The rocks in the cliffs at Lyme Regis represent layers from the oldest part of the Jurassic period and were layed down at the bottom of a deep sea between 200 and 195 million years ago. The shale layers that make up most of the cliffs East of Lyme are known as ‘black' shales because of their dark colour. The colour derives from the high amount of organic material included in the sediment. This tells us that the sea bed at the time must have been stagnant and had very little oxygen. Otherwise we would expect organic material of this kind to rot away and the shale to be a lighter grey colour.
The ancient environment
The nature of the rocks and the fossil contained within them points to a deep sea populated mostly by swimming creatures like ammonites, belemnites, fish, Ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs. We know that this part of the world was much closer to the equator at the beginning of the Jurassic so it must have been a tropical sea. There were not very many creatures living on the sea bed because it was stagnant and they could not survive there.
The important thing about having a stagnant sea bed is that it is a perfect environment to preserve the remains of creatures as fossils. Sometimes fossils from these layers are so well preserved that traces of the skin can still be seen! The quality of fossils and their abundance in these rocks means that the cliffs around Lyme Regis are recognised as the richest source of lower Jurassic giant marine reptiles, fish and insects.
Small fossils are constantly being washed from the soft cliffs by the sea. After a storm it can be quite easy to collect a handful of fossils from the beach including ‘fools gold' ammonites, belemnites, crinoids and even fragments of bone. Regular guided fossil hunting walks run from Lyme Regis Museum.
To the West of Lyme Regis there is a single layer of rock eroded into a wave cut platform that is covered in large ammonites. It is known as the ammonite graveyard or pavement and is a designated Special Site of Scientific Interest.
Following wide spread media coverage of a crack that has opened up on the South West Coast path, Dorset County Council is reminding visitors and residents that it is still safe to enjoy the coastline and beaches as long as the ever present natural hazards are treated with respect.
Dorset County Museum has received initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for an exciting new Collections Discovery Centre project. The main aims of the project are to provide a new state of the art learning centre, better archive and storage facilities and better public access to displays of the Museum’s vast collection.
The birthday of world-famous palaeontologist Mary Anning on 21st May is celebrated with the launch of the Special Edition ‘Fossil Hunter’ Lottie doll; a collaboration between award-winning toy company Arklu, TrowelBlazers, an international, not-for-profit group celebrating women in palaeontology, geology and archaeology, and the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site.
This two hour session starts up at the Centre with a 20 minute talk from the Centre Warden about the rocks and fossils of Charmouth and how to find fossils on the beach. The group then heads out onto the beach with the wardens and spend the rest of the session looking for fossils.
£7.50 adult, £3 child. Click here for more details.
Join the Marine Warden on a Rockpool Ramble to explore the fascinating creatures of the seashore and how they live, love and do lunch! Suitable for any age, this event is run at Broad Ledge in Lyme Regis and lasts for one hour 30 minutes.
See the landmarks of Lyme Regis's most famous fossil-hunter in small groups with local expert Natalie Manifold. Learn about the life of 'the greatest fossil hunter ever known'. Explore the town as Mary knew it, see where she lived and where she sold her fossils.
Adults £10, children and students £3. Click here for more information.
Explore the amazing underwater world of the Fleet Lagoon. Use your detective skills to hunt for tracks and signs of marine wildlife along the shore. Spy anemones, sea squirts and scurrying crabs with our underwater seascopes.
Meet at the Chesil Beach Centre. Wellies advised. Adults £2, Children £2.
Explore the amazing underwater world of the Fleet Lagoon.Use your detective skills to hunt for tracks and signs of marine wildlife along the shore. Spy anemones, sea squirts and scurrying crabs with our underwater seascopes.Meet at the Chesil Beach Centre. Wellies advised. Adults £2, Children £2.Fine Foundation Chesil Beach Centre, Portland Road, Weymouth,DT4 9XE