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Coming soon: A Guide to Fossil Collecting on the East Dorset Coast

Posted by David Penney on

We are very pleased to announce that the final title by Steve Snowball and Craig Chivers in the Dorset Fossil Coast series will be available at the beginning of May, 2021. Once again, it will be full of stunning photography and the remarkable prehistoric life and scene reconstructions by Andreas Kurpisz.

Siri Scientific Press (2021) 978-1-8381528-2-6, 192 pp, 240 x 165 mm, soft cover, 200+ colour photographs & illustrations.

From the back cover
This is the third in a series of highly acclaimed and informative guides to the safe and responsible collection of fossils along the Dorset coast. The focus in this book is on the eastern section, from the Chalk cliffs at Bat’s Head, across some of Dorset’s more remote coastal locations and to the final stage of the journey at Hengistbury Head.

The information contained is fully up-to-date, with detailed descriptions of fossil-bearing sites, the geology and the fossils to be found there. Each page is sumptuously illustrated in full colour, with stunning photographs of the beautiful East Dorset landscape and of the fossils.

This guide will prove invaluable to those wishing to visit the Dorset coast and to engage in an increasingly popular hobby. It will appeal to the amateur, as well as the more experienced collector. The book is further complimented by superb reconstructions of life in Jurassic and Cretaceous times by palaeo-artist, Andreas Kurpisz, who has continued his collaboration with the authors.

Steve Snowball and Craig Chivers are the authors of both ‘A Guide to Fossil Collecting on the West Dorset Coast’ and ‘A Guide to Fossil Collecting on the South Dorset Coast’, also published by Siri Scientific Press. Their considerable experience in the collection and preservation of fossils found in the area in which they live, are reflected within the pages of these books.





A World Heritage Site


The geology & landscape of East Dorset


 i. EXCURSIONS NEAR DURDLE DOOR: Bat’s Head to St. Oswald’s Bay, Dungy Head & Lulworth Cove

 ii. EXCURSIONS NEAR WORBARROW BAY: Mupe Bay, Worbarrow Bay, Brandy Bay & Gad Cliff

iii. EXCURSIONS NEAR KIMMERIDGE BAY: Broad Bench towards Chapman’s Pool

iv. EXCURSIONS NEAR ST. ALDHELM’S HEAD: St. Aldhelm’s Head & the Purbeck Quarries

v. EXCURSIONS NEAR DURLSTON BAY: Durlston Bay, Peveril Point & Swanage

vi. EXCURSIONS NEAR HENGISTBURY HEAD: Studland Bay & Hengistbury Head


Foreword by the Authors

This book concludes our fossil collecting journey along the beautiful Jurassic Coast of Dorset, which began in our first book in the series, ‘A Guide to Fossil Collecting on the West Dorset Coast’ (2018). Our second book, ‘A Guide to Fossil Collecting on the South Dorset Coast’ (2020) ended at the majestic Chalk headland of White Nothe at the eastern end of Ringstead Bay, which is very much where this book begins. From here we travel eastwards, sometimes to the wildest and remotest parts of the Dorset coast and where many sections are totally inaccessible, due to the nature of the terrain. In these areas, only the convenience of the Dorset Coastal path allows glimpses of the coast and the tantalising fossil-bearing rocks far below.

As we know, fossil collecting can involve risk. However, at all times we advocate safe and responsible collecting practices but we need to emphasise that this particular section of the Dorset coast can pose significant dangers, especially with regard to the Kimmeridge cliffs. The main danger is the risk of rock falls and the second hazard is the very real risk being cut off by the tide. At Kimmeridge Bay and eastwards, the cliffs are vertical and high and subject to intense erosion at their base. Substantial, frequent rock falls, at high velocity, can occur without any warning and traversing the section will certainly require the prudent use of a hard hat at all times. You will also require a low tide to travel along the cliffs to the east and the danger of being cut off there is very real, unless proper precautions are undertaken.

Always check and double check tide times and be aware of double tides. In any case, the actual collection of fossil material at Kimmeridge Bay and to the east is prohibited, unless prior permission is granted by the Smedmore Estate. The landowners own a large section of coast around Kimmeridge and are rightfully concerned about collection methods often employed. Under no circumstances should visitors use geological hammers to extract fossils from the cliffs or bedrock. This is an infringement of the Dorset Fossil Collecting Code, goes against the wishes of the landowner and the area has SSSI status (Site of Special Scientific Interest) awarded to it. A better alternative is to view a spectacular range of fossils found from this vicinity, now displayed at the Etches Museum at Kimmeridge Bay, which houses specimens that most of us can only dream of finding and where they can be seen and studied, both in context and in safety.

The mudstones and shale of the Kimmeridge Clay extend from Brandy Bay to St. Aldhelm’s Head, in other words a large part of the east Dorset coastline. Debris falls every day and in certain weather conditions these falls can be substantial. It is a dangerous place, unless it is well understood. Always keep well away from the base of the cliffs. The higher cliffs to the east are even more dangerous than those at Kimmeridge Bay and you will certainly need a low tide to travel far.

It might be that geologists or fossil collectors find the above safety advice a bit too daunting, but other locations described in this book might be considered to be less hazardous and less restrictive. Again though, we advocate the need for a well-planned visit, which takes the local terrain and tide times into consideration. As is the case with the rest of the Dorset coast, the section to the east of the county also has SSSI status and collectors should be aware that the collection of any fossil material should be from loose material (ex-situ) only. There should be strictly no hammering or digging into the bedrock or cliffs under any circumstances.

The authors take no responsibility for any activities of field parties or individuals going to the coast for their own purposes or objectives. As at other geological sites, a risk is present and the possibility of an accident, although a rare occurrence, cannot be eliminated. East of Kimmeridge Bay, the Army might well be active on the Lulworth ranges, so accessibility is often very restricted during the published firing times. Again, it will be prudent to check before setting out and to avoid disappointment. Furthermore, the Enscombe Estate, the land owners at Chapman’s Pool, do not wish for fossil collecting on their land, other than by authorised persons.

Of course, taking an interest in the basic geology of the area certainly aids with the potential collection of fossils and an understanding of rock types can help locate the best sites and aid with the identification of your finds. The geology of Dorset is often complex but we hope this guide can help with overcoming some of the hurdles of finding suitable fossil-bearing locations. The east coast of Dorset is unsurpassed in the landforms which dominate the coastal scenery and even if accessibility to the beaches proves difficult, the South West Coastal Path is certainly a means by which the dramatic landscape can be taken in and enjoyed.

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