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Collecting Fossils In The UK


Saftey and authority are key - you’re intrigued and have seen a few fossil sites which you have taken an interest in, however, you're just not sure where to begin!? Here's some guidlines that might help you along thw ay to starting your first fossil explorstion. Here's a list of some of our favourite fossil collecting locations in Britain.

Safety is of the upmost importance at all times, avoid cliff faces and note high and low tides here http://www.ntslf.org, taking notes days before and on the day of your intended visit to avoid any unnecessary emergency service call outs, let's be safe! Being trapped by the tide is a common occurrence, it happens a lot and catches out even the most experience explorers. Hard hats are essential and should be worn at all times in the more appropriate enviroments, we know, we don't like them either but I want to be able to admire our finds into the future, not become one. Make sure you have permission and you're not trespassing on provate land, please do appreciate property belonging to others, you will be surprised how accepting private land owners are when you ask permission - especially before collecting or excavation is undertaken. Avoid taking children into dangerous envronments, it's just not worth it!!.

Do please check sites are available for excavating before visiting, as restrictions are implemented and access can change, you may be prosecuted if found collecting without permission.


A good pickaxe with a blunt hammer on one end is essential for opening any medium sized rocks, Particularly nodules containing ammonites. Water proof clothes are essential in case of any sudden changes in the weather along with a pair of stout walking boots, high visibility jackets are advisable. Making a note on coastal maps of beach exits points is a consideration, It is all to easy to be so involved in fossil hunting that one neglects to keep a watchful eye on the rising tide.

A note book for diagrams and locations of finds is a good aid for returning to a particularly fruitful spot. A study bag for finds and always remember the usual fluids to hydrate on hot days.


The beach, or foreshore, is an excellent area for locating newly exposed fossil falls, weathering out at high tide mark and washing up onto the beach during the flow and ebb of the tides. Alternatively fossil bearing rocks can be brought to the foreshore from localised underwater rock shelfs, when broken off in storms. A good plan maybe to determine what kind of beach-coming you want to attempt beforehand, especially if it's a first visit to the area. You can also find fossils amongst rocks and rock pools. ‘’Remember to be aware of loose cliff faces and falling rocks at all times.’’

Keeping a vigilant eye on the tide line, particularly on the eastern coasts, may bring you some good fortune, Amber or Jet occasionally being washed ashore. A good place for Jet is Whitby, N.Yorkshire and Southwold, Suffolk, for fossil Amber’s.


Coastlines around Britain bare many fruitful and interesting finds from very large Cephalopod ammonites like Arietites contained in huge nodules of rock and marine reptile fossils such as Ichthyosaurs. Recovering specimens safely and carefully requires specialist technical skill and knowledge of the local fossil bed. Cliff work is a hazardous occupation and all local authorities along with ourselves do not condone such activities.

We have knowledge of professionals and amateurs attempting to take on such rigorous tasks, only to find the cliff walls crumble and collapse causing injuries. Digging out fossils weakens cliff faces, fossil removal creates gaps and increases unnecessary coastal erosion.

If you find a wonderful marine reptile in a cliff face and alert the local authorities, you may be involved in subsequent excavations and any new species discovered will carry your name forever!

Keeping away from cliff faces is advised, and knowing your weather and tidal limits and when to avoid certain cliff top dwellings or hazardous areas such as overburdens is recommended. If you’re not entirely sure then do stay away from these areas.


After a storm and in conjunction with a spring high tide can bring success. Storms and higher tides increase erosion of the cliff face bringing fossiliferous rock onto the beach area. A spring tide (after a full moon cycle), is a good time, when occurs the greatest movement, the distance between high and low water marks, also exposing rock beds at low water normally covered by the sea.

After a king tide (Sun and Moon aline and have a maximum gravitational pull on the tides), event, which occurs twice a year, can be an excellent time to collect. Neap tides when high and low tides are just after the first or third quarter of the Moons cycle, when tidal movement is least difference between the high and low water marks, could prove fruitful for collecting floating debris such as Amber and Jet.


Scree slopes are heaped mounds of deposited rock material leading back from the beach with cliffs behind them, some with a steadily declining loose surface underfoot. These are good opportunities for easy finds, as fossils may fall from the cliffs in bad weather, however caution is advised and local knowledge and warnings on safety must be adhered too. Hastings is a good place for this type of fossil scree.


Torrisdale Bay
The entire coast posses fossiliferous Jurassic formations.
Jurassic, Cliffs and Foreshore
Rarely collected
Rating: 9 
Marsdon Beach
A very popular fossil collecting area, however difficult to access due to tidal conditions. Whitby, Durham and Marsdon are known for their bounteous ammonites and marine reptile finds, also famous for jet (fossilised wood) prised since the Victorian era.
Jurassic, Cliffs and Foreshore
Suffered over collecting
Rating: 8

Bearreraig Bay
The entire coast consists of fossiliferous Jurassic formations One of the most picturesque sites for walks and views. Be wary after and around the high tide mark due to falling rocks from the cliffs.
Jurassic, Cliffs and Foreshore
Rarely collected
Rating: 10

Durham Heritage Coast
Very popular fossil location and a treasured national park. Durham, close to Whitby and Marsdon, is known for hosting many wonderful fossils, particularly heavy in fauna and ice age fossils, also famous for jet (fossilised wood) fashioned since the Victorian era.
Jurassic, Cliffs and Foreshore
Over collected
Rating: 8 

Pearce's Cove
Rich in marine fossil reptiles, dinosaurs, fossil fish and ammonite remains, finding something spectacular is definitely a possibility however with much collecting by thousands of enthusiast annually, you may need a little patience.
Jurassic, Cliffs and Foreshore
Moderately collected
Rating: 8

Whitby - Robin Hoods Bay
Another very popular fossil site just south of Whitby, again difficult to access due to tide conditions, famous for marine reptiles finds, ammonites and jet (fossilised wood), fashioned since the Victorian era and can be quite valuable if a large piece of good quality.
Jurassic, Cliffs and Foreshore
Over collected
Rating: 8

A much more challenging environment to collect fossils, however can prove to be extremely rewarding. Suitable for those who are experienced altitiude explorers and proficient in climbing and walking good distances. A beautiful landscape which can produce many different types of fossils, the area is famous for its rich diversity of fossil species, some of which are unique.
Silurian, Mountains, Fells and Streams
Rarely collected
Rating: 8

Pinhay Bay / Lyme Regis
The most renowned fossil heritage site on the British Jurassic coast and most popular Jurassic location in not just the UK but possibly the world. Revealing varied quantities of fossils for those prepared to beachcomb throughout the year. The cliffs of Black Ven and Stonebarrow do provide some exciting finds.
Jurassic, Cliffs and Foreshore
Over collected
Rating: 8 

Bossington Beach
Rich in marine fossils from reptiles such as Ichthyosaurs, fossil fish, Ammonites and even Dinosaur remains. Finding something spectacular is definitely a possibility here but like most popular places with abundant fossil remains, this site is over collected by thousands of enthusiast annually, so you may require some patience and a lot of time out, to really get to grips with this location.
Jurassic, Cliffs and Foreshore
Heavily collected
Rating: 7 

Swanlake Bay
This Somerset location has good potential, marine fossils such as fish and ammonites, although that being said an Ichthyosaur was discovered not far away from this coast recently, geologically speaking, across the Bristol channel in Wales. So you never know your fossick luck!.
Jurassic, Cliffs and Foreshore
Moderately collected
Rating: 8

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