There are some places you visit where you know exactly what you will find, but it is amazing none the less. For example, if you wander into my chicken enclosure at home you will discover a cluster of perfect eggs; anticipated yet magical.
In a similar manner, wander down to Chapman’s Pool on the Dorset coastline and you will find fossils. Finding them is a guaranteed and yet exciting discovery. Do you see the cliff in the next photo? This is made of Kimmeridge Clay, a mudstone. Fossils are pushed out of this and fall like eggs from my chickens’ bottoms.
Chapman’s Pool is subject to regular cliff falls, so much so that I am regularly astonished that the rate of erosion hasn’t eaten into mainland Dorset and reached Manchester by now. The Kimmeridge Clay cliffs really are very flakey and crumbly. In the rain they will soak up the water and dissolve into a globular heap like a snowman in the sun.
Many of the fossils here are flat, round ammonites, exposed as the Kimmeridge Clay weathers and crumbles. The ammonites are a stark white against the grey of the mudstone and so easy to find; you don’t need keen eyes to spot them. There are some in the next photo, lying exposed in the wreckage of a recent cliff fall. Have a close look in the foreground for white dots in the clay. Can you see them?
The trick, as you can see, is to try to find a whole fossil and not one which has sheared into pieces, only to have millions of years’ worth of preservation washed clean by a single night’s rainfall. If you look closely, however, there are plenty of whole fossils to find.
My favourite fossil find from here, though, is one from 2011. I was trailing my feet and my eyes along the shingle shoreline when I suddenly spotted it – a perfect whorl indented in a pebble. It is small, as you can tell by the wood grain in the next photo, by extremely pleasing to the eye. I picked it up and took it home where it still resides on a shelf in my study.
We spent a happy hour or so exploring the cliff falls and shingle, skimming flat stones over a gentle tide. We snoozed and ate our lunch, trying to put off the inevitable, unenviable, leg-burning climb westward out of Chapman’s Pool: Houns-Tout Cliff. There it is, behind us, waiting patiently as we smile for the camera, ready to devour our calf muscles as we ascend.
Points on this part of the walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):
- Chapman’s Pool: N 50° 35.575 W 002° 03.850
- Houns-Tout Cliff: N 50° 35.700 W 002° 04.150
Walk #78 Statistics (of which this post forms the fourth part):
- Date of Walk: 9 April 2015
- Walk #78 total distance covered: 10.63 miles
- Coast of Britain Walk Total Distance Covered: 661.63 miles
- CLICK HERE FOR LINK TO INTERACTIVE MAP!!!