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!

Finding fossils at Lyme Regis
Belemnites and Ammonites a plenty wash up on the foreshore at the beach at Lyme Regis. Paddy, our fossil walk guide, has been coming out here for 48 years and cannot remember a time when his fossil walks have not come back with a a fossil find. Lyme Regis is famous for its fossils with Mary Anning finding the sea monster, Ichthyosaurus, which means fish-lizard in Greek. Although it resembles a dolphin, the rows of razor sharp teeth suggest that life in the Mesozoic ocean was tough, not exactly Flipper the friendly dolphin. We were not going to be disappointed.

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.

Monmouth Beach

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

Author

Nick Cook. Amateur astronomer, space, history, nerd, extreme dog walker, cat slave, severe tinnitus sufferer. 13.7 billion years in the making - not that much better for it.

7 Comments

  1. We went on a fossil walk at neighbouring Charmouth. Great fun even though there were no mediaeval coins!

    • The guide was jealous! Made for a great day, I do wonder what travels that coin has been on. Its likely to have come from the town’s tip which is at the top of the cliffs which is why there is a lot of metal on the foreshore, a great find!

  2. I’ve only been on one guided fossil walk here on the Isle of Wight where I live. It’s an ideal way to entertain children when they are “bored” as they seem to be so often these days. Dinosaur Island throws up fossils on most of our beaches but I’ve never found anything really interesting. I live in hope though as I walk the winter beaches after the storms.

    • Dinosaur Island sounds a much better name for the Isle Wight! A place I have yet to visit but working on it. I’m sure you’ll stumble across something one day though!

  3. jasonlikestotravel Reply

    Sounds like a great day. I’m glad you ended up taking a little memento home with you. Even if the consequence was boosting Sam’s ego a little 😉

    • It was a great find! Not worth massive amounts in cash terms, £50-100 but relatively rare, the guide hadn’t found a whole coin in his 40 odd years doing these walks every day. It made the day even better! Sam is going to donate it to Lincoln museum which is only about an hour away from us.

      • jasonlikestotravel Reply

        That’s a great thing to do! Glad to hear you’re doing something positive with the money 🙂

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