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Fossil Hunting at Redcliff Point on the Jurassic Coast of Dorset.

Fossil Coast Drinks Co is pleased to introduce Steve Snowball as a guest blogger who will be sharing his knowledge, experience and expertise in a series of blogs about fossil hunting on the Jurassic Coast of Dorset. Steve is an accomplished author of "A Guide to Fossil Collecting in England & Wales" and co-author of a series of four other highly-acclaimed guides to fossil collecting on the Dorset coast.

View from Bowleaze Cove to Redcliff Point, Dorset, Jurassic Coast
View from Bowleaze Cove to Redcliff Point, Dorset, Jurassic Coast

If you’re seriously wanting an arduous walk, across boulder-strewn beaches and just happen to be near Weymouth, you might care to visit the stretch of coast between Bowleaze Cove and Redcliff Point.

There’s a range of rock types along this section of the Jurassic Coast and the constant movement  of the cliffs, has resulted in fresh material being deposited with regularity along the foreshore. The entire section is a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest), so no digging or hammering into the bedrock is allowed. However, beneath the cliffs, the rocks and boulders from innumerable falls can provide an excellent hunting ground. Fossils from the various rock formations include a variety of ammonites, large Gryphaea dilatata oysters, belemnites, bivalves, gastropods, rare plant material, and interesting trace fossils. Please be aware that this is not an easy walk, so for young children and those with walking difficulties, it is best avoided. 

Access onto the beach requires parking up in Bowleaze Coveway, either along the roadside or in the car park near the Waterside Holiday Park at DT3 6PP.

You’ll have to cross over the River Jordan (just a stream!), after walking down the concrete slipway and then walk east, past some rock armour and wire gabions. From hereon, it’s tough terrain but fossils can be found anywhere, often loose among the rocks and boulders, as well as in the many fallen rocks that line the route. You’ll need a geological hammer or lump hammer and a chisel to get to these. Make sure you wear goggles!

The Corallian-aged rocks here are littered with trace fossils. These are the burrows, feeding and movement traces of creatures, many of which we have little idea about. They can be identified only by the marks they have left on the ancient sea floor, which has formed part of the rock formations now found along this part of the coast.

Examples of Trace Fossils from Redcliff Point

Top Left: Diplocraterion parallelum | Top Middle: Spongelimorpha burrow system | Top Right: Scolicia locomotion | Bottom Left: Gyrochorte | Bottom Right: Rhizocorallium burrow

The rotational movement of the cliffs has brought down material from the Corallian-aged rocks of approximately 160 million years ago; Bencliff Grit, Nothe Clay, Preston Grit and Nothe Grit. A fault further along brings up the Weymouth Member of there Oxford Clay Formation. The Oxford Clay is highly fossiliferous and a range of fossils can be found in it, including Cardioceras (Below) and Quenstedtoceras mariae ammonites.

Cardioceras ammonite
Cardioceras ammonite

The winter storms and heavy rainfall of 2023/2024 have caused immense damage to the Jurassic Coast, resulting in unprecedented cliff falls, slippages of large tracts of land into the sea, the disappearance of coastal paths and many access points to the beach.

Once you reach Redcliff Point, the return journey has to be made by retracing your steps, so allow for the tides. Check tide times carefully before undertaking this field trip. Wear sensible boots and remember that any seaweed covered rocks can be hard to navigate and to walk upon, so care is required.

Examples of storm damage to the cliffs, paths and walkways

Ordinarily, a return journey could be made by ascending the steps which are beneath the PGL Outdoor Activity Centre and the return made via the South West Coastal Path. The storms of 2023/24 have destroyed this exit route, as can be seen from the photo above.

Examples of Other Fossils from Redcliff Point

Top Left: or Otozamites plant leaf from the Corallian Group | Top Middle: Vertebra of a plesiosaurus | Top Right: Perisphinctes sp. ammonite | Bottom Left: Gryphaea dilatata oyster for the Oxford Clay at Redcliff Point | Bottom Right: Euaspidoceras ammonite

About Guest Blogger - Steve Snowball

Steve Snowball spent a total of 35 years working in education; initially as a teacher, then as a headteacher and finally as an education advisor in West Sussex.  He retired to live on the Jurassic Coast of West Dorset, where he was able to pursue his keen interest in collecting fossils and spending time walking his dogs, enjoying landscape photography, oil painting and gardening. Steve is the author of ‘A Guide to Fossil Collecting in England & Wales’ and co-author of a series of four other highly-acclaimed guides to fossil collecting on the Dorset coast, all published by Siri Scientific Press.


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