Charmouth, Dorset

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21st November 2021 – 10.00am

The Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site is one of the most famous and most popular Jurassic locations in the world, yielding plenty of fossils for the thousands that come collecting every year. And Charmouth is at the heart of it all. This geological guide features both the cliffs of Black Ven and Stonebarrow, and information on the local area of Charmouth.



* Suitable for children 6+ (All children must be accompanied by an adult).
* HARD HATS (No Cycle Helmets), and HIGH VISIBILITY VESTS or jacket essential. We do not provide these, but you can add these when ordering if needed.

MEMBERS ONLY: SIGN UP FOR A MEMBERSHIP you can then join any of our many events throughout the year for FREE.

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

This site is part of the Jurassic World Heritage Coastline, SSSI and private land. No hammering is allowed on the bedrock or cliffs. Damage has already been caused to the heritage site by people using power tools. This is strictly against SSSI rules and any attempt to ignore them may result in prosecution.

By far the most common fossils at Charmouth are ammonites. Many small ones can be simply collected from along the foreshore. The larger, gold-coloured (pyrite) ammonites can be found at Stonebarrow during scouring tides, exposed in the clay particularly at the far end of Stonebarrow. Or you may be lucky enough to pick up one from the foreshore. Crinoids can also be found at Stonebarrow, by searching along the tide line.

Flatstones at Charmouth can contain well-preserved ammonites and insects, but are unfortunately rare and only a small percentage contains fossils. In the past, several complete fishes have also been found in these nodules, in perfect condition.

Black Ven itself is famous for ichthyosaur bones, which are washed out of the slippages of clay. At Stonebarrow, ichthyosaur bones can also be found, often exposed on the foreshore during scouring tides.

The top beds at Black Ven contain many good fossils, including fish and large nodules that occasionally contain ammonites. These beds are so high up that cliff falls are required, but during extremely high tides, these top beds often fall or slip down to beach level. Many reptiles have been found and Charmouth has been the place of many discoveries of new species.

There is a huge range of fossils that can be found between Black Ven and Stonebarrow. The most common place to find fossils and indeed the easiest is from along the beach. Search in the shingle and on the tide line, especially as the tide retreats. The key is to focus on a particular area, such as walking along the tide line, where you are most likely to find them. You may have to get on our hands and knees to find the tiny ammonites. Look out for patches of dark, gold-coloured grains or small lumps. These are iron pyrites or (‘Fool’s Gold’). Fossils are most common in these areas among this pyrite. You can also search in the clay on the foreshore at Black Ven. This is a good area to find ammonites. The sea acts as a giant sieve and does all the hard work for you. Do not climb the slippages, as they are very dangerous and the effort is pointless – you have a much higher chance of finding fossils on the foreshore.

There are also a wide variety of rocks lying on the beach, some of which contain fossils, with others containing fossil casts. Usually, these can simply be picked up from along the beach.

Also, keep an eye open for the flatstones, as these can contain some superb fossils, but you will need a hammer. There is also a special way of splitting these nodules. Split them from on the side rather than on the flat top/bottom, because hitting these nodules incorrectly will most likely split the fossil inside or shatter it. Do not attempt to dig these nodules out of the cliff – they can be so big that attempting to do this would put you at danger.


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.