If you’re used to spending your family days out in London, you may not have experienced the pleasures of fossil hunting. This activity is great for getting everyone out in the fresh air and offers an opportunity to connect with the past. A day of fossil hunting has a treasure hunt feel to it, but instead of seeking gold you’re searching for the remains of prehistoric creatures. Tempted to have a go? Here’s our guide to finding dinosaur fossils.
The best fossil hunting spots are famously on the Jurassic Coast, but there are plenty of other places you can go. If you’re heading to Dorset, don’t miss a chance to comb the beaches at Lyme Regis, where you can go for a guided walk with an expert fossil finder. Heading to Kent can also turn up some treasures. Herne Bay has a wealth of teeth belonging to Stratiolamia macrota, an extinct type of shark that lived millions of years ago. Meanwhile, the small coastal town of Walton-on-the-Naze in Essex has been a fossil hunting haven since the Victorian era, and the eroding cliffs offer up sharks’ teeth and bivalve shells.
When fossil hunting, you can’t just turn up at a beach and expect everything to be there waiting. Be sure to check the tide times so that you arrive when the tide is low or going out. This will give you plenty of time to search for something really special. You’re also best off going during the winter, when stormy seas churn up beach sediment and uncover a new array of fossils.
When we picture a fossil, most of us think of ammonites, the small coiled shells with ribbing running over them. But there are lots of other types of fossils to be found around the UK coast. If you’re fossil hunting in southern and eastern England, for example, you might find a belemnite, which is usually 5-15 cm long and shaped a bit like a bullet.
Shark teeth are also a common find, around 2-3 cm in length with a long shiny point and a rough, arc-shaped base. If you’re fossil hunting in Kent or Essex you’ll likely come across these.
If it’s dinosaurs you’re after, you’re in for a longer search. It’s rare to find bones, but plenty of hunters have had success on the Jurassic Coast finding ichthyosaur and plesiosaur fossils. Although these marine reptiles could reach over 20 metres in length, often what you’ll find is fragments of bone or teeth, and it’s best to hunt with a local guide if you want to be sure of what you’ve found.
If you’re looking for things to do in London with family this summer, don’t miss Dinosaur World Live at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. One of the best family shows in London, it introduces you to a range of roarsome dinosaurs, providing a fun-filled way to learn about some of prehistory’s most majestic beasts. Book your tickets today - before they go extinct!