Rock Fall Highlights the Dangers of Dorset Cliffs
Everything Dinosaur team members have received reports about a large rock fall in the area of Stonebarrow Hill, east of the popular tourist destination – Charmouth (Dorset). With many schools due to have their half-term break in the next couple of weeks or so, the beaches in this part of Lyme Regis will soon start to get busy with eager fossil collectors looking to find fossils washed out of the cliffs during the winter storms. However, the significant rock fall highlights the potential dangers when fossil hunting close to unstable cliffs.
Large Boulders and Debris Under Stonebarrow Hill
Picture Credit: Brandon Lennon
Local fossil expert and fossil walks tour guide, Brandon Lennon commented:
“The large fall happened after the last storm. Huge blocks came tumbling down onto the beach. This area, the beach to the east of Charmouth, is a particularly popular fossil hunting location, especially for ammonites as the low tide washes fossils out of the mud slips.”
Blue-Grey Lower Lias Clays
The unstable and rapidly eroding cliffs to the east of the old cement works and Charmouth visitor centre are composed of blue-grey lower lias clays. At low tide the foreshore area is exposed and this is a popular part of the Dorset coast for fossil collecting, especially in the early Spring after winter storms. Like much of the coast in this part of Dorset, the cliffs are extremely dangerous and rock falls are common. The cliffs rise steeply and any debris falling from them has the momentum to travel quite a long way onto the sandy beach before coming to rest. We urge all would-be fossil hunters to take great care when visiting this part of the Dorset coast.
Stonebarrow Hill in Relation to the Charmouth Visitor Centre
Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur
The picture above was taken in 2015 and it shows the location of Stonebarrow Hill in relation to Charmouth. This is the view looking eastwards from the newly constructed coastal seawall at Lyme Regis. A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur stated:
“The fossil hunting season is nearly upon us! Longer days and better weather (hopefully), we see popular fossil hunting places like Lyme Regis attracting large numbers of amateur fossil hunters and families keen to explore the area in the hope of finding some Jurassic-age marine fossils to take home. However, the recent rock fall at Stonebarrow Hill highlights the potential dangers and we urge all visitors to stay away from the cliffs.”
The action of time and tide over the winter months will have exposed a lot of new material on the beaches to the east and west of the picturesque town of Lyme Regis. There will be lots of fossils awaiting discovery and visitors do not have to stray too close to the cliffs to find them.
Eyes Down – Fossil Prospecting
Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur
The foreshore will contain plenty of fossils that have been washed down from the cliffs, this area, well clear of the cliffs, will still provide plenty of fun for families looking for ammonites, belemnite guards, crinoid stems and such like. You might get really lucky and find an Ichthyosaur paddle bone or a vertebra.
The unstable cliffs coupled with dangerous tides can never be taken lightly. Our best advice is to go on a guided fossil walk with a local expert. A fossil expert, such as Brandon Lennon, with his wealth of knowledge, can show visitors to the Lyme Regis area, the best (and safest) places to find fossils.
For information on guided fossil walks: Lyme Regis Fossil Walks