Bracklesham Bay

There are nearly always people collecting at Bracklesham Bay. Fossils can simply be found washed up on the sand, and you can normally come back with bags full of decent finds, especially sharks’ teeth. During scouring tides, the fossiliferous Bracklesham Formation form the Eocene is exposed and the beach can be covered with ray and sharks’ teeth, and also bivalve shells. Occasionally, you can find corals, but you will definitely find lots of the often overlooked, large, single-celled foraminifera (Nummulites laevigatus).


♦ Take the B2198 to Bracklesham and East Wittering.
♦ The road heads straight to the seafront and into a large car park. Park here and then walk down to the shore. There are also toilets and a small cafe at the site.
♦ Ref: (SZ 80235 96309 – 50.76083°N, 0.86379°W)


FIND FREQUENCY: ♦♦♦♦♦ – Fossils at Bracklesham can be found in most conditions, simply lying on the sand of the foreshore. The best conditions are during scouring tides, especially during the spring.
CHILDREN: ♦♦♦♦♦ – Bracklesham Bay is the best location in the UK for children to collect fossils. There are no cliffs and there is a sandy beach, shallow water, easy access and fossils found lying on the sand. It is no wonder that so many schools visit every the location every year. However, there has been a recent increase in kite-surfacing at the beach, so care should be taken if this is taking place.
ACCESS: ♦♦♦♦♦ – The beach is easy to find and there is parking on the seafront. This has to be one of the most easily accessible locations in the UK and a flat, sandy beach makes it ideal for everyone.
TYPE: – Fossils at Bracklesham Bay can be found simply lying on the sand of the foreshore. The best conditions are during scouring tides, especially during the spring, which expose the clay below beach level. However, you must remember that the Bracklesham Formation is not always exposed on the foreshore and you must visit on a falling tide, as the best time to collect is just before low tide. There are no cliffs here, but the dangers are soft clay during scouring conditions, which can occur during the early spring and early autumn. At these times, it can be easy to get stuck and, consequently, the tide then becomes a danger.


Bracklesham Bay is a popular location for ray and sharks’ teeth, bivalves and gastropods. From the Bracklesham Group, a wide variety of species of shark and molluscs can be found. Fish remains are also common here. Occasionally, you can find corals and you will definitely find the often overlooked, large, single-celled foraminifera (Nummulites laevigatus). Bracklesham is an ideal location for children and all the family, and is a classic site for fossils. You can simply walk along the beach and pick up fossils in the sand. During scouring conditions, you can wet sieve the Bracklesham Formation, which is exposed along the beach. However, you will need to visit on a retreating tide, preferably one hour before low tide to give enough time for you to have a good look. Even if you don’t find sharks’ teeth, you should at least come away with some nice shells.

There are at least 70 different species (including rays) to be found, as well as other vertebrate fossils, such as turtles, crocodiles and sea snakes, as well as rare bones of birds and mammals. All these fossils tend to appear very dark, almost black, against the wet beach sand. In life, most of these would have been white, but have become stained black during the millions of years of burial in the sediments. Until they get to recognise sharks’ teeth, many people also pick up small black flints, bits of seaweed and fragments of fossil wood (lignite). However, the teeth are always there, somewhere, as sharks shed their teeth regularly and grow new ones. A single tooth may be in use for as little as six weeks and, in its lifetime, a shark may produce 20,000 teeth.

Among the more common fossil vertebrates are the rays (particularly eagle rays). These leave two types of fossil remains – teeth and spines. Their teeth are unlike those of sharks, because the rays feed on shellfish, which they crush between tooth plates or palates. They are smooth on the crushing surface and have small ridges on the opposite surface (the root of the tooth). As fossils, the separate teeth are far more common than the complete palate. These give their name to the Palate Bed, although they are not as common as the name might suggest. The rays also have tail spines, which are normally up to 30mm long, with fine barbs running down each edge. Many different types can be found.

Most beach-collected fossils require little or no treatment, other than a gentle scrub and soaking to remove the sea salt. Delicate specimens may be hardened with a dilute solution of PVA. Sharks teeth and other vertebrate material will need no extra treatment to preserve them. Shell collecting from the fossil beds usually needs to be done very carefully, as they are can be extremely delicate (except for the Venericor planicosta). A pointed trowel and collecting tray is essential, plus lots of gentle cleaning afterwards.



At Bracklesham Bay, the Bracklesham Beds from the Eocene are exposed below beach level. This gives a plentiful supply of fossils. During scouring conditions, clay and sand formations can be seen exposed on the foreshore. The Bracklesham Group is divided into four beds, which are all present here. Walking east or west from the car park will take you over the beds, which are, from west to east: The Wittering Formation. The Earnley Sand, The Marsh Farm Formation, The Selsey Sand.

At most times of the year, fossils are deposited on the sand, being from the Lutetian stage (46 Mya) of the Bracklesham Group of sediments within the Hampshire Basin of West Sussex. Within the mid-Eocene clay beneath can be found a vast number of gastropods, bivalves, shark and ray teeth, foraminifera, coral, fish and turtle remains and other marine fossils.

From the car park and approximately 1 km towards Selsey, the clays are of the Earnley Formation. These grey clays are exposed as ‘mushroom’ shaped pedestals of clay, which are fully exposed on very low tides but even in less favourable conditions, will distribute their fossils on the sandy beach.

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Common sense when collecting at all locations should be used and you should always check tide times.


The fossils from Bracklesham Bay are found on the foreshore and all you will need is good eyesight. Hammers and so on are NOT required. However, a trowel with a long handle is especially useful.


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.

It is important to follow our ‘Code of Conduct’ when collecting fossils or visiting any site. Please also read our ‘Terms and Conditions


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