Southerndown is a Jurassic coastal location that closely resembles the classic Lias sites of Somerset. The early Blue Lias is mostly thickly bedded limestones, with thin shale bands. The limestones are full of bivalves, with occasional ammonites. They sometimes also yield reptile remains and fish.
♦ Southerndown is located on the coast, south of Bridgend. It can be reached by the B4524 and then by taking the road through the village towards Dunraven Bay.
♦ Dunraven Bay is a sandy beach, popular with families, and both sides contain fossiliferous Lias rocks. Park at the car park (this is private and a full day charge rate applies) and then walk down to the shore. The best area is towards the southeast, but fossils can also be found to the northwest of the bay.♦ Ref: 51.446338, -3.606273
FIND FREQUENCY: ♦♦♦♦ – Fossils from Southerndown are common, but are mostly bivalves, with the most common being Gryphaea. Ammonites can also be found, but are less common. Reptiles and fish remains do turn up, but again are fairly rare. Most of the fossils are found in the hard limestone layers.
CHILDREN: ♦♦♦♦♦ – This is an excellent location for children. It is an easy walk, with a sandy beach, food, toilets and plenty to do. There is also a lovely old castle, which has been turned into gardens and is free to visit (and handy if waiting for the tide to go out).
ACCESS: ♦♦♦♦♦ – A car park at the bay provides quick and easy access to the shore. This is a private car park, which is charged at an ‘all day’ rate, although the fee is reasonable. Nearby, food and drink can be obtained from huts, and toilets are also on site. Once on the beach, it is easy to get to either side of the bay, but the tide comes in very high, so you will need to visit on a falling or low tide. Visiting two to three hours around high tide will result in both sides of the bay being inaccessible and the sandy beach not being visible. While waiting for the tide, there is a lovely walk up to an old castle, which has been turned into gardens. It is free to visit and has some wonderful walks.
TYPE: – Fossils can be collected from the foreshore rocks and the boulders are full of fossils. This site is a SSSI, so hammering the bedrock is strictly prohibited. However, due to the hardness of the rocks, it is almost impossible to extract fossils from the bedrock without damaging the fossil, but they are easily collected from the loose boulders. Gryphaea shells can even be picked up loose among the shingle.
This is a popular location due to its small beautiful sandy bay, wonderful walks and free entry into an old castle, which has been turned into public gardens. You will definitely find bivalves, as they are everywhere, with Gryphaea being the most common. Ammonites and reptiles can also be found, but are less common. Both sides of the bay can be visited, but the southeast tends to have thicker layers of shale, which is exposed at foreshore level. This is where most of the rare reptile remains can be found. The northwest end of the bay and beyond only exposes the thick limestone, which form tall foreshore platforms. This is where most of the Gryphaea shells come from. Splitting these bivalve-packed limestone blocks normally yields some good, well-preserved specimens.
The Lower Lias at Southerndown is similar to that at Watchet, which is just the other side of the Bristol Channel. The rocks are early Blue Lias, which mostly consist of thickly bedded limestone, with thin layers of shale found in between. These sections show minerals such as lead sulphide and barium sulphate, deposited in the limestone about 200 million years ago. At low tide, Triassic deposits dated at 250 million years, can be seen extending for 300m out to sea.
Common sense when collecting at all locations should always be used and prior knowledge of tide times is essential. The cliffs at Southerndown are very high and cliff falls frequently occur along this coast. Therefore, keep clear of them and, if you are searching below the cliffs, ensure that you wear a hard hat at all times. Even during the summer months, the tides reach the base of the cliff. It is very easy to become cut off, so make sure you collect on a falling tide.
A hammer is needed to break the loose boulders, since the limestone rocks are very hard. Occasionally, loose fossils can be collected from the shingle, especially Gryphaea shells.
This site is an SSSI. This Special Site of Scientific Interest, means you can visit the site, but hammering the bedrock is not permitted.