Famous for its high number of reptile remains, this location has been the site of some complete skeletons in the past, but also yields fish remains, ammonites, belemnites, bivalves, brachiopods and crinoids. There is also a ‘fossil hunting area’ in the disused part of the pit, which the general public can collect from and which is regularly replenished from spoil from the main pit.
♦ From Peterborough, head along the A605 towards Whittlesea. Continue just past Orchard Farm on the right hand side of the road and you will see is a small river on left. Just past where the river leaves the left hand side of the road, directly past where the railway crosses the road, you will see King’s Dyke Pit on the left.
♦ To enter the main current working pit, you must go with a geological society on a group visit. Access to the disused part of the pit, which is set aside as a nature reserve and a special ‘fossil hunting area’, is unrestricted, but you just need to register in advance (see details under FREE Permit).
♦ Ref: 52.558769, -0.16401172
♦ Grid: TL 24561 97242
♦ Nearest Postcode: PE7 1PJ
FIND FREQUENCY: ♦♦♦ – In the actual working pit, the Oxford Clay is extremely rich in fossils. If you get access to this part of the pit, you are almost certainly going to come home with many finds. Complete skeletons have been found in the past. However, permission to enter this working pit is only given to geological societies for group visits. However, there is a ‘fossil hunting area’, in the old, disused pit that the general public can visit. This dedicated area of the site can be visited by anyone, without permission being required.
CHILDREN: ♦♦♦ – Older children are only welcome in the disused pit within the dedicated fossil collecting area. Children are not allowed to enter the working pit.
ACCESS: ♦♦♦ – King’s Dyke Pit is easy to access and parking is provided onsite at the quarry entrance. There is a short walk to the special fossil hunting area.
TYPE: – Fossils are found in both the working quarry and the special collecting area. You need a permit for the special area and access to the working pit is strictly by society groups only. There is free access to the special fossil hunting area in the disused part of the pit. However, access to the working pit is usually only given to geological societies for group visits.
Both the working pit and disused ‘special fossil hunting area’ contain Oxford Clay, which is extremely rich in fossils. The most common find is the bivalve Gryphaea. Belemnites are also plentiful, including the most common large type, which is Hibolithes. You are also likely to find worm tubes, crinoids and ammonites (especially, Kosmoceras).
Reptile remains are surprisingly quite common here, with ichthyosaurs and pliosaurs being most commonly found. In fact, complete skeletons have been found in the past at the working site. Occasionally, crocodile remains (Steneosauraus) and sharks’ teeth also turn up.
The best area to search is the slopes were fossils have been washed out of the clay. And the best time to visit is after heavy rainfall, when the rain washes fossils down the slopes.
If you can visit the working pit with a geological society (such as the Stamford and District Geological Group), you will have a much higher chance of finding fossils and much better specimens.
Peterborough is famous for brick making and, at one time, had clay pits all around the city. Today, only a few remain open and one of them is the famous King’s Dyke Pit. The remaining pits have now closed and have naturally filled with water. Most of these have been turned into nature reserves, or walks. Some are currently being filled in, with new housing estates being, or have been, built in them.
It is the Oxford Clay that makes an excellent material for bricks. This clay also happens to be extremely rich in fossils. It has been reclassified and now falls within the Peterborough Formation. It is mainly brownish-grey, fissile, organic-rich (bituminous) mudstones, with a shelly fauna dominated by crushed aragonitic ammonites and bivalves. There are subordinate beds of pale-medium grey, blocky mudstone, with several bands of cement stone nodules/concretions. The basal beds are commonly silty, with shell beds rich in the bivalve, Gryphaea.
Common sense when collecting at all locations should be used. There are many areas of the pit where the water table has been reached and pumping has ceased. These areas, and the edges to ponds, are highly dangerous.
A pick and knife are very handy when looking in the clay, although, (mostly), all you really need is a good eye. Fossils are found either scattered on the surface or poking out of embankments and dykes. Fossils from King’s Dyke Pit can be placed in small containers and any fragile fossils, such as shells and ammonites, should be carefully wrapped in tissue (some of the ammonites are extremely fragile).
There is free access to the special fossil hunting area in the disused part of the pit. You need to obtain a free permit in advance.
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Access to the working pit is usually only given to geological societies for group visits.