Author: Katie Burden

It’s been a big year for staff and volunteers at the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre. They were awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service earlier in the year, and their team has inspired thousands of visitors with the ancient stories of the Jurassic Coast. We caught up with warden Ali Ferris about the centre’s achievements in 2016.

You can now find all the details and dates of Charmouth’s Fossil Hunting walks in 2017 on our events calendar. It’s such a great day out so be sure to book.

How many visitors have you had this year?

We have had about 102,000 so far but we have not added our school groups on as of yet. That is approximately an extra 3,000 to add! It is the first year we have broken 100,000 people so a record breaker!

Ensuring that visitors stay safe whilst out looking for fossils on the beach is always a key concern. How has the year been in that respect? Any major safety incidents to report?

We have been quite lucky this year – we have not had any major incidents. The year stated off with two huge landslides and people were flocking to the area and it started to become unsafe but with the help of the Jurassic Coast Trust’s Fossil Warden Stuart Godman, we managed to divert any serious incidents. I only had one blood nose to patch up after someone was under a cliff and a rock fell onto him.

What’s been the most incredible thing that someone’s found on the beach this year?

We have had some great finds this year from the big to the small. Someone has found an ichthyosaur and a very large fish. We have had a 3D skull of an ichthyosaur too! However, someone on a walk at the end of the year found the beak of a nautilus which, although very small, is very rare! Our Senior Warden Phil has only ever seen 4 found here in Charmouth in 8 years. So we have a great variety of finds here.

Very rare nautilus beak found by 7 year-old Ronnie on one of Charmouth’s fossil walks earlier this year.

Very rare nautilus beak found by 7 year-old Ronnie on one of Charmouth’s fossil walks earlier this year.


What’s the strangest question you’ve been asked this year?

The strangest question I have been asked was; if the tide is in at Charmouth will it be out in Lyme Regis (one mile away)? This is a question we get asked more than you would guess, which is why it is important for us to teach about the tides at the Centre and during our fossil hunting walks.

Any new exciting plans for 2017 at the Centre?

We are developing our Centre displays for 2017, although we have had a few delays and they may not be ready until late 2017. However there will be a new rock-pool dig tray in the education room, and we hope to develop the marine displays further and have new coats of paint to spruce up the education room. We have moved the Kids Zone around a little to make our duty warden desk more accessible to the public so they can ask us questions about their fossil finds!

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