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Charmouth fossils and fossil collecting

The beach at Charmouth is easy to access. Just head into Charmouth and then down Lower Sea Lane, where there is a car park next to the sea. There are also toilets, an information centre and a cafe/food nearby.
At the start, you will need to decide if you want to go to Black Ven or Stonebarrow: there may not be time to complete both ends safely in one tide.
Black Ven will also take you to Church Cliffs (see our guide to Lyme Regis for more information on Church cliffs).
If you are heading to Stonebarrow, you will need to walk over the bridge to cross the river.

GRID REF: 50.73160°N, 2.88596°W

ammonites, belemnites, reptiles, crinoids, fish, mollusc's, minerals
Fossil Collecting at 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.
Where is it

Very High

Charmouth is world famous for its highly fossiliferous cliffs, but also widely known for the being most commercial fossil location in the UK. Sadly, the huge number of commercial collectors, who all battle it out for the best finds, makes collecting limited, unless you are willing to brace the harsh winter storms. In spite of this, there is still plenty to be found.


Suitable for Children

 

Charmouth is one of the best locations for children. They can sit on the beach or walk along the foreshore and pick up ammonites and so on.


Easy Access

 

The car park at Charmouth is very close to the beach and nearby are toilets, a cafe and the Charmouth Fossil Heritage Information Centre. The location is excellent for children and families.


Foreshore, Cliffs

 

Fossils are mostly found on the foreshore at Charmouth, but can also be found at the bottom of scree slopes, slippages and occasionally a cliff fall. Hammering the cliff is not permitted because Charmouth is part of the Jurassic Heritage Coastline. Anyway, you are far more likely to find fossils lying on the foreshore.


No Hammering Cliff

 

This site is part of the Jurassic World Heritage Coastline. Please follow the Fossil Code of Conduct. Access is permitted SSSI -

NO HAMMERING THE CLIFF PRIVATE LAND

This is 'Private Land', Access for digging is strictly forbidden.

Damage has already been caused to this heritage site by people using power tools. This is strictly against SSSI rules and any attempt to ignore these rules may result in prosecution.

Common sense when collecting at all locations should be used and prior knowledge of tide times is essential. Care should especially be taken at Charmouth of tides, as the sea could cut you off, especially at Black Ven. Climbing slippages is not recommended, as it is dangerous because of the deep mud. The mud may seem hard at first sight, but could be a hazard. The high cliffs at Stonebarrow are also dangerous for falling debris. are dangerious for falling debris.


Charmouth
Tide Times

 

UK Tidal data is owned by Crown Copyright, and therefore sadly we are not allowed to display tide times without paying expensive annual contracts. However we sell them via our store, including FREE POSTAGE
Click here to buy a tide table


Accommodation

Higher Spence

Farm Cottage, beautiful location 3 miles Charmouth. Double and Family rooms En Suite.

Contact: Christine Nutkins
Tel: UK (01297) 560556
Tel: International +441297 560556 Address: Higher Spence, Wootton, Fitzpaine, Charmouth, Dorset.

Email: higherspence@eurolink.ltd.net Website: (Typing "Higher Spence into your search engine)

Dorset coastal cottages

We are a holiday agent for 120 carefully selected and inspected cottages within 10 miles of Dorset's spectacular World Heritage Coast and Path. All are old, many are beamy and thatched, most have open fires or logburners plus central heating. Rents include electricity, gas etc. and all linen/towels.

Please call: 0800 9804070 for a Brochure or visit our website on www.dorsetcoastalcottages.com

Jennifer Owens: 01305 851033 jen.o@dorsetcoastalcottages.com

If you would like to advertise on this page, please 'contact us'.
£10/Year or 'FREE' for return links from accommodation website pages.


Last updated:  2008
last visited:  2008
Written by:  Alister and Alison Cruickshanks
Edited by:  Jon Trevelyan


It really depends on what you aim to collect, as to what tools to take. Collecting is best done on the foreshore, in which case, just good eyes are required. Collecting from the soft clays (especially from the slippages on the foreshore at Black Ven) is best done using a knife or pick and a small spade. If you intend to split rocks, especially nodules, then ideally you need a good hammer and possibly a chisel. Do not dig into the cliff at Lyme Regis, both for safety reasons and because you have a much greater chance of finding fossils lying on the foreshore.


Other Locations similar to Charmouth

There are many locations in the UK which can be seen to be similar to Charmouth. apart from those in the nearby proximity such as Chippel Bay, Seatown (Golden Cap), Thorncombe Beacon and Lyme Regis,
in South Wales, you can also try Llantwit Major, and Lavernock. There are plenty of good locations along the Yorkshire Coast too, such as Staithes, Saltwick Bay, Port Mulgrave, Kettleness, Whitby, Ravenscar, Runswick Bay, Sandsend, and many more. In Somerset there are also many locations such as Watchet, Quantoxhead, Kilve, Doniford Bay, St Audries Bay, Lilstock, and Hinkley Point.

Location Photos
        


Fossil Collecting
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This site is part of the Jurassic World Heritage Coastline, SSSI and private land. No hammering is allowed on the bedrock or cliffs. Damage has already been caused to the heritage site by people using power tools. This is strictly against SSSI rules and any attempt to ignore them may result in prosecution.

By far the most common fossils at Charmouth are ammonites. Many small ones can be simply collected from along the foreshore. The larger, gold-coloured (pyrite) ammonites can be found at Stonebarrow during scouring tides, exposed in the clay particularly at the far end of Stonebarrow. Or you may be lucky enough to pick up one from the foreshore. Crinoids can also be found at Stonebarrow, by searching along the tide line.
Flatstones at Charmouth can contain well-preserved ammonites and insects, but are unfortunately rare and only a small percentage contains fossils. In the past, several complete fishes have also been found in these nodules, in perfect condition.

Black Ven itself is famous for ichthyosaur bones, which are washed out of the slippages of clay. At Stonebarrow, ichthyosaur bones can also be found, often exposed on the foreshore during scouring tides.

The top beds at Black Ven contain many good fossils, including fish and large nodules that occasionally contain ammonites. These beds are so high up that cliff falls are required, but during extremely high tides, these top beds often fall or slip down to beach level. Many reptiles have been found and Charmouth has been the place of many discoveries of new species.

There is a huge range of fossils that can be found between Black Ven and Stonebarrow. The most common place to find fossils and indeed the easiest is from along the beach. Search in the shingle and on the tide line, especially as the tide retreats. The key is to focus on a particular area, such as walking along the tide line, where you are most likely to find them. You may have to get on our hands and knees to find the tiny ammonites. Look out for patches of dark, gold-coloured grains or small lumps. These are iron pyrites or (‘Fool’s Gold’). Fossils are most common in these areas among this pyrite. You can also search in the clay on the foreshore at Black Ven. This is a good area to find ammonites. The sea acts as a giant sieve and does all the hard work for you. Do not climb the slippages, as they are very dangerous and the effort is pointless - you have a much higher chance of finding fossils on the foreshore.

There are also a wide variety of rocks lying on the beach, some of which contain fossils, with others containing fossil casts. Usually, these can simply be picked up from along the beach.

Also, keep an eye open for the flatstones, as these can contain some superb fossils, but you will need a hammer. There is also a special way of splitting these nodules. Split them from on the side rather than on the flat top/bottom, because hitting these nodules incorrectly will most likely split the fossil inside or shatter it. Do not attempt to dig these nodules out of the cliff - they can be so big that attempting to do this would put you at danger....[more]

Fossil Hunting at Charmouth

Geology Guide Jurassic, 195mya

Black Ven. As soon as you reach the beach, to the West, Birchi Nodules from the Birchi Tabular Beds can be seen in the low cliff. At times of extreme low tide, traces of a submerged forest (including bones of mammoth and red deer) can be seen. The bones have been found close to the western groyne.

Just below the Birchi Tabular Beds is the Shales-with-Beef Member. This contains many ammonites, including Arnioceras, Cymbites and Coroniceras. Occasionally, teeth and bones of ichthyosaurs, and the remains of other reptiles. It is often the case that landslips at Black Ven will expose these beds and regular tides will keep them fresh. The upper beds from the Shales-with-Beef can be found at Stonebarrow, just below beach level.

Walking west, you will eventually come to Church Cliffs. For more information on the Blues Lias of Church Cliffs, please refer to our guide on Lyme Regis.

Stonebarrow. The uppermost beds of Stonebarrow consist of Upper Greensand, in which occasional ammonites can be found. A 12m-bed of Gault Clays follows the overlying Eype Clay. 20m of the Green Ammonite Beds overlay 23m of Belemnite Marls. There are also about 50m of Black Ven Marls that reach beach level here. Just below this level, Birchi Nodules can be found about halfway up Stonebarrow hill. These can be split to find good quality ammonites and shells.

Within the Black Ven Marls, a layer of Stonebarrow Flatstone can be seen, which is celebrated for its fine specimens of Asteroceras turneri, often preserved in yellow and brown calcite. Insects (beetles, grasshoppers, water-bugs and dragonflies) and the occasional plant remains can also be found in these flat stones. The shales are also richly fossiliferous, with ammonites, insects and fish remains. The crinoid, Pentacrinites fossilis, is often magnificently preserved within this bed. 10m above this layer is a line of nodules called the Stellare Nodules, in which the common ammonite, Asteroceras stellare, can be found.

The Belemnite Marls are bluish-grey in colour. They are famous for the eponymous belemnites, although ammonites are also common including, Tropidoceras, Platypleuroceras, Beaniceras and Apoderoceras. At the top of this bed is a limestone called the Belemnite Stone, which is also full of belemnites, ammonites, bivalves and some brachiopods (Rhynchonellida).


Geology of Charmouth, Black ven

More Guides

Common pyretic ammonite from Charmouth
Common pyretic ammonite from Charmouth....[more]

Stone Tumblers
Microscopes
Geological Supplies

If you are interested in fossil collecting, then you may also be interested in a stone tumbler (Lapidary). You can polish stones and rocks from the beach which will look fantastic polished using a stone tumbler.

You can polish rough rock and beach glass whilst collecting fossils, on those days where you come back empty handed. These are all high quality machines to give a professional finish to your samples. They can even be used for amber and fossils.

At most locations, you can find microfossils. You only need a small sample of the sand. You then need to wash it in water and sieve using a test sieve. Once the sand is processed, you can then view the contents using a microscope.

We have a wide range of microscopes for sale, you will need a Stereomicroscope for viewing microfossils. The best one we sell is the IMXZ, but a basic microscope will be fine. Once you have found microfossils, you will need to store these microfossils.

UKGE, the owners of UK Fossils, are your market leader for Geological Supplies and Geology Equipment. Suppling Retail, Education and Trade in the UK, Europe and beyond.

We sell a wide range of geological hammer and geological picks as well as fossil tools, starter packs and geological chisels.

UKGE is your geological superstore, selling a wide range of field equipment, rocks, minerals, fossils, geological and even microscopy!

Fossil Hunter Starter Packs with Geological Tools and Safety wear
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While we (UKGE/UK Fossils) try to ensure that the content of this location guide is accurate and up to date, we cannot and do not guarantee this. Nor can we be held liable for any loss or injury caused by or to a person visiting this site. Remember: this is only a location guide and the responsibility remains with the person or persons making the visit for their own personal safety and the safety of their possessions. That is, any visit to this location is of a personal nature and has not been arranged or directly suggested by UK Fossils. In addition, we recommend visitors get their own personal insurance cover. Please also remember to check tide times and rights of way (where relevant), and to behave in a responsible and safe manner at all times (for example, by keeping away from cliff faces and mud).
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