Fun with Fossils: Lyme Regis


The Jurassic Coast, Lyme Regis.

The Jurassic Coast, spanning 96 miles across the south of England, is a World Heritage Site famous for cliffs and beaches that contain hundreds of millions of years of geological history. This history is accessible to the public, since it can be easily seen with an untrained eye: fossils have been discovered on these beaches for decades, and thousands of fossilized remains are still nestled among the rocks.

There are still so many fossils on the Jurassic Coast’s beaches, in fact, that visitors can take them home with them without worrying about removing priceless objects from the historic site. The World Heritage team has no qualms with it; rather, they encourage it. If people didn’t take the fossils, they would likely be destroyed by the sea and the crashing waves. Once the fossils are exposed after falling from the cliffs or being washed up on shore, it’s more than alright for visitors to take what they find, as though they were taking a seashell home. It’s just that the seashell happens to be 200 million years old.


The ammonite pictured here is 190 million years old. It is on display at the Lyme Regis Museum.



When visiting the Jurassic Coast, there are some fossils that you’ll recognize as soon as you see them. Ammonites, for example, like the one pictured here, have a distinctive shape and can be easily spotted. There are plenty of others, however, you might not recognize – one way to learn more about them is to take a fossil walk!

The Lyme Regis Museum (Lyme Regis being one excellent point of access to the Jurassic Coast) provides fossil walks year-round. Fossil experts employed by the museum lead visitors out to the beach and give a hugely helpful information session, wherein they deliver a short history of fossil finding in Lyme Regis and offer information about the different commonly found fossils on the beach.

A group information session, held prior to the walk itself, lasts for about thirty minutes, and visitors learn about what to look for amongst the rocks on the beach. The museum employees discuss what sorts of things one should keep an eye out for and how to identify different types of fossils. They provide examples of fossils found on the beach and pass them around, so that it’s easy for visitors to see for themselves what they ought to expect.

Visitors also learn about how these creatures lived, millions of years ago, and what their remains mean to us today. For example, you might get a lesson about ammonites and the ways in which they would have pulled their food into their mouths – with tentacles, a lot like a squid. You’d also be likely to learn about how those ammonites had different chambers within their shells that would have allowed them to pump water in and out and, as a result, float in different directions.

Once the information session has ended, the group heads down to the beach and visitors begin to see fossils straight away. Visitors can either stick with the guides or branch out a little on their own to explore the beach. The guides are, naturally, incredibly helpful to stick with. They bear hammers in hand to break open bigger rocks, and they have the knowledge needed to tell visitors about what they uncover after doing so. They have excellent eyes for combing the beach, so it’s more likely that you’ll end up taking home a really special fossil if you have their help.


One of many rocks filled with ammonite fossils that can be found on the Lyme Regis shore.

On the other hand, it’s amazing to walk along the shore and sift through the rocks yourself. Whether you entered the beach with a fossil walk tour or on your own, it’s almost certain that you’ll be able to look down, spot an ammonite, and put it in your pocket to keep. The beach is long and full of fossils – the fossil walk guides promise that every visitor will leave the beach with a fossil to take home, and although this seems like a hard promise to keep, it is a true one. Visiting the Jurassic Coast offers visitors a fair chance to see incredible geologic history up close, and after learning to appreciate it, to take a piece of it with them.

For more information on making your way to Lyme Regis for a fossil walk of your own, click here.


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First fossil finds!


Text © Megan Otto
Photos © Megan Otto


Lyme Regis