The Oxford Clay at Bowleaze Cove yields ammonites and is rich in reptile remains. Giant fossil oyster shells are also plentiful. This location is best visited after scouring tides, although during these times, you will need wellington boots.
♦ There are two different access points at Bowleaze Cove. However, it is possible to walk from one point to the next, but due to the long distance involved, it is best to concentrate on one end or the other.
♦ Redcliff Point is best accessed from Weymouth. Park at the end of the road called Bowleaze Cove Way and walk east.
♦ An alternative access point that is ideal for the section to the east of Redcliff Point is Osmington Mills. This is best accessed by parking at the bottom of the road at Osmington Mills, off the A353. Once on the beach, walk west.
♦ Ref: 50.63391°N, 2.37571°W
FIND FREQUENCY: ♦♦♦ – Fossils at Bowleaze Cove can often be found washed out on the foreshore. However, this tends to be during scouring tides. However, at other times, you can collect from the harder beds.
CHILDREN: ♦♦♦ – Bowleaze Cove is very rocky and therefore it is not suitable for younger children.
ACCESS: ♦♦♦ – This is a fairly easy location to access, although it can be hard going over the rocky foreshore.
TYPE: – Most fossils are found in the large boulders along the foreshore. However, fossils can also be found washed out of the clay on the beach.
Redcliff Point is excellent for Oxford Clay fossils. Here, a vast amount of Oxford Clay is well exposed on the foreshore, which extends just east of the point. Hundreds of giant oysters and Gryphaea can be seen scattered everywhere along the foreshore (the most common bivalves are Gryphaea dilatata and Lopha), beach conditions permitting. Ammonites can also be found here (Cardioceras) with a range of other shells. There are a number of red-coloured nodules that contain very well-preserved fossils, including large ammonites. However, these are rarely complete.
Some very large mussel shells can also be found by digging into the clay. These are extremely fragile. Occasionally, oysters grew on and around an ammonite, and you can sometimes see the pattern of an ammonite mould on the oyster or the oyster and ammonite are actually still attached. Such ammonites can be quite large and in good condition.
Most of the large ammonites are rusted, decomposed and will simply crumble on being picked up. However, smaller ammonites can still be found. In the past, crocodile and crustacean remains, along with ichthyosaur bones, have been recorded from here.
At Bowleaze Cove, just west of Osmington Mills, the Kimmeridge clay is well exposed on the foreshore during winter months, and this tends to be the best place to collect fossils. Many flat and worn ammonites can be found, along with a few shells. During beach scouring, a wider range of fossils can be found, including many whole ammonites. However, the best beds are not always exposed, but, if the clay is exposed, fossils can be found simply by searching on the foreshore.
In addition, Lower Corallian blocks yield many trace fossils, especially in the Preston Grit, where the burrows of Rhizocorallium and Thalassinoides can be seen. The trace fossils Asterosoma and Diplocraterion, together with the bivalve Pleuromya have been found. Shells, ammonites are also common from the Osmington Oolite, but these are quite poorly preserved. In fact, larger ammonites tend to be better preserved than the smaller ones.
Further west, large Lower Corallian blocks yield fossils. For these, you will need a good heavy hammer, as they will need splitting.
Just west of Osmington Mills, heading towards Bowleaze Cove, excellent exposures of Corallian Beds can clearly be seen. The Kimmeridge Clay can also be seen well exposed on the foreshore. Sandsfoot Clay and Nothe Clay are also present. There is also around 26m of Kimmeridge Clay here, together with 19m of Sandsfoot Clay Beds.
At Redcliff Point, the Lamberti Zone and Mariae Zone from the Upper Oxford Clay can be seen. Redcliff Point itself is part of a large landslide. East of Redcliff point, the Bencliff Grit and Trigonia Beds (Osmington Oolite) overlay the Nothe Clay and Preston Grit. There is about 1.7m of Preston Grit, together with over 8m of Nothe Grit.
Common sense when collecting at all locations should always be used and prior knowledge of tide times is essential. Care should especially be taken along the coast from Weymouth to Ringstead of tides, as the sea can cut you off. It is easiest to become cut off at Redcliff Point, because the sea always reaches this point. There are a large number of boulders in difficult positions at Redcliff Point and the rocks are slippery with seaweed, so, care must be taken.. The high cliffs east of Redcliff Point are particularly dangerous, due to regular cliff falls and falling rocks.
A knife and pick are useful, as the sediments at Bowleaze Cove consist of both Oxford and Kimmeridge Clay, which are both fairly soft. When the foreshore is exposed, suitable footwear should be worn. A small trowel is also useful, although most fossils can simply be lifted from the clay. Ammonites can be found in the Corallian Beds, which can be extremely hard. Therefore, hammers (ideally a lump hammer), safety goggles and chisels should be taken if walking from Weymouth or east past Redcliff Point to the small Corallian outcrop.
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 – South Dorset