Category: Dorset

Dorset is home to the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site and is by far the most popular area in the UK for collecting fossils. Lyme Regis is the fossil capital, with plenty of fossil shops, museums and guided tours, and even the lampposts are sculptured into ammonites. In fact, ammonites are the most common find in Dorset. However, some of the most popular sites, such as Charmouth, Lyme Regis and Seatown, can have so much competition that you may end up coming home with very little, especially during the busy summer months when the beaches are full of fossil hunters. However, Dorset does have so many locations to choose from, including sites with Cretaceous chalk and several locations on the Isle of Portland from the Upper Jurassic to the Lower Cretaceous, that it is an area you just must visit.

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Keates Quarry

Two separate locations near Worth Matravers provide an opportunity to see where, 140mya, sauropod dinosaurs gathered at the shoreline of a shallow lagoon and to visit their incredible trackways. The nearby quarry provides bivalves, gastropods, fish remains, turtle bones and carapace fragments, mammal teeth and bones, and plant remains from this bygone environment. Cretaceous, Quarry (permission required) and Attraction, Rating: ♦♦♦♦♦

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Cogden Beach

The beach at Cogden, near West Bexington, is next to Hive Beach at Burton Bradstock. It is a popular walk for families and dog walkers, with Hive Beach cafe and toilets a short stroll away. At Cogden Beach, the cliffs are made up of the Jurassic Frome Clay and bivalves and brachiopods are the most common fossils. Jurassic, Cliffs and Foreshore, Rating: ♦♦♦

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Pirates Cove

The small section of Corallian cliff at Pirates cove provides the collector with an abundant and varied fauna of gastropods and bivalves, as well as echinoids. With easy access, provided the tide is favourable, it is an ideal spot for a productive hour or two, not far from other sites. Jurassic, Cliffs and Foreshore, Rating: ♦♦♦

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Langton Herring

Langton Herring is both a productive and geologically interesting site. The long, but stunning walk along the South West Coastal path has some wonderful scenery. This location is really for the specialist collector or those who love walking. The site yields a wide variety of brachiopods, echinoids, worm tubes, bryozoans, bivalves (especially oysters) and corals, although, in recent years, it has become over collected. Jurassic, Cliffs and Foreshore, Rating: ♦♦♦

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Tidmoor Point

Tidmoor Point is a small promontory of highly productive Oxford Clay, situated along the shoreline of The Fleet lagoon, opposite Chesil Beach. Renowned for its pyrite and limonitic casts of small ammonites, the cliff here is very low. Apart from ammonites, the site is also rich in belemnites, crinoids, crabs, lobsters, sharks, reptiles, crocodiles, fish and molluscs. Jurassic, Cliffs and Foreshore, Rating: ♦♦♦♦

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Hengistbury Head

Hengistbury Head is at the most easterly end of Dorset and is a popular area for hikers. The cliffs are tall, but surrounded by water, with Christchurch Harbour just 400m round the corner to the east. These are Barton Age and are rich in fossil seeds. Therefore, this is an ideal location for the microfossil collector. Eocene, Cliffs and Foreshore, Rating: ♦♦♦

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Seatown

During scouring tides, Seatown turns into an ‘ammonite kingdom’. They can simply be picked up along the foreshore and, therefore, the location is ideal for children. There is also a superb pub with views of Golden Cap. Fossils can be found all year round, as can microfossils and minerals. Jurassic, Cliffs and Foreshore, Rating: ♦♦♦♦♦

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Charmouth

The Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site is one of the most famous and most popular Jurassic locations in the world, yielding plenty of fossils for the thousands that come collecting every year. And Charmouth is at the heart of it all. This geological guide features both the cliffs of Black Ven and Stonebarrow, and information on the local area of Charmouth. Jurassic, Cliffs and Foreshore, Rating: ♦♦♦♦♦

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Burton Bradstock

Locals wait months for ‘Burton to fall’, and when she does, her rich ammonite beds yield superb finds, with bags to bring home. Cliff falls occur every two to three years, and fossils can then be collected from the rocks on the foreshore or from any of the scree slopes. As well as ammonites, many other fossils can be found, including echinoids, shark fins, bivalves and brachiopods. Jurassic, Cliffs and Foreshore, Rating: ♦♦♦♦♦

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Poxwell Quarries

Poxwell Quarries are a couple of old, very overgrown quarries, but a small outcrop in the second quarry still reveals the productive Purbeck beds that contain well-documented insect remains. You can also find fishes, ostracods and small shells. However, you will need a microscope for viewing your finds. Jurassic, Disused Quarry, Rating: ♦♦♦♦

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Dancing Ledge

Dancing Ledge used to be a coastal quarry. The views from here are stunning, even if the fossils are poorly preserved and uncommon. You can stand on Dancing Ledge watching the waves crashing into the cliff. This is a location worth a visit just for the views. Jurassic, Disused Clifftop Quarry, Rating: ♦♦

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West Bay

West Bay continues from Burton Bradstock, but is much less productive because the Inferior Oolite beds are much thinner and cliff falls are uncommon. Fossil shells and poorly preserved ammonites can be found in the Bridport Sands. Jurassic, Cliffs and Foreshore, Rating: ♦♦

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Redcliff Point

The Oxford Clay and the Corallian Beds at Redcliff Point yield ammonites, many species of bivalves and the clay is particularly rich in reptile remains. Giant fossil oyster shells of Gryphaea dilatata are also plentiful. This location is best after scouring tides and/or rain, but you will need wellington boots or good walking boots, as the terrain is tough going at Redcliff Point.
Jurassic, Cliffs and Foreshore, Rating: ♦♦♦♦

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Perryfield Quarry

This working quarry (Perryfield Quarry) on Portland has a giant ammonite (Titanites) at its gates. Ammonites like this can be found here, but most quarries sell these and so do not allow collectors to remove these finds. However, trace fossils and molluscs can be seen in the Basal Shell Bed. Jurassic, Working Quarry, Rating: ♦♦

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Church Ope Cove

Church Cove is a peaceful location, where you can find bivalves, oysters, trace fossils and ammonites. However, it is difficult to access because the headlands (which need to be passed) are very rocky. Nevertheless, you should be able to find plenty of blocks containing the Basal Shell Bed, which are full of bivalves. Jurassic, Cliffs and Foreshore, Rating: ♦

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Portland Bill

Portland Bill is the island’s main attraction and has rocks scattered around that contain fossils. They are not very well preserved and only oysters and bivalves can be found, along with trace fossils. However, it is a nice location for a short visit. Jurassic, Disused Quarry, Spoil, Rating: ♦

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West Weare

West Weare is the best location on Isle of Portland for fossil hunting. While most of the island consists of Portland Stone, this location is Kimmeridge Clay. Most of this clay on the Isle of Portland is covered, but, here, it can be found slipped between the debris of the quarry. Jurassic, Cliffs and Foreshore, Rating: ♦♦♦

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Wyke Regis

Wyke Regis offers two locations which are rich in fossils from the Kimmeridge Clay of the Upper Jurassic. To the west, you can collect along the East Fleet, which is behind Chisel Beach. To the east, you can collect along the banks of Portland Harbour, where rocks from the Corallian can also be seen. Large oysters, plentiful bivalves, gastropods and ammonites can be collected. Bones and teeth of marine reptiles may can also be found. Jurassic, Foreshore, Rating: ♦♦♦

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Osmington Mills

This is another Jurassic location where ammonites can be found. The ammonites from Osmington Mills can be quite worn and hard work is required to get them out of the rocks. However, sometimes if you are lucky, you can find one lying on the foreshore. Jurassic, Cliffs and Foreshore, Rating: ♦♦♦

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Bowleaze Cove

The Oxford Clay and the Corallian Beds at Bowleaze Cove in Weymouth (Furzy Cliff) can yield bivalves and ammonites and in the past the clay was particularly rich in marine reptile remains. Giant fossil oyster shells are also plentiful. These locations are best after scouring tides and/or rain, so you will need wellington boots or good walking boots, as the terrain is tough at Redcliff Point. Jurassic, Cliffs and Foreshore, Rating: ♦♦♦

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Lulworth Cove

Lulworth Cove is a popular tourist location and its famous ‘Fossil Forest’ can be visited at low tide. It is ideal for children and makes for a great whole day out. However, fossils are less common than at other Dorset locations nearby. Jurassic, Cretaceous, Cliffs and Foreshore, Rating: ♦♦♦

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Ringstead Bay

Ringstead Bay is a wonderful location, with rocks and fossils from the Corallian, Kimmeridge Clay, Purbeck Beds and Portland Beds to be found. The site consists mostly of Kimmeridge Clay from the Upper Jurassic. It is rich in fossils and with easy parking, toilets and refreshments nearby; it’s an ideal, safe location for the family. The site is productive in either direction from the access point. This location is also just a short walk away from other good sites and makes for an ideal day trip. Jurassic, Cliffs and Foreshore, Rating: ♦♦♦♦

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Kimmeridge Bay

If you are intending to use Kimmeridge Bay as the start of a trip to get to other nearby sites, this can be one of the most dangerous locations for fossil hunting. The tides have cut many people off in the past. Kimmeridge Bay and the adjacent cliffs and foreshore are rich in ammonites, reptiles and shells, but the best collecting sites to the east are a long walk if you are planning to look for fossils along the coastline from Kimmeridge Bay to Chapman’s Pool. Jurassic, Cliffs and Foreshore, Rating: ♦♦♦

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Watton Cliff

Watton Cliff, part of West Cliff at West Bay and is an excellent location for collecting microfossils. While the site is also very rich in other fossils (such as brachiopods, crinoids, fish, sharks’ teeth, crocodiles, amphibians and plants), this guide concentrates more on the microfossils, including small mammals, fish, reptiles and ostracods, which are well preserved and abundant. Jurassic, Cliffs and Foreshore, Rating: ♦♦♦♦♦

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Durlston Bay

If you are interested in microfossils, tiny mammal remains, turtle shell fragments, crocodile skin fragments and fish remains, Durlston Bay is ideal. It is also a good location to take samples for wet sieving. Don’t forget your field lens when visiting. Jurassic, Cliffs and Foreshore, Rating: ♦♦♦♦

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Swanage

This Cretaceous site represents an alternative to the many Jurassic sites of Dorset. It yields fossils from the chalk, including echinoids, bivalves, brachiopods and ammonites. However, fossils here are, less common than other chalk locations in Dorset. Cretaceous, Cliffs and Foreshore, Rating: ♦♦♦

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Eype

Continuing from Seatown, what used to be known as the Beacon Limestone (formerly the Dorset Junction Bed) at Eype yields plenty of ammonites, but will require some hard work with a large geological hammer. Many of the fossils are also poorly preserved, but decent specimens do turn up, if you look hard enough. Jurassic, Cliffs and Foreshore, Rating: ♦♦♦♦

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Freshwater Bay

Freshwater Bay is the best place on the Isle of Portland to access the Portland Stone. Here mollusc’s and ammonites can be found, although the later is not common, along with trace fossils. You can collect from the cliff-top quarry or from the foreshore. Jurassic, Cliffs, Foreshore, Disused Quarry, Rating: ♦

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Studland Bay

The famous plant beds from the Poole Formation used to be found at Bournemouth, but, after the sea defence was constructed, this bed gradually became obscured and today it can hardly be seen. However, the Poole Formation can be found at Studland Bay, which also yields some plant remains. Eocene, Cretaceous, Cliffs and Foreshore, Rating: ♦♦♦

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White Nothe

Where else do you get to collect fossils from almost the full chalk successful along with the Greensand within just a few metres? This location is superb for its geology, but also for its cretaceous ammonites and other fossils. Cretaceous, Cliffs and Foreshore, Rating: ♦♦♦♦

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Thorncombe Beacon

Thorncombe Beacon yields everything from several different species of ammonites, shells (including brachiopods and bivalves), some superb starfish specimens, crinoids, belemnites and much, much more. However you often have to work hard to find them. Jurassic, Cliffs and Foreshore, Rating: ♦♦♦♦

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Lyme Regis

Lyme Regis is the most commercial fossil town in the UK, with fossil shops, museums, fossil tours and much, much more – there is no other town like it. The famous beach of Lyme Regis yields large numbers of fossils and people flock here by their thousands to try their luck. The town has a number of fossil shops and includes a museum. There are regular trips, showing you where to find fossils and providing general information. The town has had a lot of money spend on making it one of the most beautiful towns in Dorset. Even the lamp posts in Lyme Regis are shaped like ammonites. Jurassic, Cliffs and Foreshore, Rating: ♦♦♦