Fossil Hunting in Dorset

Fossil Hunting and Geology

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The Dorset and East Devon Coast World Heritage Site is England’s first natural World Heritage Site – it is known as The Jurassic Coast. It covers 95 miles of truly stunning coastline from East Devon to Dorset, with rocks recording 185 million years of the Earth’s history.   The Jurassic coast offers a unique insight into the Earth Sciences as it clearly depicts a geological ‘walk through time’ spanning the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.

Take notice of warning signs along the coast

Where to go

The best locations in Dorset for fossil hunting in Dorset are at Charmouth and Lyme Regis. A special fossil code of conduct has been agreed to ensure it is carried out correctly and enjoyed by all – details are below

Finding Fossils


Planning your trip

Do your bit:

Watch out for wildlife

Follow these steps to make sure that you do not disturb wildlife while you are fossil hunting on the Dorset coast:

  • Avoid damaging plants and species on the rocks or cliffs
Watch out for the environment
  • Take all rubbish home – do not discard rubbish on the beaches. Marine and beach litter spoils peoples experience of the Dorset coast and could harm wildlife. Find out more about Marine litter in Dorset.

Safety and fossil hunting code

On the beach

  • Take notice of warning signs
  • Always stay away from the cliffs.
  • Do not climb the cliffs.  Rock falls can happen at any time.
  • Beware of landslides and mudflows, especially during or after wet weather.
  • Always aim to be on the beaches on a falling tide and beware of the incoming tide, especially around headlands.
  • Beware of large waves in rough weather, especially on steeply shelving beaches like Chesil.

On the coast path

  • Keep well away from the cliff edges and ensure that children and dogs are kept under control.
  • Observe all restricted access and diversion signs – this is a changing and active coast.  The signs indicate danger.
  • Follow the Country Code.

Collecting fossils

  • The best, and safest, place to look for fossils is on the beach where the sea has washed away soft clay and mud.
  • Do not collect or hammer into the cliffs, fossil features or rocky ledges.
  • Keep collecting to a minimum.  Avoid removing in situ fossils, rocks or minerals.
  • The collection of actual specimens should be restricted to those places where there is a plentiful supply.
  • Only collect what you need ……. leave something for others.
  • Never collect from walls or buildings.  Take care not to undermine fences, bridges or other structures.
  • Be considerate and don’t leave a site in an unsightly or dangerous condition.
  • Some landowners do not wish people to collect …. please observe notices.

The West Dorset fossil collecting code of conduct

  • This applies between Lyme Regis and Burton Bradstock.
  • Collectors are asked NOT to dig in the cliffs without permission.
  • Important fossil finds should be registered at the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre.

The Fossil Collecting and Beach Safety Guide leaflet and the full Fossil Collecting Code are available to download below as Adobe Acrobat files.

 Fossil Collecting and Beach Safety Guide – Adobe Acrobat (new window) 478.90 Kb

 Full Fossil Collecting Code – Adobe Acrobat (new window) 61.15 Kb

Find out more at the Jurassic Coast Website

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