Being an unashamed geek and at the age of 48 who still gets excited at the thought of fossils and all things dinosaur (my favourite is a pachycephalosaurus), and dinosaurs with feathers, I booked a fossil walk for us on the Jurassic Coast at Lyme Regis. A fossil walk that ended up with a very surprising find as you can see in our Youtube video below!
You can see the layers of rocks formed between 250 million and 65 million years ago from the Mesozoic era in three geological periods, the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous. Layer upon layer of sediment formed over millions of years and we are specifically looking at Blue Lias limestone and shale layers famous for its ammonites. And above our heads, a huge ammonite in one of the layers, sat there quite happily for all those millions of years.
The best fossils are on the beach after a storm, not in the rocks and we are positively encouraged to take away finds from the beach. Otherwise they’ll be washed away, eroded and lost forever. Its illegal, and dangerous to go hammering at the rock face, and a little uncouth.
Carrying on with our walk, we learn it’s easy to pick up stones that look like fossils but are called beef rock, mainly because they look like beef, the white crystal line running through looking like beef and definitely not a fossil. There are plenty of rocks around with the impressions of ammonites and we also learn that weight is more important size when it come to finding fossils on the beach. Amongst the metal pieces washed up on the foreshore are pieces of iron pyrite, fools gold, when suddenly, Eureka! We start to find complete ammonites made up of iron pyrite, not just bits of ones, sat there glistening in the sand. Spotting fossils is a skill and we start to get our eye in.
The Exciting Find
But the most surprising find was made by Sam, with myself and our fossil guide Paddy walking over her find completely missing it. Sat there in the sand, a small disc like object that turns out to be a medieval coin! A complete unclipped coin from Edward 1st, minted in Lincoln in either 1280 or 1281. A silver Long Cross Penny from the reign of Edward 1st! Edward Longshanks, hammer of the Scots. A penny for your thoughts indeed, we do wonder what tales this coin could tell us and where it travelled. It’s a superb find. Our guide Paddy has never found a complete coin in all his years of doing these walks. Everybody in our group was eager to see the coin and Sam laps it up, it’s not about the value, it’s about the thrill of the find. I’m proud and jealous and now she thinks she’s Indiana Jones. It is a superb find and we are both made up, making the day even better.
For our last part of the day we race the tide to visit Monmouth Beach to go and see the ammonite pavement also known as the ammonite graveyard. This layer of grey rock is famous for its large ammonites, some up to 70 cm wide from 199 million years ago. There are hundreds of them here and suffice to say you can’t hammer them out of the ground, leave them for other people to enjoy, we certainly did.
You can book a fossil walk at the Lyme Regis Museum here