Monsal Dale, near Little Longstone, is set among breathtaking scenery. Carboniferous fossils can be found here, such as crinoid pieces in limestone and chert.
♦ Parking can be found in front of the Monsal Head Hotel, but this car park can only be used for one hour. If you drive past the hotel, there is a public car park behind it, where there is plenty of pay and display parking, and you can park for as long as you want. Alternatively, there is a lay-by that will accommodate three or four cars about 150m in front of the hotel. This is free.
♦ If you have parked in the lay-by, it is worth having a look for fossils in the stone walls as you head towards the hotel. Obviously these should not be collected, but they are never the less interesting.
♦ The Monsal Head Hotel marks the start of the walk into Monsal Dale and there is an information board here about the Wye Valley. When you have had a look at this, head to your left and take the footpath sign-posted ‘Ashford’ and ‘Monsal Dale’. Follow the Monsal Dale route.
♦ As you descend this path, look to your left and you will see many loose limestone and chert rocks. Fossils can be found within some of these, but as this area is a site of special scientific interest (SSSI), they should be left for future visitors to enjoy.
♦ When you reach the dale, continue along the edge of the river until you come to a bridge. Cross this and walk back the way you came, but on the other side of the river. Walk about 100m past the waterfall and then look upwards on your left hand side, where you may be able to see a rock outcrop behind the foliage.
♦ If you are feeling adventurous, you can reach this small cliff by working your way upwards through the bushes and vegetation. Investigating this part of the location is only for the more adventurous fossil hunter, as the plants are densely packed and the gradient is steep.
♦ The cliff is packed full of crinoid stem parts. There are also some areas of black chert containing these fossils in abundance.
♦ From the cliff, carry on to the viaduct. Cross it to the other side of the river and then follow the path back up to the car park.
♦ Ref: 53.24014°N, 1.72532°W
FIND FREQUENCY: ♦♦♦ – Fossils can be seen among the rocks scattered by the side of the path, which descends into the dale. There is also a large rock outcrop within the dale itself, which is packed with crinoid pieces.
CHILDREN: ♦♦♦ – This is a fairly long walk with plenty of uphill stretches. However, the paths are well maintained, so children should be able to manage it.
ACCESS: ♦♦♦ – There is plenty of parking near to the Monsal Head Hotel and the route taken follows public footpaths. However, be aware that it is a fairly long walk.
TYPE: – Fossils can be found within the loose limestone and chert pieces next to the path, and can also be observed in a large rock outcrop later on in the walk.
Look among the loose rocks at the side of the path as you descend into the dale. Here, you will find limestone pieces with fossils as well as curious lumps of chert, which are packed full of gaps representing fossils that used to be present, but have since dissolved away.
At the cliff, you will see many crinoid stem pieces both in the limestone and in the black coloured chert nodules that are found within it. As this location is an SSSI, collecting is prohibited, but there are plenty of fossils to observe.
The Carboniferous Limestone at Monsale Dale is Avonian in age (Tournaisian) and is known as the Monsal Dale Limestone. It is well documented for corals, brachiopods and crinoid stems.
Common sense when collecting at all locations should be used. This is a fairly safe location, with few hazards. As the dale is set within a deep valley, there may be no mobile phone signal.
Most of the fossils at Monsal Dale are found in the loose scree and rocks. However, some of the loose rocks are large, and you may need a hammer, chisel and eye protection to split these to avoid carrying too much weight back home.
This site is an 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 please download the PDF from Natural England – SSSI Information – Monsal Dale