During scouring tides, Seatown turns into an ‘ammonite kingdom’. They can simply be picked up along the foreshore and, therefore, the location is ideal for children. There is also a superb pub with views of Golden Cap. Fossils can be found all year round, as can microfossils and minerals.
♦ Seatown can be reached by following a narrow shore road just opposite the Castle Inn in Childeock. There is a small car park at Seatown, which is highly recommended. However, this road is not suitable for large vehicles, because it is extremely narrow.
♦ Golden Cap is on your right from the car park at Seatown.
♦ There is a charge for parking at Seatown.
♦ Ref: 50.72258°N, 2.84052°W
FIND FREQUENCY: ♦♦♦♦♦ – There are a lot of fossils at Seatown. Most of the ammonites that can be found within nodules on the foreshore, but these are actually softer than the surrounding matrix, so you cannot just split them using hammers or wide chisels – you need to use delicate chisels, rock etchers, air preparation tools or knifes to slowly remove the matrix at home.
CHILDREN: ♦♦♦♦ – Seatown is suitable for families, but if you are planning to take children, care should be used and they should be kept well away from the base of the cliff. These are extremely high, sheer and crumble all the time. Hard hats should be worn at all times.
ACCESS: ♦♦♦♦♦ – Accessibility to Seatown and the foreshore is excellent. There is a car park practically on the beach, with toilets and a pub next to it. It is also not a very long walk to the fossiliferous beds.
TYPE: – The vast majority of the fossils are found on the foreshore at Seatown, many in small nodules that can be found among the pebbles. Fossils can also be found during scouring conditions on the foreshore clays. In addition, there is a hard layer at about eye-level at the lower part of the cliff at Golden Cap, where ammonites can be found and, of course, fossils can also be found in the slippages. This is also an excellent location for microfossils. These can be found by taking samples from the clay surrounding pockets of crinoids and belemnites in the Belemnite Stone Beds during scouring conditions
This site is part of the Jurassic World Heritage Coastline, a SSSI and private land. Hammering on the cliff and digging is strictly forbidden. Damage has already been caused to the heritage site by people using power tools. This is strictly against SSSI rules and any attempt to ignore them may result in prosecution.
There are many different fossils that can be found at Seatown. The most common are ammonites. These can be found on the foreshore in the shingle, in nodules and within the Belemnite Stone Bed (when exposed). Belemnites are the second most common find, along with crinoids. Reptile remains, brachiopods, bivalves and microfossils can also all be found.
From the car park, as you walk towards Golden Cap, the first part of the cliff is not fossiliferous. However, as you approach Golden Cap, you will notice that a light coloured hard band appears in the cliff. This bed contains ammonites and eventually reaches eye-level. Often, lumps can be found at the base of the cliff and these can be split open for ammonites.
As you get closer to the middle of the cliff at Golden Cap, very fine shingle mixed with pyrites and clay can be found on the foreshore. Among the pebbles, fossils can be found, but this may involve a ‘hands and knees’ job. However, if you look carefully and you should make some finds.
When you first reach Golden Cap, at the first slippage, you will notice that there is a lot of clay. The sea normally washes this out daily, so fresh fossils can often be found here. Look in the clay, the clay slippages and the foreshore. Most of the fossils (particularly ammonites) are washed out and can simply be picked up, often requiring no preparation.
Continuing around the first slippage past the peak of Golden Cap (and staying away from the sheer cliff face, as it often crumbles), you should search the foreshore for nodules that have ammonites or for loose ammonites that have been washed out. You need to look at the nodules that contain parts of ammonites showing, as sometimes all you need is a tiny part of an ammonite to be revealed for it to turn out to be a beautiful specimen after preparation. Further along, a wide range of belemnites can also be found.
During the winter months, the Belemnite Stone Bed is exposed, which is full of crinoids, belemnites, ammonites and microfossils.
Other fossils: It may not look much, but all you need to find a nodule containing an ammonite is for just a small part of the ammonite to be showing. Such a nodule will require further work at home. You can find them all over the beach, but only about half of them contain fossils. However, if you try to split them using a geological hammer, splitting hammer or chisel, you will break the fossil, as the fossil is softer than the nodule.
Of course ammonites, belemnites and other fossils can be found on the foreshore requiring no work, but these are likely to be made of pyrite, will be less well preserved, and will decay over time. Ammonites like this are best stored in a dry place in plastic specimen boxes (which are available from UKGE Ltd – see our ‘What to Bring’ page). We also advise adding a sachet of silica gel, which will help to remove the moisture from the air and slow the process of decay.
Some of the best ammonites can be found in the Belemnite Stone Bed. This tends to be exposed during winter months or during scouring conditions, and can be found at the base of the cliff, just before you get to the headland at Golden Cap. The ammonites are found within this layer, but you will need a hammer and chisel to get these out. There is a vast number of ammonite species at Seatown.
Fossil preparation: The best way to prepare fossils from the nodules is by using etchers, fine pointed instruments, air preparation tools or very fine chisels. Work at removing a very small amount of matrix at a time. It takes two to three hours, during which you simply cut around the nodule and eventually the fossil will see the light. Because these ammonites are not pyritic, they are well preserved and will not decay.
At Golden Cap, the Upper Greensand can be seen for miles around – it even seems to glow in the dark and gives rise to the name ‘Golden Cap’. (It is also the highest cliff in southern England.) This and the Gault Clay, which is below the greensand, make up the top 60m of the cliff and is Cretaceous in age.
Below this, 22m of Down Cliff Sand marks the start of the Jurassic formations. Resting on the base of these sands is the ‘Starfish Bed’, from which fossil starfish can very occasionally be found. These are more common at Thorncombe Beacon, because the beds are much lower and slightly thicker there.
The Eype Clay takes up 45m of the cliff and contains the Eype Nodule Bed. Below this are the Three Tiers and then the Green Ammonite Member makes up the remaining 34m.
During scouring conditions and on the lower parts of the foreshore, the Belemnite Marl Member can also be seen, which yields a wide range of well-preserved belemnites, ammonites and microfossils. However, this bed is normally obscured by beach sand during summer months.
Common sense when collecting at all locations should be used and prior knowledge of tide times is essential. During winter months, this area of coastline can be dangerous, as the sea always reaches the base of the cliff. Sometimes during storms, the sea does not even retreat, so extra care must be taken. And, once you are past the headland at Seatown, you cannot tell how high the sea is back at the beach at Seatown. Therefore, return as the tide turns. In addition, the cliffs at Seatown are extremely high and you should keep well away from the base of the cliff, as rock falls are very common. Hard hats are recommended at all times.
Most of the fossils at Seatown (Golden Cap) are found on the foreshore in small nodules. Breaking open these nodules with hammers will break the fossils, since they are softer than the surrounding rock matrix. Therefore, it is best to take the nodules back home and, using a knife or a very fine chisel, gently remove the matrix, bit by bit. Microfossils can also be found at this location, but you will need a microscope and sieve to see them. Hard hats are recommended as a safety precaution against falling debris from the high cliffs.
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