Maer Cliff is accessed from the popular tourist beach of Northcott Mouth. The most common finds here are from the Upper Carboniferous and consist of plant and fish remains, together with burrows and tracks within nodules. In addition, plants and fish scales can be found loose within the layers of shale. The site is easily accessed and suitable for children.
♦ Maer Cliff runs south of Northcott Mouth to the northern end of Bude. While it is possible to visit from Bude, the walk from there is over 2km and it is only safe at low tide.
♦ If you plan to spend time examining the rocks, there would simply not be enough time for the return trip. Therefore, it is far better to park at Northcott Mouth. Heading northwards from the A39, at Stratton there is a minor road on the left that will take you to Poughill (also signposted to Flexbury).
♦ There is another shorter road from the A39 to Poughill, but this has a very steep hill. At Poughill, and immediately after the church, take a right turn and follow the road until just before Maer, where you should take the right hand turn, which will take you to Northcott Mouth. There is plenty of parking here.
♦ Once on the shore, head south.
♦ Ref: 50.84791°N, 4.55439°W
FIND FREQUENCY: ♦♦ – The nodule bed here is not always exposed and, even when it is, it tends to be over collected with most of the nodules removed. Plant fossils can be found loose in the shale, but are much less common than at other locations within the area.
CHILDREN: ♦♦♦♦ – This location is a popular tourist beach, with a sandy beach managed by coastguards. Please keep children away from the cliffs and keep an eye on the tides.
ACCESS: ♦♦♦♦ – This site has an excellent car park with toilets. There is easy access and it is just a short walk before you can start to find fossils.
TYPE: – Fossils are mostly found in nodules contained in layers of shale. However, plant fossils can also be found in the loose shale. Care should be taken when collecting near the cliffs. It is best to examine rocks that are near to more obviously stable cliff sections (many of the bigger rocks on the beach are solid and present vertical faces, but are unlikely to collapse) and keep away from the edges if near to and on top of vertical sections.
Maer cliff consists of mostly sandstone and mudstones, but finely laminated layers of black shale are also present, which yield plant remains and fish scales. Stems and other plant debris are the most likely finds. Over the years, these beds have become over collected. However, due to much of the coastline having vertical or nearly vertical strata, new beds do crop up from time to time, so you never know what you might come across or see in the rocks.
Of particular interest at this location is a siderite septarian nodule bed within the shale, similar to that featured in our Upton Cross guide. At Maer cliff, they are about 15cm thick and can contain worm burrows, plant remains and also the fish, Rhabdoderma elegans. Below the base of the shale, a bed of ripple marks with Xiphosurid (horseshoe crab) tracks is also present.
The rocks at Maer Cliff are from the Bude Formation (Upper Carboniferous ~310 mya), which is Langsettian (Westphalian A) to Bolsovian (Westphalian C) in age. This formation mostly consists of sandstones, but grey mudstones and beds of finely laminated shale also occur between the sandstones. Inconsistent layers of ironstone also occur in several areas along this cliff. These beds dip at 80o and are perfect for demonstrating sedimentary structures on a small scale. The beds show parallel and cross-lamination, graded beds, pseudo-nodules, flame structures, water escape structures, slump-beds and many more geological features within just a short walk. These features are studied at university level geology and make this an excellent, educational daytrip.
Common sense when collecting at all locations should always be used and you should check tide times before visiting, as you can easily be cut off by the tide. In addition, the cliffs can be dangerous, so please keep away from their base at all times. The foreshore is accessible for about three to five hours before and after spring low tides.
You will need a chisel ended hammer or geological hammer and chisel for this location, since the fossils are found in layers of shale.
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 – Maer Cliff