Bracklesham Bay, Sussex

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29th May 2022 – 15:00pm

There are nearly always people collecting at Bracklesham Bay. Fossils can simply be found washed up on the sand, and you can normally come back with bags full of decent finds, especially sharks’ teeth. During scouring tides, the fossiliferous Bracklesham Formation form the Eocene is exposed and the beach can be covered with ray and sharks’ teeth, and also bivalve shells. Occasionally, you can find corals, but you will definitely find lots of the often overlooked, large, single-celled foraminifera (Nummulites laevigatus).

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* Suitable for children 6+ (All children must be accompanied by an adult).
* HIGH VISIBILITY VESTS or jacket essential. We do not provide these, but you can add these when ordering if needed.

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Please note, many of our locations will not have toilet facilities, water, or other amenities.

There are nearly always people collecting at Bracklesham Bay. Fossils can simply be found washed up on the sand, and you can normally come back with bags full of decent finds, especially sharks’ teeth. During scouring tides, the fossiliferous Bracklesham Formation form the Eocene is exposed and the beach can be covered with ray and sharks’ teeth, and also bivalve shells. Occasionally, you can find corals, but you will definitely find lots of the often overlooked, large, single-celled foraminifera (Nummulites laevigatus).

Bracklesham Bay is a popular location for ray and sharks’ teeth, bivalves and gastropods. From the Bracklesham Group, a wide variety of species of shark and molluscs can be found. Fish remains are also common here. Occasionally, you can find corals and you will definitely find the often overlooked, large, single-celled foraminifera (Nummulites laevigatus). Bracklesham is an ideal location for children and all the family, and is a classic site for fossils. You can simply walk along the beach and pick up fossils in the sand. During scouring conditions, you can wet sieve the Bracklesham Formation, which is exposed along the beach. However, you will need to visit on a retreating tide, preferably one hour before low tide to give enough time for you to have a good look. Even if you don’t find sharks’ teeth, you should at least come away with some nice shells.

There are at least 70 different species (including rays) to be found, as well as other vertebrate fossils, such as turtles, crocodiles and sea snakes, as well as rare bones of birds and mammals. All these fossils tend to appear very dark, almost black, against the wet beach sand. In life, most of these would have been white, but have become stained black during the millions of years of burial in the sediments. Until they get to recognise sharks’ teeth, many people also pick up small black flints, bits of seaweed and fragments of fossil wood (lignite). However, the teeth are always there, somewhere, as sharks shed their teeth regularly and grow new ones. A single tooth may be in use for as little as six weeks and, in its lifetime, a shark may produce 20,000 teeth.

Among the more common fossil vertebrates are the rays (particularly eagle rays). These leave two types of fossil remains – teeth and spines. Their teeth are unlike those of sharks, because the rays feed on shellfish, which they crush between tooth plates or palates. They are smooth on the crushing surface and have small ridges on the opposite surface (the root of the tooth). As fossils, the separate teeth are far more common than the complete palate. These give their name to the Palate Bed, although they are not as common as the name might suggest. The rays also have tail spines, which are normally up to 30mm long, with fine barbs running down each edge. Many different types can be found.

Most beach-collected fossils require little or no treatment, other than a gentle scrub and soaking to remove the sea salt. Delicate specimens may be hardened with a dilute solution of PVA. Sharks teeth and other vertebrate material will need no extra treatment to preserve them. Shell collecting from the fossil beds usually needs to be done very carefully, as they are can be extremely delicate (except for the Venericor planicosta). A pointed trowel and collecting tray is essential, plus lots of gentle cleaning afterwards.

At Bracklesham Bay, the Bracklesham Beds from the Eocene are exposed below beach level. This gives a plentiful supply of fossils. During scouring conditions, clay and sand formations can be seen exposed on the foreshore. The Bracklesham Group is divided into four beds, which are all present here. Walking east or west from the car park will take you over the beds, which are, from west to east: The Wittering Formation. The Earnley Sand, The Marsh Farm Formation, The Selsey Sand.

At most times of the year, fossils are deposited on the sand, being from the Lutetian stage (46 Mya) of the Bracklesham Group of sediments within the Hampshire Basin of West Sussex. Within the mid-Eocene clay beneath can be found a vast number of gastropods, bivalves, shark and ray teeth, foraminifera, coral, fish and turtle remains and other marine fossils.

From the car park and approximately 1 km towards Selsey, the clays are of the Earnley Formation. These grey clays are exposed as ‘mushroom’ shaped pedestals of clay, which are fully exposed on very low tides but even in less favourable conditions, will distribute their fossils on the sandy beach.

FAQ

Can I bring a younger child?

We are sorry, but to comply with insurance cover and to ensure the safety of the event, we do not allow any exceptions.

Can I book over the phone?

Unfortunately, as terms and conditions and waivers need to be signed, we can only accept bookings online.

Do I have to bring my printed ticket to the event?

This will greatly help us and speed things up, but leaders will have a list of those attending on the day.

Are toilets nearby?

Most events will not have access to toilets. The best places to find fossils are mostly areas away from built up areas, and tend to be quite remote. There are a few exceptions where toilets are close by, but it is best to presume they wont be available.

What happens if the event is cancelled?

We try very hard to avoid having to cancel, but if an event needs to be cancelled due to adverse weather conditions or unforeseen circumstances, we will notify you immediately.

Can I bring my dog/pet?

UKAFH does not permit members to bring dogs or pets, unless under exceptional circumstances such as guide dogs. Some members may suffer from Cynophobia, or allergies. In addition, we need to ensure the safety of all members. Many beaches also do not permit dogs.