8 top tips for fossil hunters on the Yorkshire coast

Robin Hoods Bay combers by David Cole

Robin Hoods Bay combers by David Cole - Credit: Archant

There’s nothing quite like knowing that you are the first human ever to set eyes on a piece of Earth’s ancient past. Robin Hood’s Bay is a treasure trove of natural history.

Low tide by Debbie Summers

Low tide by Debbie Summers - Credit: Archant

Fossils are the preserved remains of plants and animals or their tracks and burrows. When plants or animals die, often the soft parts get eaten or rot before they can turn into fossils, which is why it’s so unusual to find skin, feathers or leaves. Bones, shells and teeth are more likely to be left behind. As these get buried by layers of mud, silt or sand they are locked away and slowly, over many, many years, the minerals in them either completely dissolve away, leaving a bone-shaped hole, or are replaced with other minerals that will stand the test of time.

One of the best places to find fossils in Yorkshire is Robin Hood’s Bay, wait for the tide to go out and look for ammonites exposed in the rock.

Top tips for fossil hunters

Sitting at the Bay by Erin Peer

Sitting at the Bay by Erin Peer - Credit: Archant

1. Leave your hammer at home.

Firstly, it’s heavy, so why carry it around all day? We also want to avoid harming the environment, and bashing away at rocks causes damage. Most of the time you don’t need to break rocks open to find fossils. Let nature do the hard work with weathering and erosion.

2. Take someone with you.

Some of the best places for finding fossils have their dangers, like tides coming in, so it’s best to have someone looking out for these things while you’re looking for fossils.

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3. Do your research.

If you know what you’re looking for, it’ll be easier to find it. Find out as much as you can from books, the internet or other fossil enthusiasts before you go.

4. Be safe.

Can you spot what an unstable cliff face looks like? If you scramble down a steep slope, could you get back up again? Use plenty of common sense and if in doubt, stay clear.

5. Don’t collect everything you find.

Take a couple of really good examples, but leave something behind for other people to discover.

6. Take photographs or rubbings of the ones you can’t take with you.

If you’re not allowed to collect fossils from a site, don’t! Photographs, sketches and rubbings can be all the evidence you need.

7. Tell someone what you’ve found.

Who knows, you may have made the scientific discovery of the year! Make a note of where you found it (photographs and GPS tags on smartphones are great for this), then contact your local museum or geology club who will help you identify your fossil.

8. Only collect fossils from loose material.

You should never pull rocks or fossils from a cliff face or out of solid rock and there should never be a need to. Also, if you pick up a promising looking rock and find it has something living underneath it, put it back carefully and move on.

Wherever you live there is a Wildlife Trust that covers your area. You can support their work by joining your local Wildlife Trust today. Visit www.ywt.org.uk/reserves to choose which one you would like to join

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