Fossil hunting at Bracklesham Bay

Fossil hunting at Bracklesham Bay

 

Brackelsham Bay
Brackelsham Bay

Toby has long been interested in rocks and fossils, so when I came across a geology group for young people – Rockwatch – which we could join as a family I jumped at the chance.  I was incredibly impressed with the materials they sent out, including magazines, a binder, information cards and so on, and Toby straight away started asking when he could go to his new club.  Rockwatch run a series of events through the year, one of the first of the season fortunately was within a two hour drive, so we booked in and awaited the day with much anticipation.  It was well worth the wait.  A local expert, his wife, and also the lady who organised the trip, met us in an RSPB reserve car park that morning, along with a group of eager young geologists and their parents.  I was glad to see that Toby wasn’t the youngest.  He quickly made friends with a child he described as ‘my big boy friend’.  The kids in the group were great, paying attention, asking questions, and giving really well thought out answers to our guide’s questions.  We spend the morning learning some of the fascinating history of the first two sites we visited, making the most of the time until the tide went out for the main event at Bracklesham Bay, near Chichester.

 

Having spent a couple of years taking groups of kids fossil hunting in what I regarded as the rich pickings of Osmington Bay, I was expecting us to find perhaps a dozen fossils at most, with

Washing Venericore bivalves
Washing Venericore bivalves

which we would have been very happy, I wasn’t prepared for the huge wealth of material just strewn over the beach.  David, our guide, showed us samples of what we were looking for – Turitella gastropods like miniature unicorn horns; great big Venericore  bivalves; single celled planktonic foraminifera called Nummulites which were the shape and in some cases the same size as a penny; the grinding dental plates of rays; occasional mammal bones and

crocodile teeth, and last but not least shark teeth.  Without this preparation I would have walked straight over the fossils without realizing they were anything other than modern shells.

We spent a fantastic afternoon filling our sandcastle buckets with fossils.  I had thought these were an over ambitious receptacle, but was rapidly glad I had brought them.  We found samples of all of the common fossils, and though sharks teeth eluded us, others in the group did find them.

Fast forward a couple of days and we had another enjoyable afternoon washing, sorting and storing the fossils.  This was quite a time consuming

Sorting Turitella gastropods and Nummulites
Sorting Turitella gastropods and Nummulites

process as there were so many (when Matt phoned to say he would be late for dinner, I had to break it to him that he wouldn’t be because I was still up to my elbows in fossils, so dinner hadn’t even been started).  Ollie enjoyed using probes and tweezers from my dissection kit to gently prize an accumulation of fossils and sand from the inside of the Venericore shells, and when he had enough I was over the moon to have the luck to find a tiny Nummulites had split in two so we could examine it under the microscope.  Toby then took over with the tweezers and eagle eyed found some tiny black pieces of fossil – bone perhaps.

 

It’s great for the boys to meet other kids who share their interests, and although it’s more Toby’s thing than Ollie’s, I think a bucket full of fossils is enough to fire anyone’s enthusiasm for the world beneath our feet.

Interior of Nummulites seen under a microscope
Interior of Nummulites seen under a microscope
Nummulites, with pencil for scale
Nummulites, with pencil for scale

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notes:  We joined Rockwatch as regular members and have no affiliation to it other than that, or to the other organisation linked above which I’ve added purely for the purpose information on Bracklesham Bay.  All photos and opinions are my own.  Bracklesham Bay is about the safest site we’ve ever been fossil hunting at, as there is no cliff, but it is obviously on the shore so usual precautions need to be observed as when visiting any seaside location with regard water as a hazard to young kids, taking correct sun protection etc.  We owe many thanks to David, Anne and Susan for this fantastic event.

 

9 Comments

  • Mary @ Over 40 and a Mum to One

    2nd May 2017 at 8:28 am Reply

    Oh wow that sounds amazing and something we’d love to try ourselves #CountryKids

  • Fiona Cambouropoulos

    3rd May 2017 at 12:54 pm Reply

    Now the geographer in my husband would love this. We have spend many a happy afternoon in the chalk pits of the south downs with him explaining fossils to us all, your experience here sounds even better with a real professional to show you the way. What a great way to encourage an early interest and well done on some impressive finds.

    Thank you for sharing on #CountryKdis

    • admin

      14th May 2017 at 7:19 pm Reply

      Geographer? Perfect husband material there 🙂 (A little bit biased as I taught geography A-Levels for a few years). Thanks for commenting

  • Sonia Cave

    3rd May 2017 at 5:31 pm Reply

    Oh this looks fabulous. It’s so good to go hunting and even better for children to be able to find things. We used to live not so far away and have lots of shell fossils, and were very lucky to find a shark’s tooth one day after many hours of sifting through shingle!!! #countrykidsfun

  • Mudpie Fridays

    3rd May 2017 at 10:32 pm Reply

    My mum is taking Mobjey away st the beginning of the holidays to try fossil hunting I will have to let know all about your guide and this beach! #CountryKids

  • Lauren Moseley

    4th May 2017 at 8:38 am Reply

    This looks amazing. I would love to know more about fossils and it’s such a great thing for children to get involved with. It must be great to have a knowledgeable guide, I wouldn’t know what to look for! #CountryKids

  • Kim Carberry

    4th May 2017 at 8:53 am Reply

    Now that sounds like a lot of fun! It sounds like the start of a great hobby x
    #CountryKids

  • Sara | mumturnedmom

    4th May 2017 at 2:46 pm Reply

    This sounds brilliant, what a fantastic way to go fossil hunting – can’t believe how many you found! #countrykids

  • This is fascinating! I would love to go fossil hunting, never mind the kids, with somebody who knows a thing or two about fossils. It is just great that there is an organisation such as Rockwatch!
    #CountryKids

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