Parton Bay

Parton Bay is just north of Whitehaven and yields a variety of Carboniferous fossils from a mix of shale and limestone. There are no cliffs here, but material has been washed from the south and dumped from the former steel works and the coal mine that supplied it, containing plant remains, fish scales and corals. It is a safe and easy location, and is ideal for children.


♦ On the A595 from Workington to Whitehaven, pass Distington and Howgate until you get to the roundabout.
♦ From here, continue on the A595, taking the second right turn into Parton. Follow the road and, at the junction, turn right onto the road that runs alongside the railway track.
♦ The is a car park on the left with a walkway through a tunnel under the railway track. Take care when walking through the tunnel. It is dark with a lot of broken glass lying around. It will lead onto the foreshore of Parton Bay.
♦ From here, simply search the foreshore walking north.

♦ Ref: 54.571744, 3.579699
♦ Grid: NX 97882 20699
♦ Nearest Postcode: CA28 6PA
♦ Ref: 54.571744, 3.579699


FIND FREQUENCY: ♦♦♦♦ – The foreshore is full of various carboniferous rocks, which is quite extensive, so there is usually plenty of material to look through. Most fossils can be found by splitting the shale
CHILDREN: ♦♦♦♦ – It is a very short walk from the car park and there are no cliffs to worry about. The foreshore is also easy going and safe for children.
ACCESS: ♦♦♦♦ – There is excellent and quick access to this site, but care needs to be taken walking through the dark tunnel.
TYPE: – Parton Bay is a foreshore location. Rocks are not found in situ, but are instead washed up from nearby locations and deposited in this bay. They come especially from the old steel works and the coal mine, which Carboniferous coal measure and Carboniferous Limestone spoil along the coast. It also comes from the cliffs between Whitehaven and Parton Bay to the south.


Fossil plants are the most common find, especially roots and fragments of Calamites. Since a lot of this material has been washed from the cliffs to the south, you could find any of the documented 30 recorded species of plant remains found of the Whitehaven, including the most common: Annularia, Neuropteris and Asterophyllites.



Marine fossils, bivalves and fish remains are also common, but these (along with coral pebbles from Carboniferous Limestone) would have come from the spoil that was dumped by the old steel works and coal mine. In fact, this entire area was well known for its many coal mines during the peak of the steel production here.


Something else to look out for is sea-polished glass. This comes from a very old bottle factory and can be picked up all over Parton Bay. Some locals collect it, selling it in local shops and turning into it mosaics.



There are no in situ rocks on the foreshore, but most of the rocks are from a similar age to Whitehaven, including the Westphalian (Bolsovian-aged) siltstones of the Silesian (Upper Carboniferous).

The shale of the cliffs to the south and the ironstone nodules, are all part of the Whitehaven Sandstone Formation. In addition, Carboniferous Limestone and various other Carboniferous rocks, dumped as spoil from the old steel works and coal mine, can also be seen.

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You can actually pick up pieces of sea-polished coral pebbles without any tools, but you are unlikely to find any of the plant or fish remains without splitting the shale. Therefore, a good splitting hammer, a chisel and eye protection are recommended.


Be careful when walking through the tunnel – there is lots of broken glass and other potentially dangerous material left on the ground (including needles and syringes). Other than this, with no cliffs, this is a very safe location.


Access is permitted and there are no restrictions at this site. Hammering and collecting are allowed, but please follow our code of conduct.

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