The most productive location for lobster fragments – found in small yellow nodules – this small location with its tiny cliffs can bring some nice surprises. Sharks’ teeth and fish remains can also be found. There are several species of lobster to be collected and it is also rich in microfossils.
♦ Head towards Mayland in Essex and, at the west of the village, is a turning towards Maylandsea. Follow this road and it will veer to the left. From here, it is best to drive down the first road on the right (North Drive), then park at the bottom of the road, where a footpath will take you along the banks of the River Blackwater.
♦ Walk to the right (eastward) along the path and follow this round the edge of the embankment until you see clay on the foreshore. This is just past a small, shaded area under a few trees. Access to the foreshore can be found just beyond the end of the sea defence, past the bushes.
♦ Ref: 51.68859°N, 0.75251°E
FIND FREQUENCY: ♦♦♦♦ – Maylandsea can at times be very productive, but much depends on the beach and tidal conditions. You can usually find lobster fragments, sharks’ teeth and, occasionally, exceptional lobster specimens. This location is highly productive for microfossils. These can be found by taking home samples of the fine shingle and grit exposed on the foreshore. Just a small amount will yield forams, sea urchin spines, teeth, bone fragments, ostracods and much more.
CHILDREN: ♦♦♦♦ – This location is ideal for children. The only advice is to avoid the areas close to the river where it can be soft and muddy. It is possible to become stuck in the mud, so keep away from these areas.
ACCESS: ♦♦♦ – There is easy access with parking fairly close by. Access is by a walk of about 800m along a footpath, but it is an easy track.
TYPE: – This is a foreshore a location and a ‘hands and knees job’. By crawling along the beach, you should be able to find the fossils amongst the shingle. It is best visited on a warm, dry day.
Sharks’ teeth, fish bones and teeth, and vertebrae can be found, but the most common finds are lobster pieces in small, light yellow nodules. The carapaces, claws and other body parts can be seen sticking out of these nodules. Whole lobsters can be found, but are obviously less common. Other fossils include seeds, bivalves, freshwater gastropods, pieces of crinoids and crabs. There are several different species of lobster, including Hoploparia, which is the most common. Sea urchin spines from the chalk are quite common. Other chalk fossils can also be found.
To collect fossils from Maylandsea, it is best to crawl on your hands and knees, and search through the shingle. It is very easy to miss smaller (and sometimes more important) finds by just walking along the shores. Collecting is best done around two hours before low tide during a warm, sunny day, when the shingle has dried out. You might like to take something to lean on, otherwise you may get backache. The best place to look is along the tide line, where fossils get caught up in the seaweed and, below this area, where recent tides have shifted material.
The fine grits and shingle on the foreshore are highly rich in microfossils, yielding a large number of forams, sea urchin spines, crinoids, sharks’ teeth and other fish remains, and much more. These can be collected by taking home bags of grit and shingle from the foreshore and wet washing. A microscope or field lens will then be required to study them.
The London Clay (Eocene ~50 mya) here is approximately one metre above the Isselicrinus zone. The cliff itself is around two or maybe three metres high, with a distinctive layer of large, flattish nodules at the southern end of the cliff. The London clay here belongs to the middle of Division B. There is also a thin layer of chalk above the London clay in places, deposited as erratics by glaciation. Exposures of the chalk are limited and quite poor. Holocene deposits above the clay yield a variety of recent remains such as cow and sheep teeth.
Common sense when collecting at all locations should always be used and you should be aware of tide times before you go. At the end of the low cliff, there are some sharp wooden stakes acting as a sea wall. Keep clear of these as they would be unpleasant to fall on and you could be seriously hurt. However, these stakes are away from the actual collecting location, so stick to the London Clay (possibly, literally).
Maylandsea is a foreshore location, where most fossils are collected by crawling along the beach on your hands and knees. If you are interested in microfossils, take some sample bags and a small trowel. Scoop up samples of the fine grit and shingle and place in a bag to view at home. A hand lens is also very useful onsite.
This site is a site of special scientific interest (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, download the PDF from Natural England.