By: Condor Ferries on 13/07/2012
In the Footsteps of the Dinosaur
Dinosaurs great and small once roamed the Jurassic Coast of England, which covers 95 miles of coastline from Dorset to east Devon. Every year, new fossils are uncovered, with experts across the south revealing all ahout Britain's ancient inhabitants.
Millions of years ago, much of what we now call The Jurassic Coast was covered by an inland sea called the Tethys Ocean. The sea supported a wide range of marine life including giant reptiles such as Ichthyosaurs and Plesiosaurs while on land Megalosaurus - giant meat eaters, lived Baryonyx fish eaters and plant-eating Iguanodon.
As they wandered in search of food, many of them perished, with their fossilised remains leaving a lasting legacy for generations to come.
If you're dinosaur hungry, a great place to start is at the award-winning Dinosaur Museum in Dorchester, which has fossils galore, computer imaging and life-size reconstructions as well as a complete dinosaur skeleton. You can handle ancient fossils and bones, plus there's lots of dinosaur events throughout the year to get your teeth into.
Lyme Regis has been famous for fossils since Mary Anning discovered the first Ichthyosaur in 1811. Its very own Dinosaurland Museum is home to 8,000 specimens, including local Jurassic marine fossils, and has an extensive shop.
Lyme Regis Museum built on the site of Mary Anning's home, exhibits mroe fossils and details of Mary's life andwork. It also offers year-round fossil hunts and talks.
The rocks that make up the cliffs at Charmouth are rich in fossils of animals that once swam in Jurassic seas and fossil collectors come here throughout the year, particularly after stormy weather, to hunt for newly exposed finds. Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre has hands-on displays and lots of fossil information, and their experts can take you on guided fossil hunting expeditions. Back at the centre, a video microscope is on hand to examine your finds.
Elsewhere, Kimmeridge and Seatown beaches are renowned for their ammonites and bivalves with private and group fossil hunting expeditions available from Discovering Fossils.
If you're looking for a day trip or short break taking in several of the best fossil locations, specialist travel companies such as Footscape and Discover Dorset have Jurassic Coast itineraries to suit all ages.
Just across the Solent, the Isle of Wight is also a highly significant location for fossil discoveries with two museums on offer, Dinosaur Farm Museum and Dinosaur Isle, which provide guided fossil hunting expeditions. The Isle of Wight is accessible via Wightlink Ferries from Portsmouth and Lymington in as little as 30 minutes.
What are Fossils?
Fossils are the buried remains of animals and plants laid covered for millions of years, that gradually change as minerals from the surrounding rock replace the original minerals that make up the fossil. Nearly all fossils are formed in or near water. At the time of the dinosaurs, rivers and streams crisscrossed the landscape, which carried soft sediment the buried dinosaur carcasses allowing them to be fossilised.