Charmouth, a few miles east of Lyme Regis is often considered to be a popular area for fossil collectors, where enthusiasts can be found splitting open fallen rocks on the beach with the hope of finding an Ammonite fossil inside. The abundance of Ammonite fossils is probably due to the fact that this species, that could grow up to one metre in diameter, existed on the Earth over a period of about 200 million years, becoming extinct about 60 million years ago. However, although its shell was in the form of a snail, the creature inside had tentacles and a propulsion system similar to the present day octopus and squid. Compare that to the evolution of prehistoric man (Palaeolithic) about 200 thousand years ago and modern day man (Neolithic) less than 20 thousand years ago. The Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre, situated on the edge of Charmouth's beach is the place to discover more information on the subject.
Further east is Seatown, a few miles west of West Bay and consisting of a car park and pub at the end of a narrow lane from Chideock. It is considered to be possibly the most successful place to find fossils along Lyme Bay's Jurassic Coastline. Ammonite fossils can often be found laying on the beach after stormy tides, the beach being easily accessible from the car park. Just to the west of Seatown is Golden Cap, the highest sea cliff on the south coast. Its name comes from the layers of sandstone around the top which glow of a golden colour in the sunshine.
Code of Conduct for Fossil Collecting
A guide to enjoyable, safe and responsible fossil collecting.
Always read and comply with local signs. Rules and guidelines vary along the coast.
Fossil hunting is like beach combing; the best fossils are found amongst the pebbles and boulders on the beach.
Stay away from the cliffs. Rock falls can occur at any time.
Do not hammer or dig in the cliffs.
Your eyes are your best tools for finding fossils. Look for fossils in loose material on the beach.
Keep hammering to a minimum.
Wear eye protection when hammering.
Check the weather and tides before setting out. It is best to collect on a falling tide.
Beware of mudflows, especially after wet weather.
Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.
Wear appropriate clothing and footwear.
Take special care in rough weather. Never underestimate the power of the sea and beware in particular of strong undertows.
The Fossil Collectors' Code of Conduct for the West Dorset Coast.
Promote responsible and safe fossil collecting.
Restrict 'in situ' digging or prospecting for fossils in the cliffs.
Clarify ownership of fossils.
Promote better communication between all those with an interest in fossils from the West Dorset coast.
Promote the aquisition of key scientifically important fossils by registered museums.
If you find a special or rare fossil from the West Dorset coast, please register it at:
Charmouth Heritage Centre: Tel: 01297 560772 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fossils found outside the area of the code can also be registered. The centre will
simply take details for a database.
To see the records, visit: www.charmouth.org
Further details of the fossil code can be found at: www.jurassiccoast.com
or contact the World Heritage Team: Tel: 01305 225101