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Fossil hunting in Dorset

In between Covid lockdowns, in July 2020, we took a week's holiday in Dorset before I started a new job. Our middle son is absolutely crazy about fossils and is always talking about Mary Anning, one of history’s most important fossil collectors and palaeontologists, so the Jurassic coast has always been on our bucket list. Dorset is home to the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site and is renowned in the UK for collecting fossils.

We stayed in a lovely holiday home on the historic Rousdon Estate, near the beautiful seaside town of Lyme Regis. One of my favourite parts of staying on the Estate was that there is access, via a steep footpath, to the private beach at Charton Bay. The famous Undercliff section of the South West Coast Path, stretching between Lyme Regis and Axmouth, can also be accessed direct from the estate grounds.

It was more of a steep walk than we had anticipated! But the kids did really well, as did the dogs. When we finally got to the bottom we were greeted with an absolutely amazing view; blue skies, turquoise sea and absolutely no one around! It was like our very own private beach, see picture below. We sat and enjoyed the sun for a while while the dogs explored. The only downside was having to do the climb back up to the cottage! It was a three-mile round trip but we all really enjoyed it.

For our son, the main attraction was fossil hunting. The rocks and fossils found along the Dorset stretch of the Jurassic Coast are from the Jurassic and Cretaceous time periods - between 65 and 200 million years ago. So we went to the seaside village of Charmouth . You can go on a fossil hunting walk run by the Heritage Coast Centre. Charmouth beach is very family friendly and at low tide, children can forage amongst the many rockpools and paddle in the shallows on West Beach.

Lyme Regis was a focus for us as it is known as the fossil capital and is famous as the birthplace of Mary Anning. Lyme Regis Museum is built on the site of her family’s home. There were plenty of fossil shops and museums so our son was in his element! Even the lampposts are sculptured into ammonites.

We went to a part of the beach called Ammonite Pavement. We saw some of the remains of thousands of ammonites here. The children absolutely loved it, and so did us adults! We had great fun exploring rockpools and beaches.

The main place my son is always talking about is Black Ven at Lyme Regis, a cliff between Charmouth and Lyme Regis. It is here that Mary Anning found an ichthyosaurus. He had a great time when we visited. Please make sure you follow safety advice along the coastline as landslides and rock falls can occur quickly and without warning, always stay away from cliff edges if there is erosion in that area.

Whilst I was on holiday I had a stand-up paddleboarding lesson with Jurassic SUP Fitness and I really enjoyed it. So much in fact that I ordered a paddleboard whilst on holiday! That is where my love of SUP first started.

We were going to go out on the sea at Charmouth Beach but it was a bit too choppy on the day so we went on the river, which was great fun.

I would definitely recommend Dorset as a family-friendly place to go. The beautiful beaches and pretty seaside towns mean there is so much to do that doesn't mean spending a lot of money. Just pack a picnic and off you go!

For more family holiday ideas, see my blog post about visiting Lapland. Where's your favourite family holiday?

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