To the north of the sandy Gosford Bay beach is an outcrop that is incredibly rich in Carboniferous marine fossils. Corals, bryozoans, crinoids and brachiopods are all very common. They are easy to collect and the location is ideal for children, especially for finding the tumbled coral pebbles. The sandy beach is full of pools of water, making a fun family day out, especially in the summer.
♦ From Longniddry, follow the A198 towards Aberlady.
♦ Parking is roadside, along the A198, just before where the road turns inland away from the coast. There is also good parking at Gosford House, at the middle of the bay.
♦ Climb down from the grass embankment and, if the tide is low, walk diagonally across the bay to Craigielaw Point. If the tide is in, you will have a much longer walk, having to walk around the coastal footpath.
♦ Ref: 56.010457°N, 2.8918236°W
♦ Grid: NT 44492 80084
♦ Nearest Postcode: EH32 0PR
FIND FREQUENCY: ♦♦♦♦ – The sites are rich in fossils, which can easily be collected and can be found all year round.
CHILDREN: ♦♦♦♦ – This location is suitable for children, when the tide is out. The large flat beach makes for easy walking, and splashing in the many pools of water can be a lot of fun. Once at the rocks, it is easy to collect.
ACCESS: ♦♦♦ – The walk is three quarters of a mile from the parking area when the tide is out at which time you can walk directly across the bay. If doing this, either walk barefoot or wear wellingtons, as the sand has ankle-deep pools. When the tide is in, the walk becomes about two miles, as you have to walk around the bay.
TYPE: – Fossils are found in a large foreshore platform, which forms the beginning of the Aberlady cliffs. They can be found both in the bedrock ledges and also loose as pebbles and cobbles on the beach.
When you arrive at Craigielaw Point, it does not immediately look obvious that fossils can be found here. However, once you start looking around the foreshore outcrops, you will find that fossils are everywhere – providing you look in the right places. There are several areas of rocky outcrops along the beach from the parking area and these can be a fair walk. OS 1:25,000 maps are highly recommended, which show the exact location of Craigielaw Point. Alternatively, take a GPS and use the coordinates detailed in the directions above.
The entire ledge is made up of the Blackbyre Limestone and contains the best beds to look in. These are full of compound corals, such as Caninia and Zaphrentis, and large sections of Lithostrotion junceum and L. pauciradiale can be seen. Brachiopods are common, including Eomarginifera, Spirifer, Avonia, Pustula, Composita and Pugnoides. Bryozoans and crinoids are also very common, along with pebbles consisting of beach-polished Lithostrotion corals. This exposure runs for about 200m, providing a nice area to focus on. The rock can be fairly hard, but soft when weathered at the surface.
Heading in a north-easterly direction towards Craigielaw Point, the complex Carboniferous geology comprises the following.
Blackhall Limestone (previously Lower Skateraw Limestone). This well-jointed limestone is about one metre thick and is a hard grey rock containing crinoids and brachiopods. Carefully searching below the overhanging limestone will reveal about two metres of mudstone underlain by three to five centimetres of coal. This is followed downwards by a seatearth, sandy shale and sandstone. About 27m northeast of the limestone, a conspicuous false-bedded and ripple-marked sandstone crops out.
Hurlet Limestone (previously Upper Longcraig Limestone). Below the false-bedded sandstone, there is shale then flaggy limestone on top of pale-brown limestone with a nodular or ‘rubbly’ top surface. This lower part is dolomitic and contains many crinoid fragments. It forms a prominent scarp about 8.5m high, which continues seawards to form the Long Craig. There has been considerable undercutting of the soft shale and coal below this limestone. In places, the coal reaches 25cm in thickness and is underlain by a seatearth. It is part of the Lower Limestone Formation, which, in turn, is a component of the Clackmannan Group of Brigantian age.
Blackbyre Limestone (previously Middle Longcraig Limestone) and Faults. Towards the east for a few metres, there are many fallen blocks of limestone before the lowest limestone is seen. This is a particularly easy limestone to recognise, as it is yellow-brown in colour and made up largely of colonies of Lithostrotion junceum and L. pauciradiale. A field-name such as ‘spaghetti-rock’ or ‘macaroni-rock’ suggests itself immediately. The limestone is extremely fossiliferous, containing compound corals, as well as genera such as Caninia and Zaphrentis, and the brachiopods Eomarginifera, Spirifer, Avonia, Pustula, Composita and Pugnoides.
Common sense when collecting at all locations should always be used and prior knowledge of tide times is essential. The sea retreats a long way out and, during low tide, a large sandy beach allows an easy walk straight across the bay. When the tide is higher, the walk is much harder and it can be easy to lose your way. It is also easy to be cut off by the tide.
It is far easier to cut across the large sandy bay when the tide is lower. This will make the walk quicker and avoid having to climb over many jiggered rocks. However, the beach is full of ankle-deep pools of water, so either wear wellingtons or walk barefoot until you reach the headland.
You will need a chisel pick, a hammer and chisel, along with safety glasses. The rocks vary from being soft to very hard, so try to collect from the softer rocks. The fossils in the harder rocks break easy and are best left for others to see and photograph.
This site is an SSSI. This Special Site of Scientific Interest, means you can visit the site, but hammering the bedrock is not permitted.