You might wonder what all those people are doing walking slowly up the beach from Bracklesham towards Selsey, looking at the ground. They have either lost their car keys or they are fossil hunters. Bracklesham Bay is an amazing place to find fossils, you may be forgiven for thinking that all those shells on the beach are from today, but in fact a lot of them are 40-45 million years old (from the geological Eocene age).
So where might you find these fossils and what might you find? The best place to look is the stretch of beach from the Bracklesham village car park towards Selsey. We attended Chichester District Museum’s very good fossil hunt, lead by expert David Bone, on Saturday 3 May, down at Bracklesham Beach, at low tide. In the lovely sunshine, David gave us his expert tips on how to hunt for fossil shells (including Turritella – or ‘tower shell’ as I like to call it, due to its shape; bivalves that included Venericor, the giant cockleshell lookalike), little round creatures called Foramnifera and fossilised shark’s teeth and ray’s teeth. David said that experienced fossil hunters can collect maybe 40 shark’s teeth in a day! For some reason, these seem to be the most sought-after fossil type. And the Museum had some fine examples of their own which David showed us.
Well, on my search, I had to be happy with no shark’s teeth, but a few ray’s teeth and lots of fossilised shells and Foramnifera. About 2 years ago however, my little toddler found a shark’s tooth in the small shingle at the base of the stone bank on the beach – so I reckon if he can find one, anyone can! We were also shown the ‘fossil beds’ – clay outcrops which contain thousands of fossils – really strange, fascinating structures. So thank you to the Museum and Mr Bone for a very interesting and pleasant Saturday afternoon.
So if you fancy a bit of something different, go to a fossil hunt. Tickets must be booked in advance – phone the Museum for more information on 01243 78468301243 784683.
For more information on Museum events, go to www.chichester.gov.uk/museum .
Bracklesham Beach is definitely worth a visit for the fossils, as it is one of only a few places in the country where fossils can be found in such abundance and all year round. Check out http://www.discoveringfossils.co.uk/Bracklesham.htm for more fossil news.
Indeed, Bracklesham Bay is designated as a SSSI (Site for Special Scientific Interest), not only because of the extensive fossil presence, but also because of the important saltmarsh areas for birds. In fact, the RSPB with the help of Sussex Ornithological Society has recently purchased 121 acres of coastal habitat in the bay for a new RSPB reserve. Click on the following for further details http://www.english-nature.org.uk/citation/citation_photo/1004079.pdf and www.wildlifeextra.com/go/uk/extra-rspbbracklesham.html