Fossils in Dorset
Discover Dorset’s fossils on the Jurassic Coast, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, tracing 185 million years of the Earth’s history in a spectacular setting. There are several museums displaying a stunning range of prehistoric remains of land and sea creatures which have been discovered along the coast, or if you are inspired to learn how to find your own fossils, several fossil hunt tours to help you on your way.
Where to find fossil exhibitions
Dippy in Dorset County Museum
Last year the Natural History Museum’s famous Diplodocus, known as Dippy toured the UK from early 2018 and the first place it visited was the Dorset County museum, reflecting the importance of Dorset’s Jurassic Coast legacy. The museum is closed for a major revamp this year and will open again in summer 2020 with exciting new exhibits.
Lyme Regis Museum
The original Lyme Regis museum was built in 1901, commissioned by Thomas Philpot, a relative of the Philpot sisters who had worked with Mary Anning. The building underwent extensive restoration in the 1990s and in July 2017 the new, contemporary in design, Mary Anning Wing was opened, named after the famous Lyme Regis amateur palaeontologist and dealer who became known around the world for important finds along the coastline near her home and contributed to important changes in scientific thinking about prehistoric times and the origins of the Earth. Her achievements were all the more remarkable because she was a woman working in a male-dominated world.
The seaward-facing glass and zinc building includes a geology gallery featuring the story of Mary Anning and Lyme’s fantastic fossils. The museum also offers group fossil walks- advance booking highly recommended. Phone number: 01297 443370.
Charmouth Heritage Centre
When the tide is out, The Charmouth Heritage Centre is a short walk along the coast from the Lyme Regis Museum. The Centre has interactive hands-on displays and information on fossils, fossil hunting and local coastal and marine wildlife. The Centre runs fossil hunt tours along the Charmouth Beach.
The Centre is open between Easter and October, 10.30am -4.30pm and during the winter months, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Phone number: 01297 560772
Further along the coast, The Etches Collection, Museum of Jurassic Marine Life, contains the life’s work of one man, Steve Etches who has collected the fossilised remains of more than 2000 marine reptiles of the Kimmeridgian period from the local area. Superimposed above the display is an immersive, computer-generated image (CGI) projection which will transport the viewer to life in the Jurassic seas of 152-157 million years ago.
In October and November 2017 are scheduled Kimmeridge Bay tours with Steve Etches- tickets (£15 and £8 for children). Tickets are available from the phone number 01929 270000.
Lots of child- orientated activities are held during the summer school holidays
Open daily 10am -5 pm. Last entry 4.15pm
Tickets cost £8, children 5-16 years cost £4 and family tickets are available
Fossil Hunt Tours
The preservation of fossilised remains is largely dependent on the rock type. The cliffs beneath Black Ven, the area between Lyme Regis and Charmouth contain blue lias clay and Charmouth mudstone- both ideal for protecting fossils. The ongoing process of cliff erosion and land slumps means that fossils are still being discovered and this stretch of coast is still the best place for the amateur fossil hunter.
If you just want to see some fossils in situ, walk out along Monmouth Beach to the west of Lyme Regis at low tide to the Ammonite Pavement. This is literally a graveyard for hundreds of ammonites, encased in sea- worn stone. Many are the size of a hand, some even larger.
Fossil Hunt tours not only show you the best places to look for fossils, but also how to find them.
Advance booking for group tours highly recommended as numbers are limited.
Lyme Regis Museum
Group tours can be booked on line- see website or Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Adults £11 and for children over 6 the cost is £6 (children aged 5 or less go free).
2 hour group walks, including an introductory presentation
Adults £8 and Children £4. Places may be booked online or by phone.
Private Fossil Tours
Private fossil tours at a time to suit yourselves (tide permitting) can also be arranged with local experts along both the Lyme Regis and Charmouth shoreline
Prices typically cost £85 for a 2 hour session and around £100 for 3 hours