A day spent fossil hunting - and a success!


TONMO Supporter
Nov 19, 2002
Yesterday we made a trip over to the Warren just north of Folkestone in a quest to hunt for ancient cephalopods that are to be found in the Gault Clay. These clays are 113-97.5 million years old and date to the Albian period of the Lower Cretaceous when this part of Kent (and much of Northern France) lay under a shallow warm sea. They lie on top of Lower Greensand exposed to the south of the site at Folkestone itself and below the famous chalk cliffs that are exposed across the Kent coast, most famously at Dover. All three deposits contain ammonites though the preservation is by far the best in the clay.

To my shame I have not been there for over 18 months despite the site being just seven miles away but thought it would be worth a look after the winter rains. As you can see from the photographs, yesterday was pretty grey and murky and there was quite a wind blowing causing a choppy sea. Still, as the tide was in retreat we thought we would venture out and have a look. Luckily we both found something that made us glad we went.

The clay cliffs that dip onto the beach and are extremely fossiliferous, and I believe that the site is designated a site of special scientific interest making it illegal to excavate the clay itself. (Please note this if anyone intends going). Nonetheless, it is perfectly legal to collect fossils from the beach itself and this tends to be more productive than looking at the cliff itself. In fact, bivalves, fragments of ammonites and belemnite guards are so common that one only tends to collect them if they are exceptionally good quality; these days I leave 9/10 fossils on the beach! The beach itself is littered with remains in between the boulders and mixed up amongst clay outwash and shingle.

Here are a few photographs of the site itself and some of the fossils we found. The first three are to give an impression of the setting. The first view is northwards towards Dover and one can see the start of the chalk cliffs. The other shots are of the beach and the third picture of the Gault clay cliff itself.

Folkestone Warren looking North towards Dover. The sea is the English Channel; France lies approximately 30 miles away at this point.


The beach.


The Gault clay is visible in the cliffs on the left. Fossils tend to be washed by rain and coastal action into the shingle in between the boulders visible on the beach.

Here is a rather nice ammonite plucked from the surface of the clay. This is Anahoplites, a nice streamlined species with faint ribbing shown in situ. This example still has the original mother-of-pearl coating. It measures about 1.5cm across. Also here are two photos of a Nautilus I found, probably Eutrephoceras clementinum. I was quite pleased by this as Nautilus fossils are quite rare in this location, this is the first one I have ever found. This too has fragmentary coating of mother-of pearl though most of it has flaked off. It measures about the same size as the ammonite.

Anahoplites as found


Nautilus as found


Nautilus close up

Here are photos of these and a few others we found cleaned up. The ammonite with the clear ribbing is a variation of Euhoplites, though I have yet to determine which one. The fact that it has these ridges probably meant that it may have been a poorer swimmer than the Anahoplites as it was less streamlined. Also shown here is a close up of the Anahoplites with a belemnite guard, Neohibolites sp.



Anahoplites and belemnite



Lastly, here’s a photo of these fossils put together along with a large belemnite guard Mandy found and, on the right, a really very nice specimen of Anahoplites she found, much nicer than my own! I will post a clearer picture of this ammonite in a close up when I next have the opportunity.


As an addendum, I would be failing in my role here if I did not point out the following warning to anyone who wishes to visit the site:

It is extremely dangerous to climb in the cliffs and this should not be undertaken. Digging in the cliffs for fossils should not to be undertaken. Extreme caution must be adopted when collecting on the beach below the cliffs at Copt Point or elsewhere on the Folkestone section.

I know of at least one person who has been killed by a cliff fall in the area. Nonetheless, collection fom the beach is legal and safe providing adequate clothing and precautions have been taken. Ensure one has taken note of the tide tables and make sure you have taken along a mobile phone or high vis jacket. Anyway, enough heaviness for now! :smile:

Fantastic ! Thanks especially for the views of the cliff face...always nice to put a place with a piece !
Superb finds...must have been a great day...we are green with envy!
Thanks everyone. I'm so glad I bought a digital camera; a picture paints a thousand words as they say. Images really do help bring sites to life.

Going fossil hunting is a complete lottery. Sometimes you can be lucky and sometimes come away with little. I have found larger and more spectacular ammonites than those two presented here before and other interesting finds, e.g crinoids, bivalves, crustacean fragments, scaphopods and fish teeth, for example, but never a nautilus. It's not knowing what lies under the next stone is the hook!

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