Download our free Beginners guide to fossil hunting in Charmouth to learn how to start fossil hunting on Charmouth Beach.
Hensleigh House is ideally located for those wanting to try their hand at Fossil Hunting in Charmouth. With the beach just 300 metres away, and best of all, no big hills to climb after a tiring day on the beach, we provide a firendly relaxing base for your holiday.
The coastline at Charmouth is part of a World Heritage Site listed by UNESCO, which is also popularly known as the 'Jurassic Coast'.
The reason for this international recognition is that the 95 miles of Devon and Dorset coastline expose geology from three distinct periods in the evolution of our environment, representing 185 million years.
Millions of years ago the earths crust tilted, and erosion removed the new top layers. As a result the age of the rocks are greater in the West, with the younger rocks in the East. The red cliffs of Devon represent the Triassic Period (252-201 million years ago). The central area around Lyme Regis and Charmouth are from the Jurassic Period (201-145 million years ago), and in the East there are the youngsters from the Cretaceous Period (145-66 million years ago).
The cliffs at Charmouth and Lyme Regis hold an enormous number of marine fossils from the Jurassic Period. 200 million years ago Charmouth was much nearer the equator, then as it moved north as the continental plates moved Charmouth disappeared several hundred meters below sea level. This resulted in a varied marine life which was preserved and fossilised in the sea bed.
Today sea levels have changed, and the fossils are regularly washed from what was the sea bed, but now forms the mud and clay cliffs between Lyme Regis and Charmouth.
Anyone can look for, and find, fossils around Charmouth. There is a local code of practice to follow, but as long as you do you can keep anything you find.
The code of practice states that you must report any significant finds to the Charmouth Heritage Centre, and have the find recorded. You must also not hammer the cliffs themselves, and may only search on the beach and amongst the debris washed from the cliffs.
The restriction of not hammering the cliffs is extremely important for your own safety, as the cliffs are extremely unstable with regular mud slides and rock falls. In addition you are far, far more likely to find excellent fossils on the beach where the action of the sea and sand has cleaned away the tons of mud, than by doing what used to be known as 'hard labour' hammering rocks all day long with little to show for it at the end!
On Christmas Eve 2015 the owners of Hensleigh House found the ammonite shown in the photo partially buried on the open beach, approximately 50 meters from a recent mudslide. We also have a growing collection of smaller ammonites and bellamites that we find while walking the dog. No hammering, no climbing the cliffs, and no risk from mudslides.
The large December 2015 mudslide and cliff fall released fossils onto the beach throughout 2016, and continues to be a good source in 2017 as the tide works its way in to the enormous piles of debris. Many of these fossils will be buried in the sand and shingle, and may only be found in two, three or even four years time.
To get the most from any visit to Charmouth beach, be sure to visit the Charmouth Heritage Centre where the staff and local volunteers will be only too pleased to help you find where to look and what to look for. A little knowledge can save hours of frustration!
There are also regular fossil walks run by local experts, details of which can be found in our Links.
The Lyme Regis Museum has both displays of local fossils, and also run Fossil Hunting Walks on the beach between Lyme Regis and Charmouth. For those staying at Hensleigh House, at the end of the walk you can continue over the rocks back to Charmouth (some dexterity is required on the larger rocks!). The walk should only be undertaken at low tide.
Coastal walks, fossil walks, and Broadchurch experiences can be booked with:
Martin Curtis www.jurassiccoastguides.co.uk 07900 257944