One of my photos

What I did on my holidays – Wednesday morning

August 26th, 2006 · Posted by Skuds in Life · 2 Comments · Life

Wednesday morning I was woken by torrential rain. Having no clock or watch in the sleeping part of the tent I got up and Jayne and I sat outside under the gazebo and had a coffee, wondering if it would ever stop raining. Then we dug out a watch and found out that it was about 4:30 am and decided to try sleeping again…

When we got up properly it was still more than a little damp and after breakfast we headed off to Kimmeridge Bay, only about 6 miles away.

Being more optimistic than us the kids put their swimmers in the car just in case, but when we reached Kimmeridge it was still overcast.

Kimmeridge Bay is an amazing place, which I still remember vividly from a school geography field trip. The cliffs are made of shale in fine layers which crumble at the touch. Fingers of rock extend into the bay which enabled Charlie and Chrystal to walk out about 100 metres into the sea.

While they were doing that I wandered along the bottom of the cliffs, keeping an eye out for fossils which are supposed to be plentiful there. As I walked it started to drizzle and I was able to get some shelter from the cliffs. Then the rain started coming from seawards and there was no shelter at all. I then noticed that tiny pieces of shale were tumbling from the cliffs and thought that maybe loitering near the overhang was not such a good idea.

As the rain persisted, all the more sensible people headed for their cars, leaving me totally alone in the bay, battered by the wind and rain, watching erosion taking place before my very eyes.

It was remarkable to see that. Erosion is always explained as such a long, slow process, with the seas taking hundreds of years to wear down that its a surprise to see it in real time. With such erosion being caused by a light drizzle and medium wind I do wonder how many centimetres of cliff are lost in a year.

Access to Kimmeridge Bay is via a private road with a toll – £3 for a car. On the back of the ticket are some warnings/instructions. One of them is that it is OK to remove large fossils from the beach, but hammers are not to be used. Seeing the cliffs literally crumbling on their own I could see why such a rule makes sense.

I did not find any large fossils to take away, but I did find a few small ones – actually fragments of fossil but still recognisable as fossil ammonites (I think). The Natural History Museum is not going to be asking for my little bits of rock any time soon, but I am still awestruck by them. Just the thought that this animal was swimming around anywhere up to 200 million years ago and then lay in the rocks all that time until I found it.

According to Stephen Jay Gould the area around Kimmeridge is one of the best places in the world to see evidence to support the theory of punctuated evolution, if I remember rightly. I can’t say that my brief amateur attempt at fossil hunting did anything of the sort, but I am still ridiculously pleased with my meagre little fragments.

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2 Comments so far ↓

  • Jane Skudder

    You could try Richard Fortey, Trilobite! for more information. The exclamation mark is in the title, honest.

  • Skuds

    Despite having half a dozen of Gould’s books, I don’t actually have the one about this – I think it is Wonderful Life. I’ll probably try that first.