Author: Helen B
Kimmeridge – Jurassic Coast, Dorset
Kimmeridge bay is another famous fossil hunting beach. The cliff top car park is privately owned so we paid £5 one-off charge. A short walk down a path will take you directly onto the beach, but take care it is slippy and rocky. Directly in front of you on the beach is a concrete gun turret.
We explored the shore surrounded yet again with shale cliffs, but with a distinct rocky seam running at an angle through the cliff. At various intervals, this seam jutted out from the eroded cliff face and on closer inspection were some large ammonite fossils exposed on the underside of the rock. There were some ammonites on larger rocks on the shore and we had fun spotting them.
We managed to split apart some shale rocks and discovered ammonites hidden in the layers of shale. These fossils are quite fragile as shale mud is easily breakable. We continued our walk to the east side of the bay where there is a natural waterfall and you can negotiate your way across the rocks to a slipway at the far end, although this is not suitable for very small children or anyone with walking difficulties.
One thing you will notice when you drive to the beach is the tall tower on the east cliff overlooking the bay. We took a walk up the steep steps to the tower, called Clavell Tower which is now a holiday let. The whole building was moved 25m inshore for fear of the cliff eroding and the view of the bay and far coastline is well worth the effort. A short trip down and into the toilets, and we headed back to the car.
The Etches Collection
In the village of Kimmeridge is a gem of a fossil museum. Lottery funded and built in 2017 the museum incorporates the village hall and showcases the local fossil finds of one man over the last 35 years. Steve Etches and his museum was recently featured on the tv programme ‘Hugh’s Wild West’.
The entrance fee was not cheap for such a small museum: Adults – £8 and Children – £4, but the ticket price is also an annual pass valid for a whole year, so this was good value. On the ground floor is the Room, where you can find activities for children including a wall viewer microscope and small microscopes, a gemstone collection, colouring sheets and books to look at for smaller children and a clipboard activity quiz that our son took around the collection.
Upstairs in the collection room was darker to preserve the fossils but above our heads on each side was an 8 screen undersea computer-generated animation of life in the Jurassic ocean. We watched as pliosaurs, prehistoric crocodiles and ammonites swam above our heads! At the far end was a glass wall so you could view into Steve Etches’ workshop and see the tools he uses to clean and extract the fossils. The fossil collection was housed in a large wall display and there were large touch screen information points showing more animation of prehistoric creatures.
In the Hall across the upper landing was a large screen showing short films about fossil hunting and also a wildlife photography exhibition by David Bailey, whom we chatted to for a short while.
The entrance lobby contained a couple of tables and chairs but the only hot drinks came from a vending machine. While we sipped our tea, who should roll up in his truck but Steve Etches himself! I pointed him out as he came into the centre and my husband asked him a few questions about the centre and his collection. He sat at the next table with a film crew who were currently making a film of his life. We did see a couple of film company trailers parked to the top end of the centre as we arrived. Steve was happy to talk and we quizzed him for a good half hour while our son explored the activity room. We said our goodbye as the museum was about to close. A nice end to an educational day!
This is part two of a three-part feature on Fossil hunting on the Jurassic Coast. For more places to visit to find fossils please check out part 1 and part 3 as well – Charmouth Fossil Hunting – UK Fossil Collecting in Dorset and Visiting Seaton on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast.
Thank you for reading Helen B’s post. I hope that you will find it useful. Fossil collecting on the Jurassic Coast is most certainly on our family bucket list. Is it on yours? Have you ever found any fossils? Please comment below, we’d love to hear.
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