My twins have been learning about fossils in year three. They’ve had an interest for some time. However, the subject really came alive when they found out about the work of fossil hunter Mary Anning. They’re a bit obsessed!
I was really taken by the girls’ enthusiasm and felt I should encourage and fuel it. I decided to take the three of them away for a bit of fossil hunting during half-term.
A trip to the Jurassic coast
I booked the four of us in for two nights at the Newlands Holiday Park in Charmouth on the Jurassic coast, which is England’s first natural World Heritage site. We stayed in one of the complex’s apartments for a very reasonable £198. It wasn’t luxury, but the kids absolutely loved it as it had a games room, indoor pool, hot tub and an onsite bar and restaurant, which hosted lots of family activities until late.
Fossil finding in Lyme Regis
We drove to nearby Lyme Regis and went to the Lyme Regis Museum , which is built on the site of Mary Anning’s former home and fossil shop. The museum showcases her life story, houses an amazing fossil collection and features lots of other stuff relating to the town’s history and strong literary connections.
We spent a very engaged two hours discovering lots more about fossils, Mary and the area. The girls even got to choose a gem stone each for completing their trail sheets.
Then we visited St. Michael’s Parish church to see the stained glass window commemorating her life. I noticed that her headstone looked particularly shiny and new. We later discovered that the production company behind the upcoming Mary Anning film (Ammonite) had funded a new one.
The Tourist Office was extremely helpful. They directed us to a prime fossil area, checked the tides so we knew how long we could safely stay out and showed us a few things to look out for. Armed with our fossil guide, we headed out in the rain. This beach wasn’t the main one in the heart of Lyme Regis so it could easily be overlooked. We came up trumps and spotted lots of ammonites, some coprolite (aka fossil poo) and even a vertebrae, which was most likely from an ichthyosaur.
I have to give a special shout out to Roly’s Fudge. We headed there after our fossil hunt when we were wet, a bit cold and in need of a sugar boost. It’s the creamiest, crumbliest and loveliest fudge I’ve ever eaten. They even serve fudge ammonites! Definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area.
Charmouth beach was a five minute drive away. We went to the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre first to try and book a guided tour. They were all full, but the staff spent a lot of time showing us real examples of what to look out for. The centre is really well equipped and we got a very good grounding. We were also advised where to go and given additional safety precautions as there’d been a landslip overnight.
As well as ammonites, we found belemnites, fool’s gold, trace fossils, lots of beef rock, worm tubes and brittle star. One of the volunteers told us that one of our finds was fossilised coral, which was 400 million years old! Apparently we were the most successful fossil hunting family that day; this brought out my inner Monica Geller.
We had a great couple of days, but missed not having Matt/dad with us. We’d all love to return and explore more of the coast and of course do more fossil hunting. It was a very educational trip and lots of fun. Hopefully we’ll come back with Matt soon.