California Quarry

An old, cliff top quarry, situated along the coastal footpath near Boscastle, was once rich in trilobites. Today, most of the quarry has fallen into the sea, but a small part still exists with blocks that can yield fossils when split.

DIRECTIONS

♦ Take the B3263 to Boscastle. If approaching from the north, follow the road down and around the popular tourist part of the town, where the car park and toilets are situated. Continue on this road, which ascends the hill and, near to the top, you will see a road that forks off to the right. Immediately after taking a right turn, you will see parking for three cars in a parking area cut out of the rock.
♦ Note that, since the infamous floods of 2004, parking is a problem in the area. However, more spaces can be found up the hill from the cutting, at the end of the road.
♦ Alternatively, although much further to walk, you can park in the main large car park and walk from there. From the cutting, walk up the hill and you will find a sign for a footpath. Follow this up the hill until you reach the top and then take the footpath left until you reach the church.
♦ Go past the church to the west towards the sea and then go southwest to the lookout station, which is prominent on the hillside. Once you reach a junction in the footpath, take the left hand path (heading south), away from the lookout station and continue down the steep steps.
♦ The small quarry can be seen on the right hand side, a little further on.
♦ Ref: 50.68494°N, 4.70545°W

PROFILE INFO

FIND FREQUENCY: ♦ – Trilobites were once common at this location, but the quarry has been gradually falling into the sea for many years. There are still plenty of blocks to look through and split, but they are becoming harder to find. However, trilobites can still sometimes be found.
CHILDREN: ♦ – Besides a long walk, half of the small quarry has fallen into the sea, which has left a sudden and dangerous drop. This location is certainly too dangerous for children.
ACCESS: ♦♦ – If you manage to park in the cutting, you will make the walk a little shorter. While it is only an 800m walk from this small parking area, it feels much further with the steep climb up the hill and the steps down. If you have to park in the main car park, the walk to the site will be about 2.5km.
TYPE: – If you manage to park in the cutting, you will make the walk a little shorter. While it is only an 800m walk from this small parking area, it feels much further with the steep climb up the hill and the steps down. If you have to park in the main car park, the walk to the site will be about 2.5km.

FOSSIL HUNTING

Within the quarry, you will see many slabs and slates. If you look carefully, some are plain grey while others have yellow marks and streaks, which are earthy lenticles and ferruginous streaks. It is in these slabs that trilobites can be found. During 1961 this quarry was extensively researched and was rich in fossils. In particular, two species of trilobite was commonly found (Cyrtosymbole cf. drewerensis and Cyrtosymbole (Waribole) sp). Today, these specimens are much rarer with just the head or tails normally being found.
Below the quarry and only exposed in fallen blocks on the foreshore, a third trilobite species can be found – Cyrtosymbole verneuill. However, access to the shore at the time of writing is not possible.

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GEOLOGY

Dinantian slates, known as the Yeolmbridge Beds, are exposed in the small cliff top quarry. These are Tournaisian age and are grey with some having yellow earthy lenses of rock and ferruginous streaks at the top and at lower levels (which are not accessible from the quarry). In general, they are pale green.

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SAFETY

This can be a very dangerous location, since half the quarry has now fallen into the sea, with one edge having a steep and dangerous drop down to the sea. Keep WELL AWAY from the quarry edge, as these cliffs are very unstable.

EQUIPMENT

A splitting hammer, together with safety goggles, is definitely required here to split the slabs. Please note that you can only split the loose slabs due to SSSI restrictions on striking the bedrock itself. However, most of the bedrock that was once exposed has now fallen into the sea.

ACCESS RIGHTS

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 – California Quarry

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