Continuing west from Seatown, the Beacon Limestone Formation (formerly the Dorset Junction Bed) crops out at Eype. Here, the rocks can yields plenty of ammonites but it will require some hard work, with a large geological hammer, to extract them from fallen blocks. Many of the fossils can be poorly preserved, although decent specimens can be found, with determination and the right conditions.
♦ The best way to access Eype is from a narrow road off of the A35. Follow New St. Lane into Mount Lane and then all the way to the car park at Eype’s Mouth. Alternatively, walk from Seatown, which can be quite a walk. If you do walk from Seatown, double check tide times to ensure you can return the same way safely.
♦ The narrow road is just west of Bridport and leads through the village of Lower Eype to Eype’s Mouth. There is limited parking near the shore at DT6 6AL, otherwise it might be possible to park in a field. This road is certainly not suitable for larger vehicles or caravans. ♦ Once on the beach, walk west. You can start finding fossils almost immediately.
♦ Ref: 50.71644°N, 2.78595°W
FIND FREQUENCY: ♦♦♦ – You need to be prepared to take heavy lump hammers and then split the fallen blocks from the ‘Junction Bed’. There is usually plenty to be found. the blocks contain a great range of species of superb ammonites, along with starfish and many other types of fossil.
CHILDREN: ♦♦ – This location is suitable for family trips, but not for young children. While you can find fossils on the foreshore, most have to be worked hard for – by breaking rocks with a geological hammer.
ACCESS: ♦♦♦ – Access to the beach is easy with the car park nearby. However, walking along the beach from Seatown is much harder due to the large number of rocks and slippages.
TYPE: – This is a foreshore and cliff location, so fossils can be found in both. The vast majority of fossils are found by smashing fallen blocks of the Beacon Limestone Formation on the foreshore.
This site is part of the Jurassic World Heritage Coastline, so follow the Fossil Code of Conduct. This is a SSSI, so no hammering on the cliff or bedrock is allowed. It is also private and, so digging in the cliff is strictly forbidden. Damage has already been caused to the heritage site by people using power tools, especially Stihl power saws, to extract starfish. This is strictly against SSSI rules and any attempt to ignore them may result in prosecution.
If you have parked at Eype, you should access the beach at Eype Mouth. Here, the Eype Nodule Bed is raised above sea level and can normally be seen.
Ammonites (Tragophylloceras, Metacymbites, Leptaleoceras, Amaltheus and Liparoceras) can all be collected, along with the brachiopod, Davidsonella moorei. On the east side of Eype Mouth, the ammonite, Pleuroceras, can be found, along with the brachiopod, Quadratirhynchia.
You need to look out for blocks of Beacon Limestone (formerly the Dorset Junction Bed). Look in the rocks around the foreshore for the yellow, layered colours unique to the Junction Bed and smash these open with a heavy lump hammer, then fine split using normal splitting hammers. They are usually packed full of ammonites, shells and many other types of fossil.
Also, keep an eye on the surface of weathered rocks. Most of the starfish (Palaeocoma egertoni) are found in rocks on the foreshore. However, think twice before trying to get these out. You will need cutting equipment. Attempts to try and get these out by hammers will most often result in destroying the fossils. Therefore, you are better off just taking pictures of the fossils in situ.
The Beacon Limestone Formation (formerly the Dorset Junction Bed) contains all of the North Yorkshire geology in one narrow layer. At Eype Mouth, the Eype Clay Member forms the base of the cliff with the Eype Nodule Bed running along from Thorncombe Beacon, which is to the west.
Above this are the Down Cliff Sands Member, with the Starfish Bed lying between the two. Above this are the Thorncombe Sands Member, with the Beacon Limestone resting on its top. At West Cliff (to the west of Eype Mouth), there is a major fault (the Eype Mouth Fault) that marks a major change in geology, where the Frome Clay and Forest Marble appear (see Watton Cliff on this website).
Common sense when collecting at all locations should be used and prior knowledge of tide times is essential. The main issues to be aware of are the tides and the cliffs. It is easy to become cut off, so it is important to return at least three hours before high tide. Also, be careful of falling debris and hard hats are recommended here, as the cliffs are unstable.
Eype is a location where you have to work hard for your finds. Take a good, strong, heavy hammer, together with safety goggles, to crack open rocks from the Beacon Limestone.
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 – West Dorset