This location is highly fossiliferous, with chalk packed with ammonites, echinoids, brachiopods, bivalves and crinoids. This is one of the best chalk locations in the UK and is full of surprises. It is highly recommended to all fossil hunters who love the chalk.
♦ To access the cliffs at Eastbourne, you can park along the side of the road at the seafront at Holywell. There are toilets nearby. Parking is permitted along most of the seafront road at Eastbourne. However, the best place is found by continuing along the road heading towards Beachy Head, until just before the hill where the road veers off away from the coast. From here, you should find several ways down to the beach by means of paths, steps or roads.
♦ These all lead down to the beach. From here, head towards the chalk.
♦ Ref: (TV 60155 97165 – 50.75283°N, 0.26906°E)
FIND FREQUENCY: ♦♦♦♦♦ – The chalk here is packed with ammonites, echinoids, brachiopods, bivalves and crinoids. The cliffs are constantly being washed out, with some major falls in recent years. This makes Eastbourne one of the best chalk locations in the UK.
CHILDREN: ♦♦♦ – Eastbourne is suitable for families, but not recommended for small children. Please keep away from the base of the cliffs at all times. Once past the headland, the foreshore becomes slippery, with large boulders.
ACCESS: ♦♦♦ – Eastbourne is easy to get to and the chalk is not too far to walk to. Please check tide times before visiting, as the tide always reaches the base of the cliff near the headlands and you can easily get cut off.
TYPE: – Fossils at Eastbourne are mostly found simply lying on the foreshore in the fallen rocks or as flint moulds. However, they can also be found in the cliff face, but it is inadvisable to hammer these out for safety reasons.
The most common fossils at Eastbourne are brachiopods and inoceramid bivalves. However, ammonites can also be found and many of the middle chalk rocks here (the light grey coloured ones) reveal ammonites when split. Additionally, ammonites can be seen in many of the rocks, sometimes broken and worn, but sometimes whole.
There is a variety of excellent echinoids, many of which can be found simply lying on the foreshore and with little prepping required, as the sea has done all the hard work. In addition fossils such as sharks teeth and fish scales can be found, as can corals and sponges, the latter of which are quite common.
Erosion at Eastbourne in recent years has been so extensive that sea defences are fast changing. There are a number of groynes with steps and large blocks to protect the cliff, but this appears to be making little difference to the rate of erosion along this coastline. Between the groynes, and indeed past the last groyne, you can start to find fossils. However, the best place is from the last groyne to Cow Gap. (Cow gap to Beachy Head is covered in our other guide to Beachy Head.)
The best place to look is on the foreshore and at the base of the cliffs. Most of the fossils are from higher beds, so they can only be found in the fallen rocks along the foreshore.If you can see a slightly worn ammonite in a block of chalk, often sectioned by wave action, use a hammer and wide chisel to hit about 1cm away from the fossil (or more if you are unsure) and work your way round. Usually, the ammonite comes out intact with the underside remaining in perfect condition.
The Upper Cretaceous Chalk at Eastbourne is highly fossiliferous and considered to be one of the best Chalk sites in the UK. The erosional rate is fast, so fresh material is constantly hitting the beach from the cliffs above, resulting in a good yield of fossils..
Eastbourne and the surrounding South Downs and Chalk cliffs reveal a marine environment, which at Eastbourne dates to 86 Mya. The chalk here belongs to the White Chalk Sub-Group in the top section of the cliffs. At the base, West Melbury Marly Chalk Formation (of the former Lower Chalk, now the Grey Chalk Subgroup) occurs and is rich in ammonites and bivalves.. Further west, the Zig Zag Chalk Formation crops out and eventually the Holywell Nodular Chalk Formation and New Pit Chalk Formation (of the previously named Middle Chalk but now also part of the White Chalk Sub-Group) comes down to beach level.
The Grey Chalk Subgroup here is distinguished by its light grey colour and may contain ammonites, such as Mantelliceras. Echinoids Sternotaxis, Micraster and Echinocorys are common and can often be found on the beach, either as specimens that have washed out of their matrix or as flint casts. The crinoid Marsupites and the small sponge Porosphaera are also found, along with various corals.
Common sense when collecting at all locations should always be used and you should check tide times before going. There are three main dangers are at Eastbourne: 1. Tidal conditions. You must turn before the tide starts to come in. We recommend visiting Eastbourne on a falling tide. 2. Falling debris from the high cliffs. Stay away from the foot of the cliff, especially if hitting rocks, as vibrations from hammer blows can cause debris to fall. Hard hats should always be worn. 3. A slippery foreshore.
Most fossils at Eastbourne can be found on the foreshore in fallen rocks or as loose fossils. You will require a hammer and chisel to get some of these out.
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.