Samphire hoe is a nature reserve just west of Dover, and whilst its a lovely place to go for a walk and see adders, there’s more to it, if you head out of the western end and walk a little further along the beach. Bring some tools with you, and have a go at fossil hunting!
This is a great (and very cheap) way to spend a fun few hours, especially for families. This is a safe place to look for fossils for any age.
The address is Samphire Hoe, Dover, Kent, CT17 9FL.
To get there head out of Dover along the A20 heading west past the Dover cruise terminal and head up the hill. Just over a mile from the last roundabout there is a left turn for Samphire Hoe, where you will see some traffic lights (which change every 3 minutes). Head through the tunnel and park up for just £2 per day, or £1 for 3 hours.
To get to where the fossils are you can either walk along the sea wall or walk through the nature reserve (it’s the same distance). Once you get to the end (where the railway tunnel through the cliffs is) head along the pebble beach… Most of the loose rocks for looking for fossils can be found just past the small house by the beach (which is a surprise to see in itself)… It’s about a 20 minute walk.
What can be found there:
This place is stocked full of fossils which can be found seen in the cliffs, within the huge number of boulders on the ground, and even exposed on the floor to simply be picked up.
Most commonly found items are shark teeth, ammonites, corals, urchins, brachiopods, crystals and huge numbers of micro fossils. I have only been out once to have a go (but will be returning) so I wasn’t even sure what I was finding most of the time – but even just finding weird coloured or shaped things within rocks is exciting, whether you know what it is or not!
When to go:
The best time to go is shortly after severe weather, especially when there has been a mixture of heavy rain and strong winds as this will yield the highest ammount of weathered boulders which are fresh from having fallen from the cliffs. You can be sure that these boulders won’t have been checked before and this is the most common time to find fossils exposed on the cliff face.
Tools you might need:
Remember that most of the fossils are stuck in the chalk (although not all of them)! As such you will need some tools to get them out of the ground Click on the item name to find one on Amazon – they’re generally quite cheap!
- Geologists Pick is much like a normal steel hammer, however as well as a flat edge (for hitting a chisel) it has a much more pointed / sharp edge on the other side.
- Rock Chisel is just a steel chisel, however as they are designed to split rocks, they are usually forged to be very strong and pretty sharp.
- Safety Glasses I know you probably won’t wear them, but certainly if you’re taking kids, they should have them on!
Not something you need to buy, but a tool well worth using before you head out is a tide schedule! It is bets to go as the tide goes out, to give you the longest time on the beach as possible:
Can you take a fossil you find home:
It is perfectly fine to bash up the boulders and take some find home, however if it is exceptionally big or you know it to be rare it would be advisable to call a local museum for advice about moving it or displaying it.
Taking items home can damage them if done properly, so if you don’t need it or don’t want it, please do leave it there for someone else to find.
One thing to note is that if a fossil is embedded in the cliff face you cannot remove this. You can only remove loose boulders. Taking things straight out of the cliff can be very dangerous.
When you find something rich in fossils, look for other boulders with a similar colour as they will likely come from around the same area as the other one.
Take some small rocks home to look for tiny “microfossils” in an environment where you can take your time a little more.
Wear old clothes as you will get covered in chalk.
Watch your eyes – I’m not going to say that you have to wear goggles, as I know most people wont (I’d be lying if I said that I did), however these rocks can splinter, and I imagine that won#t be nice to get in your eyes!
Stay away from the cliff face as even small boulders can come away any time – be on guard when ever you are near the bottom of the cliff.