Dear Mummy, over the Spring break, on the odd day we didn’t have rain, we ventured to the coast. Thankfully we didn’t have far to travel as we stayed in the New Forest and with a quick jaunt south we were on the beach.
We we headed to Highcliffe Beach near Christchurch on the Hampshire/Dorset border. We’d heard that this was the best place to explore the coastline looking for fossils near the New Forest. We didn’t have time on our Easter break to visit the popular Jurassic Coast further up in Dorset. We parked at Highcliffe which has a large car park with RingGo, toilets and an excellent cafe next to it. After a short walk down the steep hill we could see the sea and the beach.
Armed with my trusty net and overalls we walked in the direction of Barton-On-Sea further up the beach in search for the mysterious Barton Clay at the base of the cliffs. Barton-on-Sea is famous for its hundreds of different species of shells that can be found in the mud and rock. The stretch of coastline between Highcliffe and Barton have beds rich with sharks’ teeth, fish and mammal remains. This site is a site of special scientific interest which means you can visit the site, but hammering the bedrock is not permitted.
Climbing the cliffs at Barton on Sea is highly dangerous because of the thick gooey mud so we walked along the sand, jumping up occasionally to dodge the surf. We definitely recommend visiting at low tide for children, as the sea can often reach the base of the cliffs like it did on the day we visited. We headed out while the tide was mid high and had fun dodging the waves as we moved further down the beach. At high tide sharks’ teeth can be found out lying on the sand around along with fish pieces in flints.
After heavy rainfall it’s common to find fossils in the slippages but as it’s dangerous it should only be attempted if the clay is stable in the dryer summer months. Although climbing the cliffs is not recommended, many of the cliff slippages are full of shells, as rain water has washed then out of the clay. We were lucky enough to find a fossilised shell on our first visit embedded in the mud which fell out easily and we inspected it with pride.
The Barton Clay/mud is famous for over 600 species of shells. We were super impressed at how easy it was to find treasure, and the other families we spoke to while on the beach had finds too. Apparently we found a 400 year-old shell according to a passerby we showed it too.
The specimen we found was super fragile and we used my net and tissue paper to wrap it up and keep it safe. All you need is a good eye and patience, as most fossil fragments can be picked off the foreshore without too much work and its a great way to spend a sunny day. When we weren’t hunting for fossils we made use of the beautiful location, eating a picnic and dipping our toes in the freezing water.
This trip is great preparation for when we eventually hit the Jurassic Coast in Dorset as we’d love to visit Lyme Regis this summer and go hunting on the beaches down there. Alas it’s another hour in the car further down the coast towards Weymouth, so a trip will have to wait until the next school holidays. Check out our video vlog of our trip into the New Forest on our channel.
Have you ever been fossil hunting in the UK? If so, did you find any special fossils?
Let us know in the comments.