The Jurassic Coast, Dorset
This is a World Heritage Site running from Lyme Regis, through to Charmouth and Bridport, extending to the Isle of Portland near Plymouth. The Museums in this area are very good at identifying local fossils and there are a number of very competent fossil dealers and fossil traders who are willing to help and to sell fine specimens of all qualities and prices. There is a Jurassic Pier at Bridport West Bay where a good overall view of the cliffs of the Jurassic Coast can be seen.
Lyme Regis: The Philpot Museum has geological support from Paddy Howe and a fine collection of local fossils, including large marine reptiles and ammonites. There is a fine example of a pterosaur drawing by Joseph Anning made from reconstituted belemnite ink. Lyme Regis was the home of Mary Anning, the renowned female fossil collector. Her grave is in the parish churchyard.
There are a number of very good fossil dealers in Lyme. The Lyme Fossil Shop near the museum is where Simon Tichener plies his trade. This shop was once owned by the Langham brothers and is the oldest fossil shop in Lyme. This must be the first port of call for any serious fossil enthusiast. The Old Forge Fossil Shop is located in Broad Street which gives another good browsing opportunity and Mike's Fossils is also worth a visit. Paddy Howe and Chris Andrew are local fossil specialists who run a fossil workshop on Broad Street, Lyme. They are able to prepare fossils for a reasonable fee. Lyme also has a dinosaur and fossil museum, but whilst this is a good visit, it is less helpful to visitors.
Charmouth: The Heritage Centre on the seafront has a resident geologist and a good display including the fossil skeleton of Scelidosaurus and other interesting specimens. The staff are very helpful.
Below the Heritage Centre and in the same building can be found Charmouth Fossils run by Tony Gill. This is a splendid fossil trading post with a wealth of local fossils. The Old Forge Fossil Workshop is located at the top end of Charmouth high street.
Bridport: The Local History Museum on south street does not have a fossil specialisation, but it is able to refer specimens for identification.
Bridport West Bay is the home to the Jurassic Pier. From this location it is possible to see most of the Jurassic Coast cliffs.
Collection from the cliffs in this region is prohibited, but fossils can be collected from the beach and shoreline. With several professional fossil dealers combing the beaches at regular intervals it is unlikely that any spectacular fossils will be discovered. The best time to find fossils is in the winter after severe frosts and rain, though the cliffs are at their most dangerous at this time with falling rocks.
The Lyme Regis Festival is a national event which takes place each year at the end of April. The program can be found on the web at www.fossilfestival.com