The seaside front and the six mile stretch of coastline either side of the town is world famous for its fossils. The reason for their abundance here is due to the type and combination of rocks. 195 million-year-old clay and limestone belonging to the Lower Jurassic period, topped by younger sandstone rocks, gives rise to continual landslips which release new findss on to the beaches.
It was on these beaches that one of Lyme’s most famous citizens, Mary Anning (1799-1847) discovered the first Ichthyosaur to be found in England – and she was just twelve years old at the time! Later, as one of the first professional fossil collectors, she discovered locally a Plesiosaur and a Pterodactyl!
Complete Ichthyosaurs are still found in the vicinity by the experts, but you may be lucky enough to find pieces of fossilised bone such as vertebrae in the beach shingle. The spiral shaped Ammonite (extinct members of the mollusc family) are more common although it does take a practised eye, lots of patience and a little luck to find good examples. You are more likely to find fools gold pyritised ammonites (between the size of a 5p and 10p coin), the bullet shaped Belemnite, or trace ammonites in the large boulders – those at Monmouth Beach (below the undercliff) seen at low tide are particularly impressive, some being as much as one metre across. Excellent examples of local fossils can be seen at the Philpot Museum, the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre and the many shops and exhibition centres which abound in the town.
REMEMBER – check tide tables when on your vacations and keep away from the cliffs, landslips and mud flows – they can be dangerous for you and children.
BEWARE – when you get the hunting bug you just can’t stop.
Keep to footpaths.