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18 June 2014
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Coast | World Heritage Coast Dorset

Fossil hunters' heaven

Charmouth Beach

The World Heritage Coast in Dorset stretches for about 95 miles, and a visit to this stunning coastline takes visitors back in time 185 million years.

The so-called 'Jurassic Coast' is a fossil hunters' paradise.

World class coastal area

This Jurassic coast is a nature lovers' paradise with rich pickings for fossil hunters. If lucky, you could be the first person to touch your unearthed fossil for 185 million years!

Charmouth is one of the most famous Jurassic locations in the world, renowned for its cliffs which are rich in fossils.

Fossil hunting

FossilFossils are largely found on the foreshore and at the base of scree slopes and slippages.

Most of the fossils are sea creatures and shellfish which date from a period when the coast was surrounded by a warm tropical sea.

One of the best places to search is on the beach below Black Ven, between Charmouth and Lyme Regis.

Look out for dark patches of sand together with worn lumps of fool's gold, as these are the places where fossils such as ammonites, belemnites, shells and bones can be found.

The wardens at Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre are a good source of advice, and also organise fossil hunting walks.

Another great place to find fossils is Monmouth Beach near Lyme Regis where it is possible to occasionally find huge ammonites lying on the beach.

These are too large to remove, so why not take some photographs and collect the specimens on film.

Fossil detectives should check tide times carefully and take care as the sea can cut off some locations.

Sea views

Dorset coastOne of the best and safest ways to see the Jurassic Coast is by boat.

Amongst the many coastal features to be seen is the Golden Cap, the highest point of the Jurassic coast, with its distinctive sandstone summit.

Another unusual site is Black Ven, the largest coastal mudslide in Europe, which happened only 50 years ago and provides new habitats for plants to move into.

There are many fabulous geological features including the most perfectly formed cove in the world at Lulworth.

The Fossil Forest, located a mile or so from the cove, is the most complete record of a Jurassic forest in the world with 'tufa' or fossilised rings of algae that gathered around tree trunks when the forest flooded nearly 150 million years ago.

At nearby Durdle Door, there are yet more interesting geological features and plant habitats.

Adonis Blue c/o English NaturePlants and butterflies

The Dorset coast is especially rich in plant life due to its hot, dry and salty environment.

The area is home to the rare Sea Lavender, found only on rocky coastal regions - its thick, rubbery leaves protect it from the salt.

The cliff tops have never been ploughed or sprayed with modern fertilisers so they provide a very rich habitat for plants.

Amongst the many wild flowers are Hedge and Lady's Bedstraw (so named because it was once used in mattresses), Flea Bay, and Kidney Vetch.

The diversity of flowers attract a wide range of butterflies and moths especially at Bindon Hill where 32 different species can be found.

Look out for butterflies including the Adonis Blue, the Small Blue, the Dark Green Fritillary and the rare Lulworth Skipper.

 

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