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.
With the Jurassic Coast filling with visitors for the busy summer season, new deckchairs, windbreaks and beach shelters are appearing on the beach near the Hive Beach Café, Burton Bradstock in West Dorset.
Pop-Up Art Events with Lusea Warner: Kids Art Wednesdays
Hurray! It's KidsArt Wednesday. Morning and afternoon printing workshops for 7 years plus. Please bring old clothes as we will be getting messy!
Morning workshops - Jurassic Textures. Use materials found on the Jurassic coastline to learn traditional methods and create a variety of prints suitable for framing.Time: 10.00am - 12.30pm. Price: £15 or two siblings for £25.
Afternoon Workshops - Fossil Printing. View, touch and learn about different fossils. Sketch, design and create some jurassic coast inspired artwork that you can take home, all in an afternoon.Time: 1.30 - 4.00pm. Price: £15 or two siblings for £25
Come along to Jubilee Gardens, by the Clock Tower, overlooking the Seafront.
We have activities for all including :
Fossil Box Dig - be a geologist looking for fossils!
Colouring and crafts of dinosaurs
Go for a walk on the Timeline Path in Cliff Field Gardens (starting from Jubilee Gardens) and discover 21 fossils of the Jurassic Coast.
Explore Seaton Labyrinth offering a maze that you can follow all the way to the centre and back again. The path follows the evolutionary story of coastal geology with pebbles and ammonites from the Jurassic Coast.
Join us between 11am and 2pm for 'Fun in the Sun!'
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.
Visit the Fossil Forest on a Ranger led walk. Learn about the amazing formations left in the rocky layers from over 140m years ago and the bizarre 'broken beds' of rock. Return via the beach or, for those wanting an extra challenge, follow the Ranger over Bindon Mill where you will cross the site of an Iron Age Fort dating back to 400BC.