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Where to find fossils
Alister Cruickshanks

Fossils can be found in many places, most fossils are found on the beach or in quarries but many have been found in some very unusual places. Below is a list of places that you could find fossils. Please note some places such as quarries and farm fields need permission before you can enter, other places where fossils form part of the construction such as sea defences and walls, should not even be attempted. Damaging other peoples property is not only illegal, but morally wrong. Many people have used fossils to decorate walls and buildings for themselves and others to enjoy, so leave them well alone and find your own.

 On the Beach

On the Foreshore
The foreshore is the most common place to look for fossils and the most suitable for children. Generally you can find fossils on most beaches because fossils can be washed up from other locations. Flints can contain fossils too even in those locations with sea defences or no cliffs. For instance Harwich is an excellent location for finding fossils but has no cliffs, the fossils are washed out from both the sea and below beach level. Bognor Regis and Charmouth Beach are good examples for this type of location.

Amongst the Shingle
A good place to look on the foreshore is amongst the shingle, fossils can be washed out of cliffs and from below beach level and caught between the shingle on the beach, Harwich, Folkestone and Ramsholt are fine examples of locations in which this particularly applies to.

Under the Rocks
Check under rocks, move stones or boulders, most collectors will simply scan the foreshore looking for finds, but sometimes you can discover an important find hidden away from view. Seatown in Dorset is a good example of such a location.

In the Cliff
Fossils can be found in the cliff too, we do not encourage people to hammer or dig in the cliffs as it can be very dangerous. Usually you will have much more luck at finding them on the beach and under the cliffs where they have been washed or fallen out.. Please remember that if you do search under cliffs wear a hard hat and heed any warning signs about falling rocks and dangerous cliffs. Normally the best time to look is after good high tide, it is not normally worth digging as you will have little chance of finding anything, but simply look for fossils poking out. Yarvaland from the Isle of Wight is a fine example.

On the Tide line
A good place to look on the foreshore is on the tide line, there are two reasons for this, firstly you can find amber that gets caught between seaweed and secondly because smaller fossils are more hidden in this layer and may have escaped being seen by other collectors. A good example of a location for amber is Southwold.

In the Scree Slopes
Fossils can fall on scree slopes from out of cliffs. Check the bottom of these scree slopes as because the fossils are normally heavier, they tend to accumulate at the bottom of these slopes. An example of such a location is Hastings.

At a Quarry, Pit or Cliff Face

On the Quarry Floor
Quarries are a good source of fossils, some much better than others. Please make sure you have permission of the quarry owner and comply to their safety guidelines. some quarries are currently being worked, but many others are now disused.The Quarry floor is a much safer area for collecting that the quarry face. Fossils can be found depending on what bed is exposed at floor level, a little digging can yield some nice finds without running the risk of cliff falls. An example of this is 'Caistor St Edmund's' where the floor is quite rocky and the sponge bed just below the quarry floor .Please also note that your trusty mobile phone may not work at the bottom of quarries.Also note that quarries are not suitable for children as many of them have pools of deep water at the bottom.

In the Cliff Face
Fossils can, of course be found in the cliff face too, but care must be taken and hard hats must be worn, avoid high cliff faces. In some disused quarries, the quarry floor will have been overgrown so the cliff face is sometimes the only option. In other locations such as those with crags, collecting from the cliff face is the only way. An example to such a location is Alderton.

In the Scree Slopes
Fossils can be found at the bottom of quarry scree slopes,where they have fallen out of the cliff face, an example to such a location is 'Upware' where fossils from the higher unreachable beds fall to the base of the cliff face.

In Spoil Heaps
Fossils can be found on quarry or pit spoil heaps, either inside or outside the quarry itself. For instance, at Radstock, the coal spoil heaps can be found at various locations but the old coal pits have now been filled in, some very good fossils can be collected from these heaps.

 Other Locations

Along the river bank
Fossils can be found along the river bank, for instance, the Bungay River has yielded some important finds in certain areas. Fossils can be washed up from the river bed or out of the bank. Some rivers have cliff faces and beach's which are very similar to beach locations. Ramsholt and Aust are excellent locations for collecting.

In small Streams
Small shallow streams, in areas of slow moving currents can yield some excellent finds. Fossils can travel for miles down these streams. For instance, streams in South Wales and the Lake District can yield Trilobites, Shells and other fossils.

Caught in a fishing net
Fishermen quite often trawl up fossils, in fact some of the biggest finds have been made by fishermen, especially in Great Yarmouth, Charmouth and the Isle of Wight.

On a farm field
Farms often are a good place to search for fossils, years of ploughing lifts fossils to the surface, this is particularly true for those areas were chalk is close to the surface. You do of course need permission before searching on farm land. Many farms have public footpaths and fossils can be found along these. Such an example is Shapwick Grange in Dorset.

In your own garden
Yes, fossils can be found in your own garden, if your very lucky. They can work their way to the surface occasionally, especially if the fossil beds are not very far down. Have you ever wondered what's just below your feet?. Some gardens in Beccles, Suffolk, contain boulder clay similar to that which is found at Corton and Pakefield several miles away. Gardeners have reported that this layer is no more than half a meter below the surface. Perhaps now is a good time to go and dig that vegetable patch you've been meaning to get done for years, you never know what you might find.

Deep Sea Trawling
In the North Sea, rich Pleistocene deposits yield vast numbers of mammalian remains, particularly Mammoths. Boats originally accidentally found the bones whilst trawling for fish, the same technique is used to trawl for fossils.

At a construction site
If you can obtain permission, a construction site is a perfect way to find fossils (in the right area of course). Many locations, where road construction cuts through hills and valleys, when digging the foundations for buildings, have all found some excellent finds. In fact, in Tokyo dinosaurs are often found when digging the foundations for sky scrappers. Some amazing finds were made during the construction of the channel tunnel for instance. Note that construction sites are dangerous places, permission must be sought and safety guidelines strictly adhered to.

Walls & Sea Defences
Some walls and sea defences, especially the defences that collect together a range of rocks and wire them together, can also yield fossils. The problem is, it is hard to tell where they originally came from. Portland stone is a very popular building material, that can contain many fossils...but please don't go knocking all the walls apart, otherwise you could make a few enemies and gain yourself a criminal record for vandalism in the bargain.

Landfills and dumps
Fossils can be found at landfill sites, these are usually redundant quarries that are dug quite deep.Once again permission must be sought.At dumps people tend to throw almost anything fossils included, get your local dump manager to keep an eye open for any that people have thrown away, you never know what may turn up.

Sticking out of a tree!
Yes you can even find fossils sticking out of trees. Many years ago, Belemnites were believed to have been lighting bolts, when found in tree trunks. But what really happened was that the tree had grown around around the Belemnite bringing it out of the ground as it grew around it.
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