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G'day all!


After three years since my last visit to the UK, i finally returned in December 2017 for another massive collecting trip across England. This was my most ambitious tour of the UK's Mesozoic and Cenozoic vertebrate deposits thus far, with 20 days of collecting across ten different locations. These were (in chronological order from first visit):


  • Abbey Wood in East London
  • Beltinge in Kent
  • Bouldnor on the Isle of Wight
  • Compton Bay to Grange Chine on the Isle of Wight
  • Lyme Regis to Charmouth in Dorset
  • Aust Cliff in Gloucestershire
  • Saltwick Bay in Yorkshire
  • Kings dyke in Cambridgeshire
  • Minster in Kent
  • Tankerton in Kent.


If you went collecting at any of these places in the last month, there's probably a 25.6975% chance you saw me looking very intimidating hunched over in my hooded rain jacket and muddy pants :P 14 of those collecting days were back-to-back, a new record for me, though it was very tiring! Having just come from the hot Australian summer, winter collecting in England was certainly a challenge at times and my fingers and toes froze to the point i could barely feel them on multiple occasions. Temperatures for many of the days reached 0 degrees celcius or below, with ice on the ground around me and even snow falling while i was trying to collect! I also went out during the middle of the night to collect using a head torch on some occasions (mainly at Bouldnor) due to the tidal conditions and bad weather which prevented collecting during the day. All in all i am certainly pleased with how the trip went, i was successful at all locations with the exception of Tankerton. For some of the locations (Aust Cliff, Kings dyke, Saltwick Bay) it was also my first and only visit, so i'm glad i still managed to do well with no prior experience at these sites and with such limited time at each. I have tried to write this trip report not only as a means of showing you guys my finds but also to provide an informative overview of some of the better locations for Mesozoic and Cenozoic vertebrates across England for others who might be planning similar trips. 


Anyway, here are the results! Pictures will be spread across the next 12 posts due to file size restrictions. 




Abbey Wood - East London (6/12/17, 30/12/17 and 31/12/17)


Formation: Blackheath ('Lesnes Shell Bed')

Deposit Age: 54.5 million years (Eocene)

Fossil Diversity: Sharks, bony fish, chimaeroids, bivalves, gastropods, rare mammals, turtles and crocodiles


This was one of only two inland locations i visited (the other being Kings dyke). As i have found, the majority of the UK's easily accessible fossil collecting locations are coastal! Abbey Wood is an excellent location just 45 minutes on the tube from central London. It is situated in a park called the Lesnes Abbey Woods and there is a small collecting area that is open to the public for shallow digging (see my first two pictures below). You definitely need a sifter, shovel and basin of water at this location to have any real success. Be warned though that once you combine the fine Blackheath sediments with water during sifting you get some pretty gnarly mud so expect to come away from this site looking like you've just been rolling around in the dirt. I'm sure i got some interesting looks from people on the tube going back to London :D it was all worth it though, as every single sift load produced at least one shark tooth across the three days i visited. Very impressive considering the number of obvious holes dotted around the ground from years worth of other collectors visiting. It should be noted though that the mammalian material from this location is of high scientific importance, and collecting here is allowed on the condition that any mammalian finds be brought to the attention of and handed in to specialists like Dr Jerry hooker at the Natural History Museum in London. I didn't find any such material on my trips unfortunately. 



Here is the designated collecting area. The statue at the front is of Coryphodon, one of the rare Eocene mammals that has been found at the site. 





The full haul of shark teeth from three days of sifting in the collecting area. Most are from Striatolamia and Sylvestrilamia. I gave up trying to count them once i got past 100 :P 




Some of the other fishy bits that often turn up during sifting, including guitar fish teeth on the far left and two dermal denticles (Hypolophodon sylvestris), one gar pike fish tooth in the middle (Lepisosteus suessionensis), one shark vertebra down the bottom and unidentified bony fish vertebrae on the right. 




I don't typically collect shells, but i picked these up for the sake of adding a bit more diversity to my Abbey Wood collection. These are bivalves and gastropods of various species. The molluscan diversity from this one location is actually quite impressive. 






Beltinge - Kent (7/12/17 and 29/12/17)


Formation: Upnor ('Beltinge Fish Bed')

Deposit Age: 56.5 million years old (Paleocene)

Fossil Diversity: Sharks, chimaeroids, bony fish, rays, turtles, crocodiles, bivalves, wood


This is my favourite shark tooth collecting location in the UK and probably my favourite that i have visited anywhere so far. The shoreline directly opposite the access point at the end of Reculver Drive in Beltinge is loaded with teeth and dare i say it's impossible to come here and walk away empty handed. The shore however is very flat so there is generally only about a two hour window of time that collecting can be carried out here, one hour either side of low tide. Conditions can also vary depending on how sanded over the shore is, whether the Beltinge Fish Bed itself is exposed and how low the tide drops. However even on a poor day you will still find teeth here, just not as many! I experienced this first hand as the first day i visited on December 7th the conditions were excellent. The tide dropped quite low, there wasn't too much sand covering the clay and the Beltinge Fish Bed was exposed. This allowed direct in-situ collecting of teeth from this rich layer and i ended up with something like 240 teeth from just a couple of hours of looking. The second visit i made on December 29 of the same month was almost the exact opposite. It's amazing how quickly these coastal locations can change! The shore was largely sanded over, the fish bed was covered and the tide didn't drop anywhere near as much. I was out about the same amount of time as the first but only managed 69 teeth (only :P). Keep these things in mind if you are planning a visit. Luckily though i didn't just find shark teeth, i also managed to locate some of the other less common finds as you will see below!



Here is the area of shoreline that produces teeth, photographed on December 7th. It was quite cold and rainy! 





Three teeth sitting next to each other as found. 



More as-found shark teeth. 





This one made me quite excited when i saw it. It's a large piece of chimaeroid fish jaw and mouthplate coming straight from the Beltinge Fish Bed itself (the darker, dull-green sandy clay in this picture). 




Beltinge is continued in the next post. 

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The full haul from my first day collecting at the location (December 7th). Well over 200 teeth thanks to the fish bed being exposed, a big thanks to the other collector who pointed this out to me on the day! The vast majority of these teeth are Striatolamia macrota followed by Carcharias hopei




Two large chimaeroid jaws with mouthplates. I think these are from either Edaphodon bucklandi or Ischyodus dollei




A turtle limb bone, not sure if it's a distal humerus or femur, can anyone help?




A crocodile tooth, my first one from this location!




Three teeth from the uncommon species Palaeohypotodus rutoti.




Myliobatis eagle ray teeth. These are not very common at this location. Maybe there were too many sharks swimming around for their liking! 




Turtle shell fragments. These are also uncommon here. The piece with the rippled surface is Trionyx, the others i am not sure about. 




A selection of some of the larger and more intact Striatolamia macrota teeth. This is by far the most common shark tooth to find at Beltinge. The tooth on the far right is so far my largest tooth from Beltinge, measuring 41 mm. I know they can get up to about 60 mm though at their biggest! 




A selection of some of the larger and more intact Carcharias hopei teeth. These are the second most abundant at this site. They differ from the Striats by lacking fine striations that run up the lingual surface of the crown. You need to look at them up close to be able to tell the difference. 




These teeth i am not sure about so i have lumped them together here. Some as you can see are quite hooked in shape. Any suggestions?




Fragments of Otodus obliquus teeth. I really wanted to find a whole example of this species but alas i didn't meet this goal. These are arguably the most sought after teeth at this location by collectors due to their large size and distinctive appearance (and the possibility of it being an ancestor of the famous C. megalodon). 


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Bouldnor - Isle of Wight (8/12/17 to 11/12/17)


Formation: Bouldnor

Deposit Age: 34 to 32 million years old (latest Eocene to earliest Oligocene)

Fossil Diversity: Turtles, crocodilians, mammals, birds, lizards, snakes, amphibians, fish, bivalves, gastropods, wood


Bouldnor is easily the best location in the UK for collecting Cenozoic vertebrate fossils that aren't fishy. The beach which yields these pieces stretches from between Yarmouth in the west over to Gurnard Bay in the east but the best section is arguably between Bouldnor itself and Hamstead to the east. The shingle here is full of bony bits, mostly freshwater turtle carapace. You can quite easily pick up hundreds of these if you spend some time here. My goal for this site however is always to collect the rarer mammalian and crocodilian remains. I'm happy to report that i succeeded in doing this, although i certainly had to work harder than usual for these finds. I had planned to go out during the day mostly but bad weather struck while i was there and i was instead forced to do most of my collecting in the middle of the night when the conditions were more tolerable believe it or not. Luckily i had a head torch for just such an occasion and most of my best finds below were actually found in the pitch dark along the middle part of the coastline between Bouldnor and Hamstead. 



The location. This was one of the rare instances where i got to spend time on the beach during the day!




Alligatorid crocodilian vertebra as found (Diplocynodon hantoniensis). The lighting wouldn't suggest it but this was one of my night finds, lit by only my head torch. 




As-found tooth crown from an anthracotherid mammal, likely Bothriodon. These anthracotheres were by far the most common mammals alive in the area at the time. Another night find. 




A suspected piece of Diplocynodon crocodilian skull, although this angle doesn't show it, the piece isn't flat like a scute but instead hollow and 3D. Still currently a mystery but i'm working on solving it! Another night find. 




Mammalian proximal phalanx as found. Most likely from Bothriodon. Complete/undamaged bones of any kind are rare on this coast, so i was especially delighted when i came across this on my third night of collecting! 




A second complete mammal phalanx! I got very lucky i think! Also most likely from Bothriodon. This was found about 80 metres or so from the first, on my fourth night of collecting. 




Both of the mammal phalanges together. The larger one measures a considerable 43mm long which i think is quite large for Bothriodon






Bouldnor finds are continued in the next post. 

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A mixed bag this one, with a fish jaw in the top left, two fish vertebrae, two crocodilian teeth (Diplocynodon hantoniensis) and what i think is either a mammalian caudal vertebra or digit on the far right but i could be wrong. 




Mammalian teeth, probably all from anthracotheres. The smallest is a nice little incisor. 




Beach rolled mammal jaws, two of which have worn tooth roots still in them. 




Crocodilian vertebrae from Diplocynodon hantoniensis. I usually find a lot more of these but this time only two turned up across the time i was here. 




A distal phalange (ungual) from an anthracothere, most likely Bothriodon. This is the first claw core i have found anywhere so i was quite happy with this!




A selection of bone fragments, most of which are likely mammalian. The bottom two pieces in particular are distal fragments of mammal metatarsals. 




Crocodilian scutes (and the one weird piece) from Diplocynodon hantoniensis. Pieces of these are quite common, but finding whole scutes is certainly a challenge. 




Freshwater turtle shell from Trionyx. This is the less common of the two main turtle genera found along this coast. 




Lots and lots of shell pieces from the most common vertebrate at Bouldnor, the freshwater turtle Emys. This lot is still only about half of the turtle shell i came back with from Bouldnor, and despite this, i was trying my best not to pick up every piece i found! It's hard though not to because they are still really cool. 


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Compton Beach to Grange Chine - Isle of Wight (12/12/17 to 14/12/17)


Formation: Wessex

Deposit Age: 130 to 125 million years old (Early Cretaceous)

Fossil Diversity: Dinosaurs, crocodilians, pterosaurs, turtles, mammals, amphibians, lizards, birds, fish, wood


This stretch of coastline has produced the most diverse dinosaur assemblage in all of Europe, with over 20 species and countless other vertebrate taxa as well. I think this area must be one of the most accessible and easiest places on earth to hunt for dinosaurs (not to mention legal!). Both bones and teeth can be found on the beach, but the teeth in particular are quite rare and highly sought after. Bones are much easier to find and if you spend a full day scouring the shingle here (and you know what you are looking for) you are quite likely to find them. The vast majority of dinosaur bones here are beach rolled fragments but the occasional diagnostic piece also turns up. Identifying these worn bones is all but impossible, though it's commonly stated that most of them belong to the dinosaur Iguanodon (how true this really is seems questionable). Even if you can't identify them, it's still amazing to be able to find dinosaur bones like this on a beautiful looking beach! I have personally had most of my success along this coast south of Brook Bay towards Chilton Chine and also between Chilton Chine and Grange Chine, though others would vouch for Compton Beach and Hanover Point as well. 



The view from the access point at Brook Bay looking north towards Hanover Point. Isn't it beautiful?!




Another view of the coast from Brook Bay looking south towards Chilton Chine. 




A final view from Grange Chine looking north towards Chilton Chine. This pale grey bed in the cliff that you can see here is called L9, and it was from this bed that the holotype skeleton of the allosauroid theropod Neovenator was found. This is my favourite European dinosaur, so i was keen to visit this bed and see where it came from! Some of the bones pictured below were found on the beach opposite this bed and are likely derived from it. Maybe they are from Neovenator too?! :P 




As-found beach rolled dinosaur bones. They take some time to find, but once you do see them the textural difference to the surrounding flint is obvious. 








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The largest bit of rolled dinosaur bone i picked up, from just south of Hanover Point.




A suspected fragment of large dinosaur rib from the beach directly opposite Chilton Chine.





More beach rolled dinosaur bones. These are only the larger ones that i have pictured, but in total i collected almost 30 across three days. 





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Lyme Regis to Charmouth - Dorset (15/12/17 to 18/12/17)


Formations: Blue Lias and Charmouth Mudstone

Deposit Age: 200 to 190 million years old (Early Jurassic)

Fossil Diversity: Marine reptiles, bony fish, sharks, ammonoids, belemnites, bivalves, gastropods, crinoids, wood, rare dinosaurs, pterosaurs and insects


Easily the most famous fossil location i visited, this stretch of beach is without doubt the most heavily collected in the whole of the UK. Despite this though if you put in enough time you can still find some great things. Many people collecting on the beach are just casual visitors with no real fossil experience so although the numbers can be intimidating you shouldn't be put off. How you collect here depends also on what you aim to find. Generally i think there are two types of collectors here, whackers and lookers. The whackers are mainly interested in ammonites and seek out suitable nodules that can contain beautiful calcite ammonites once split open or, if they are more patient, prepped. The lookers (like me) are usually interested in bones, and luckily you don't need to do much physical labour to find them as they are already loose amongst the shingle waiting to be spotted. What you need to be able to do though is recognise the texture and shape of bone from amongst the millions of pieces of flint that litter the beach. The most common bones to be found are the hockey puck shaped vertebrae of ichthyosaurs (excluding rolled non-diagnostic bone pieces). My goal when i first started collecting here in 2013 was to find one of these, but now i've been lucky enough to also find the rarer marine reptile remains that also occasionally turn up here and have since checked off a lot more from my 'want list'. The older and distinctively banded Blue Lias Formation is exposed at the western end near Church Cliffs, whilst the Charmouth Mudstone Formation is the dominant rock unit across the rest of the section towards Charmouth and beyond. 



The view on the beach from Lyme Regis looking towards Charmouth. I certainly got lucky with the weather this time! 




As-found plesiosaur vertebra on the beach in roughly the middle of the stretch between Lyme and Charmouth. I was thrilled to find this, it is my first plesiosaur vertebra and such bones are fairly rare finds on this coast. It is commonly said that for every one plesiosaur vertebra on the beach you usually find something like 30 ichthyosaur verts so when i found this sitting on the shore in plain sight on my first day of collecting (15/12/17) i couldn't believe it! 




As found section of ichthyosaur rostrum (jaw) with teeth, another first for me from this coast! I had previously found bits of jaw bone but none retained any teeth until this find. This came from the rocky boulders that are exposed only at low tide, on the Charmouth side of the beach. 




As-found ichthyosaur vertebrae. Both are quite small.  





Ammonites lying in plain sight on the beach. 





Lyme Regis to Charmouth finds are continued in the next post. 

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Beach rolled marine reptile bones. 




Ichthyosaur vertebrae. As previously stated, bones like this are perhaps the most common along this stretch of beach. Most likely from Ichthyosaurus itself. 




An ichthyosaur paddle digit. Another first crossed off! I had always wondered why no paddle bones had turned up for me yet vertebrae were always so common, but finally i can say that i have found one from this location!




Close ups of the ichthyosaur rostrum. Quite nasty looking teeth! I was really glad to find this. Probably Ichthyosaurus





Plesiosaur vertebra. Probably from Plesiosaurus. It is quite worn, but on the plus side the bony texture is quite nice i think! The final photo shows the paired foramen openings on the underside of the bone, a classic plesiosaur feature. 




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Aust Cliff - Gloucestershire (19/12/17)


Formation: Westbury (the 'Rhaetic Bone Bed')

Deposit Age: 205 million years old (Late Triassic)

Fossil Diversity: Bony fish, sharks, marine reptiles, rare dinosaurs


This was a new location for me, and i was pleasantly surprised! The unit of interest here is a bone bed layer within the Westbury Formation that is full of fish and reptile remains from the Late Triassic. I had read how productive this bonebed was, but until i was actually there picking up chunks of the stuff i didn't believe it would be quite so full of teeth and bones! Unfortunately this bone bed does not outcrop at beach level, only in the upper part of the cliff above you, so you need to rely on rock falls to collect at this location. However if you can find any of the bone bed on the shore below i guarantee you will find things. Competition for blocks of this rock on the beach is apparently high among collectors, though i had no trouble finding a good number of chunks of it when i visited myself. I could however tell that some of them had already been broken up by others. Even so, a good number of specimens were left behind and for a first timer i was quite happy with the nice haul of fish teeth and various reptile bones that i ended up with after just a few hours. 



The location as seen from the path access just off of New Passage Road. The bone bed of interest is in the whitish layers at the top of the cliff. The red beds below are unfossiliferous. You can also collect on the north side of the bridge around the corner in the distance of this photo, but i only stayed on the south side. 




Just to demonstrate how productive this bone bed can be, the following five pictures all show specimens on this one single block of rock below. 



A reptilian limb section. 



Another bit of probable limb (or rib?)



Perhaps a bit of shark spine?



Another bone exposed on the side of the block in cross section. 




A small fish tooth. Severnichthys acuminatus. 




A small shark tooth. This little guy and the others like it are now the oldest shark teeth in my collection. 




Large fragment of marine reptile bone. 





A small fish scale.





Part of a large ichthyosaur vertebra. This was found as is. Someone else seemed to have unsuccessfully broken it out of a block and then left it. I'm not complaining :D




Fish bone i suspect.




Another little shark tooth (Hybodus). Some of these you almost need a magnifying glass to see! I'm sure i could go through the rocks i picked up and look at them closely to find all sorts of other stuff as well. 


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Saltwick Bay - Yorkshire (23/12/17)


Formation: Whitby Mudstone

Deposit Age: 180 to 175 million years old (Early Jurassic) 

Fossil Diversity: Marine reptiles, ammonites, belemnites, fish, plants, bivalves, rare dinosaurs and pterosaurs 


Another new location for me, i visited this site on the way up into Scotland as i felt that going past the famous Yorkshire Jurassic coast and not stopping to collect would have been a recipe for deep regret later on. This stretch of coast is almost as famous as the one in Dorset, and is arguably just as productive. I only had three hours to visit this location and being a first timer i didn't expect to do very well. It ended up being a great day however and i managed a good sampling of the local fauna. Collecting here is tougher than the Dorset coast in many ways because the rocks usually still encase the fossils when you find them rather than picking things like ammonites up loose as you might do down in Dorset. Fossils here are mostly in nodules of solid rock with only their edges showing to tell you there is something inside. If you are skilled with a hammer you can crack these nodules and pray that the fossil inside doesn't smash into pieces, which many people are able to do, or you can instead take the more methodical approach and carefully prep these nodules with air scribes and chisels to produce the finest results. This of course requires the right tools and skill with prepping, which i personally do not have. So i stuck to picking things up as they were on the beach and kept them un-prepped as display specimens perhaps to be prepped at some point in the future. I can't speak for all of the Yorkshire Jurassic coast, but from what i experienced, ammonite nodules are surprisingly common at Saltwick Bay and in just a few hours you should be able to pick up a decent one or two. I was more interested in the bones of marine reptiles though, so i was very pleased when i came across a huge block full of various reptile bones. This piece weighed well over 5 kg and it was a real problem trying to get it home in my suitcase on the plane back to Australia but thankfully it survived the journey (and so did my suitcase!). I left this location quite impressed with the number of fossils found here and perhaps in future trips i will dedicate more time here instead of just going to the Dorset coast for my Jurassic marine reptile fix. 


View from the access point looking down into the bay from above. It's quite a stunning view! Apologies about the darkness of the image, i took this at sunset as i was leaving. 




The large block of marine reptile bones that i found on the shore (south side of the bay). It appears to contain a variety of bones that are most likely associated, including a probable vertebra in cross section (the rectangular bone). I am very keen to find out what this is, but probably won't know until it is prepped. The likely candidates include ichthyosaur, plesiosaur or marine crocodile. 






A beautiful ammonite. I believe this is Dactylioceras commune. I found this ammonite amongst the boulders as-is, which makes me suspect that someone planted it there. The other side is encased in rock, but to have this side beautifully exposed like this, could it really be natural?! I'd like to hear from other Yorkshire collectors if this happens or not. Maybe someone decided to leave an anonymous Christmas present??? :P 




Other ammonite nodules with the edges showing, much more natural looking! 




Sections of ammonite coil. These are quite abundant amongst the boulders and pebbles on the beach. 




Belemnite guards. The last one has a weird wavy wear pattern to it, am i going crazy or does it look like insect damage on trees? Are any ancient invertebrates known to do this to belemnite guards? 




Belemnite phragmocones. I don't find these at my other usual Mesozoic locations that have belemnites so i was glad to pick these up. 


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Kings dyke - Cambridgeshire (27/12/17)


Formation: Oxford Clay

Deposit Age: About 165 to 160 million years old (Middle to Late Jurassic) 

Fossil Diversity: Marine reptiles, fish, rare dinosaurs and pterosaurs, ammonoids, belemnites, bivalves, plants 


The Oxford Clay is a very productive Jurassic marine formation that has long been producing amazing fossils. I was very excited to visit this location for the first time. Kings dyke is a working brick quarry and access is forbidden, but a designated collecting area has been set aside and is accessible within the Kings dyke Nature Reserve after membership to the reserve has been obtained. This collecting area is regularly topped up with fresh rock from the working quarry so there is always stuff to find. I had first been introduced to the Oxford Clay as a young child by the BBC series Walking with Dinosaurs in the fourth episode 'Cruel Sea' which was based on the fauna of this deposit. I'm not ashamed to admit that while i was collecting here i was playing the Cruel Sea theme music in my head! The location lived up to the episode title however, as this was easily the worst collecting conditions i experienced on the trip and probably the worst i've had anywhere. For starters it was freezing cold, but on top of that just as i got to the site to begin collecting, it started snowing! Now normally i would be happy to see this but the timing in this instance was terrible as the snow quickly blanketed the rocks of the collecting area within Kings dyke Nature Reserve to the point that i couldn't see anything! I only had a few hours to collect here and this was to be my only visit, so needless to say i was quite annoyed. Great fossils were literally right underneath my feet but i couldn't see them. Finally the snow stopped, by which point i was freezing cold and really questioning my sanity for wanting to be out collecting like this. Things hardly got easier though, as the snow then began to melt. You can guess the result... water + clay = one seriously sticky situation. I was soon trudging around in mud so thick it sunk over my shoes and i almost lost them off my feet a couple of times. The washing that the clay had just received was eventually working in my favour by exposing new finds, including the biggest belemnites i had ever seen in my life! They were monstrous! Splitting any of the rocks for ammonites was out of the question due to the fact that the rocks were now just sludge, so i spent almost my whole time here picking up the huge belemnites. I really wanted some marine reptile material though, and i finally managed to locate a few bone fragments but they are nothing exceptional. Considering the conditions though that i had to collect under for most of my visit here i'm surprised i found much at all! This is truly testament to the productiveness of the site, and i really wish i could have come on a better day to do it more justice. I'll be back!


Location photo. This is not mine, i sourced this as i could not get my phone out to take a photo in the heavy snowfall. I wish it looked like this while i was there. Basically, take this scene and imagine it all as one big mud slurry with snow on top instead :) 




Marine reptile rib fragment. 




Two more bits of marine reptile bone. The top one looks like another small rib fragment, while the bottom i think is a small piece of rostrum from an ichthyosaur (probably Ophthalmosaurus). 




HUGE belemnites! The biggest is about 6 inches long. 




Bivalve shells. The far right is an example of the famous 'devils toenail' genus Gryphaea




An ammonite shell. The only one i managed to collect due to the muddiness of the 'rocks'. You don't find them 3D here like other Jurassic locations in the UK, they are only found as 2D imprints on the clay. Some of the original 'mother of pearl' shell is still present. I believe this is Kosmoceras




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Minster - Isle of Sheppey (28/12/17)


Formation: London Clay

Deposit Age: 48 to 54 million years old (Eocene)

Fossil Diversity: Sharks, bony fish, rays, rare mammals, birds, crocodiles, turtles, crustaceans, plants, gastropods, bivalves, echinoderms


The London Clay is another one of England's classic and highly fossiliferous formations. The fossils are marine but lots of evidence of what life was like on land at the time can also be found on the beach too, including pyritised bits of driftwood and even the nuts/seeds from land plants. Both of which are quite common. Terrestrial vertebrates sometimes turn up too but these are much rarer. I was mainly here to collect the fish and crustacean material. The entire stretch from Minster in the west to Warden Point in the east is very productive for London Clay fossils, but the formation is not limited to the Isle of Sheppey and good material from it can also be found in other parts of Kent as well as Essex. The Isle of Sheppey is probably the most popular area for London Clay fossils though, and with good reason! I spent a single day here at Minster and was quite pleased with the results. From the beach at the far eastern side of Minster i walked around a few headlands and started scouring the shingle on hands and knees. Finds took a while to show up, infact i spent the first hour and a half without finding a single shark tooth. Once you hit a productive patch however things will improve greatly. Across the next couple of hours i turned up almost 20 teeth. For sheer numbers of teeth Beltinge is a much better option, but the London Clay nevertheless offers a number of other surprises besides shark teeth that make it worthwhile. 



Location photo from the end of Minster beach looking west towards the collecting area. Most of my finds came from towards the far headlands in the distance. 




The weather was much nicer today after the visit to Kings dyke so i could take a good number of as-found photos of fossils on the beach. Try and find the shark tooth in this first one! Collecting here is like this, you need very good eyes. 




More as-found shark teeth. 





These next two teeth are as-found Otodus obliquus teeth. It's moments like this where you hope the tooth will be complete... sadly neither was :(





As-found fish vertebra. 




A HUGE Striatolamia macrota tooth as i found it.




Myliobatus ray tooth as found. These are far less common than the shark teeth. 




Minster finds continued in the next and final post. 


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Another fish vert lying on the beach.




One last shark tooth as-found.




The shark tooth haul i ended up with (excluding Otodus teeth). The big Striatolamia on the right is 46mm long, my biggest tooth that i collected on this England holiday and beating the one from Beltinge i found earlier. 




Two Otodus obliquus teeth. Next time i hope to find a pristine one!




Lots of fish vertebrae and a single ray tooth (Myliobatus). 




Finally, to finish off this trip report, three small crab nodules that i picked up while i was looking for teeth. The largest one has a nice claw visible! These are encased in phosphate. It's worth searching for these nodules on the beach and lower foreshore as they can contain some spectacular fossils (not just crabs either, whole fish in 3D and sometimes even land vertebrates like birds and mammals). 




This concludes my report! Thank you to anyone who took the time to read it, and i hope i have inspired some of you to make your own trips to the UK in search of fossils. It really is an amazing place! I'm sure i will return again someday! If you have questions about locations, finds, where to go etc regarding any of the locations featured in this report i am happy to answer. Good luck! 




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:popcorn: Very well done so far!

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Now I'll have to see about visiting England to do some fossil-collecting myself - thanks for all of the detailed information!!!


I love your "ammonites lying in plain sight on the beach" from Lyme Regis to Charmouth - Dorset as well as your Dactylioceras commune and belemnite phragmocones from Saltwick Bay (Yorkshire) - simply beautiful! :wub::ammonite01:


Add-on:  I just read your entry for Kings dyke-Cambridgeshire - amazing belemnites!!!!!!!!!!  And your ammonite from that location is really pretty - I am so :envy: right now!!!

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A brilliant report! I could see losing several hours (or days!) here just beach-combing.

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PS. Now that you've filled in the blanks. Thank you very much for this impressive and informative report!

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53 minutes ago, Monica said:

Now I'll have to see about visiting England to do some fossil-collecting myself - thanks for all of the detailed information!!!


I love your "ammonites lying in plain sight on the beach" from Lyme Regis to Charmouth - Dorset as well as your Dactylioceras commune and belemnite phragmocones from Saltwick Bay (Yorkshire) - simply beautiful! :wub::ammonite01:


Add-on:  I just read your entry for Kings dyke-Cambridgeshire - amazing belemnites!!!!!!!!!!  And your ammonite from that location is really pretty - I am so :envy: right now!!!


I'm glad you liked it Monica! Yes, put it on the list, start stashing some cash, whatever you need to do :P it's well worth it. If you have any questions about planning such a trip or anything about the locations feel free to ask. I see you're an invert gal. I'm afraid my report was very vertebrate biased hahaha but there were loads of other interesting inverts i saw that didn't make it in. You will be pleased either way. 


35 minutes ago, Kane said:

A brilliant report! I could see losing several hours (or days!) here just beach-combing.

Of definitely, it's a thrill that you can't shake even in terrible British weather (sorry Brits hahaha). ''5 more minutes... ok 10... just one more hour'', you never know when you'll come across something great. This goes for fossil hunting in general too, but i love that no matter how many times you visit a place you can still find new things. It's different every time. 

6 minutes ago, Ludwigia said:

PS. Now that you've filled in the blanks. Thank you very much for this impressive and informative report!

Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it :) 

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sixgill pete

Great trip report. What an amazing assortment of locations and finds. 

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Great post!!! Thanks for creating such an informative description of your trip. It comes at a time I am seriously contemplating a trip to England. My wife turns 60 on Feb 26th and she has ALWAYS wanted to visit England. So I am currently looking into the costs of such a trip, though I don't like what I am seeing. We will see how much I love her!!!. If we go, reading your trip report helps me tremendously in deciding whether  side trips for fossils are possible.


37 minutes ago, Paleoworld-101 said:

I'm glad you liked it Monica! Yes, put it on the list, start stashing some cash, whatever you need to do :P it's well worth it. If you have any questions about planning such a trip or anything about the locations feel free to ask. I see you're an invert gal. I'm afraid my report was very vertebrate biased hahaha but there were loads of other interesting inverts i saw that didn't make it in. You will be pleased either way.


Like Monica, I collect invertebrates. Also like her, we really do not have a choice due to the geology of our home bases being Ordovician/ Devonian. I am sure she would love to find the vertebrate material you showed. If I solidify a trip, is your offer to answer questions only directed to Monica or can I pick your brain??  



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Uncle Siphuncle

Great report, and one I’d like to make someday.  My focus would be ammonites, echinoids, and ichthyosaur verts.

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What an awesome trip and report:dinothumb:

I really do have to visit someday! I thought the mammals were particularly cool, but everything you found was pretty awesome! Some sites reminded me of contemporaneous sites we have over here that I’ve visited, cool to see the comparison.

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Capitvating report, pictures and finds! Thank you so much for posting and explaining each area, epoch and the specimens. 



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Thanks for such a fantastic post!  A nice read while enjoying some morning coffee!  Thanks!  And congrats on what looks like a great haul of finds!

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Looks like a trip of a lifetime!

so much fun and nice finds!

Thanks for the wonderful report.

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