here.
CHILDREN: ♦♦ – Working quarries are dangerous places. Children are not allowed to enter for health and safety reasons.
ACCESS: ♦♦♦ – There is good access to the quarry and it is easy to find. You can park at the site, but you will need permission.
TYPE: – This is a working quarry, so you will need permission to enter. You must also keep out of the way of moving vehicles at all times.
This quarry is mostly popular for its superb echinoids, which can be found well-preserved in flint from the Pleistocene gravels. Sponges and corals can also be found in these flints, which are usually piled up and easy to pick through. Simply turn over the flints, or break them open.
The chalk itself yields many different fossils. You can search in the chalk embankments around the edge of the quarry or in the loose scree. Most fossils are found by breaking the chalk boulders apart using a pick. Apart from belemnites, bivalves, brachiopods and echinoids, the chalk is particularly good for sponges and fish remains. If you can find the right beds, these are full of fish.
Every few years, the quarry excavates a new area and it scrapes the top of the gravels and Norwich Crag Basement Bed off. These beds are full of mammal bones and, if you are lucky enough to visit after this has happened, you should be able to see bones in situ, along with shells. Bones of deer, horse, mammoths, rhino and so on can also all be found.
At the top of the quarry, there are several meters of Pleistocene gravels. These contain flints, stones and sands. In fact, the quarry lets out part of the site to a gravel company, which processes these gravels.
Below this gravel, and sitting directly on top of the chalk, is the Norwich Crag Basement Bed. This is full of flints, stones and gravels, as well as shelly material and bones. The chalk here is the Beeston Chalk of Late Campanian age. Every few years, the Norwich Crag Basement Bed and Gravels were removed in preparation for extracting the chalk. The very top of the chalk was exposed as a platform ready for digging.
This is a working quarry, so keep away from moving vehicles, the steep cliff edges and the deep water; and always wear protective clothing including a hard hat and high visibility vest. Permission is required to enter this site.
You will need a pick and eye protection, as fossils can be found in the soft chalk. A hammer and chisel may also come in handy for harder chalk. However, you don’t really need tools to collect here, as often a good eye for searching in the scree is all you need. However, fossils can be quite fragile, especially after intense rainfall, so ensure fossils are wrapped and placed into containers or small bags. You will also need a hard hat and high visibility to enter this quarry.
This is a working quarry, and you will need permission to enter. This usually involves signing a form to say that the quarry is not liable should something happen to you.
The quarry is ‘Needham Chalks Quarry’, at Caistor St Edmund. Permission by contacting Pete Squirrel for any geological based/group visits on 07780 471554.
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.