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Swanage fossils and fossil collecting

To access the beach at Swanage, follow the signs to New Swanage. Along the route, you will see a sign pointing to the beach.
Follow this road and you will see a large car park. Park here and then walk east until you reach the promenade, where you can descend to the beach just before the high cliffs.
Once on the foreshore, follow the cliffs north.
Being not far from the town of Swanage, there is plenty to do and see. Toilets and food shops are all close by.

GRID REF: 50.62238°N, 1.95353°W

brachiopods, bivalves, corals, echinoid's
Fossil Collecting at Swanage

This Cretaceous site represents an alternative to the many Jurassic sites of Dorset. It yields fossils from the chalk, including echinoids, bivalves, brachiopods and ammonites. However, fossils here are, less common than other chalk locations in Dorset.
Where is it

Quite Good


Swanage can yield a lot of fossils in one day. However, normally, you have to work hard for your finds, using a hammer, chisel and safety goggles.

Older Children


Swanage is suitable for older children, but they must keep away from the base of the cliff. Also check tide times. The beach can be quite rocky and, at high tide, the sea often reaches the base of the cliff.

Good Access


Access to Swanage is excellent, and a car park is very close by, with only a short walk to the fossils.

Foreshore, Cliffs


The vast majority of the fossils are found within chalk boulders on the foreshore and, therefore, you will need a hammer, chisel and safety goggles to extract them.

World Heritage Site


Swanage is part of the Jurassic World Heritage Coastline. Please follow the Fossil Code of Conduct on the safety notes page below.


Common sense when collecting at all locations should be taken and knowledge of tide times should always be noted. The main issue one should be aware of is the tide. It is easy to become cut off so it is important to return at least 3 hours before high tide. The other danger is falling debris. Rocks frequently fall due to weather and birds. Hard hats are recommended.

Tide Times



UK Tidal data is owned by Crown Copyright, and therefore sadly we are not allowed to display tide times without paying expensive annual contracts. However we sell them via our store, including FREE POSTAGE
Click here to buy a tide table



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Contact: Christine Nutkins
Tel: UK (01297) 560556
Tel: International +441297 560556 Address: Higher Spence, Wootton, Fitzpaine, Charmouth, Dorset.

Email: Website: (Typing "Higher Spence into your search engine)


Dorset coastal cottages

We are a holiday agent for 120 carefully selected and inspected cottages within 10 miles of Dorset's spectacular World Heritage Coast and Path. All are old, many are beamy and thatched, most have open fires or logburners plus central heating. Rents include electricity, gas etc. and all linen/towels.

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If you would like to advertise on this

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Last updated:  2008
last visited:  2008
Written by:  Alister and Alison Cruickshanks
Edited by:  Jon Trevelyan

A hammer, chisel and safety goggles are the most important tools at Swanage. Be sure also to bring some paper to wrap your finds in. A pick for the softer Gault Clay and Wealden Shales are also recommended. We recommend good walking boots, as the foreshore can be rocky.

Locations similar to Swanage

For collecting fossils from Greensand, you can try Pinhay Bay, Seaton in Devon. Hooken Cliff in Devon is another similar excellent location.

For chalk and Greensand locations in Dorset, try Whitenothe or the famous Lulworth Cove coastline,

Location Photos

Fossil Collecting
Your Reports
Swanage is part of the Jurassic World Heritage Coastline.

From the Wealden Group, which is at the southern end of New Swanage, you can find ostracods (Cypridea) and snails (Viviparus). These, together with oysters, are the most common fossil here. However, the Wealden Group is not that productive for fossils.

From the Lower Greensand, bivalves, gastropods (Cassiope) and ammonites (Deshayesites) can all be found. Fossils from the Upper Greensand include many different species of ammonites (Anahoplites, Prohysteroceras and Mortoniceras), oysters and echinoids.

Look out for a hard, blue-grey stone band when you pass the Gault Clay. This bed is the most productive for fossils.

The Lower Chalk also yields many fossils. The Cenomanian basement bed, which is just above the Upper Greensand yields ammonites (Schloenbachia and Sciponoceras). Starfish, brachiopods, bivalves and echinoids are also common.

Most fossils can be found by looking in the boulders. The greensand and chalk boulders certainly give you a better chance of finding fossils, but you will need a good hammer, a chisel and safety goggles to extract them. Other fossils can be found in the slippages or exposed on the foreshore after scouring conditions.

Fossils from the Wealden Group can sometimes be washed out of the cliff after rains and end up on the scree slopes. This often represents the best chance of finding fossils from these beds....[more]

Fossil Hunting at Swanage during the winter storms
Fossils can be found on the foreshore and in the cliff at Swanage.

Geology Guide Cretaceous, 90-125mya

At New Swanage, the cliffs begin with the Wealden Shales. These include the Unio Bed. The Wealden is Barremian in age and the Wealden/Purbeck boundary is present at Swanage, although currently obscured. The Wealden Shales show evidence of very salty conditions and this is why fossils are not plentiful. Blocks of thin limestone from the Wealden Group can also be seen on the beach. There is around 750m of the Wealden Group at Swanage.

Further north, you come to the Lower Greensand. This is very similar to that on the Isle of Wight. However, exposures are poor due to a lack of recent cliff falls, but some remain. There is 61m of Lower Greensand here covering the following beds:


Bed (from South to North) Thickness
Basement Bed
Yellow S.ST
Punfield Marine Band
Sand and Yellow Clay
Ferruginous Sand


After this, you come to the Gault Clay, but this is frequently slipped or hidden by rock falls. Further north, the Upper Greensand marks the start of the more fossiliferous beds. Here, a hard blue-grey stone band, about 8.5m from the top, is full of ammonites.

Finally, blocks of Glauconitic Marl and the Cenomanian basement bed (chalk) on the beach mark the northern end of this excursion, with the Plenus Marls being the most exposed part of the chalk...[more]

Wealden and Lower Greensand at Swanage
Wealden and Lower Greensand at Swanage

More Guides

Common pyretic ammonite from Swanage
Ammnonite from Swanage....[more]

Stone Tumblers
Test Sieves for Microfossils

If you are interested in fossil collecting, then you may also be interested in a stone tumbler (Lapidary). You can polish stones and rocks from the beach which will look fantastic polished using a stone tumbler.

You can polish rough rock and beach glass whilst collecting fossils, on those days where you come back empty handed. These are all high quality machines to give a professional finish to your samples. They can even be used for amber and fossils.

At most locations, you can find microfossils. You only need a small sample of the sand. You then need to wash it in water and sieve using a test sieve. Once the sand is processed, you can then view the contents using a microscope.

We have a wide range of microscopes for sale, you will need a Stereomicroscope for viewing microfossils. The best one we sell is the IMXZ, but a basic microscope will be fine. Once you have found microfossils, you will need to store these microfossils.

Test Sieves are used when searching for microfossils. Microfossils can be found in many locations, and all you need is a small amount of sample such as clays, sands and shales, or if you have acid, limestone, oolite or chalk.

Our UKGE Store sells Endecotts Test Sieves, which are the highest in accuracy and extremely durable and long lasting. These Test Sieves are fantastic for microfossils. Endecotts Test Sieves come in a variety of sizes, frame material and types, they are certificated to EU Standards.

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While we (UKGE/UK Fossils) try to ensure that the content of this location guide is accurate and up to date, we cannot and do not guarantee this. Nor can we be held liable for any loss or injury caused by or to a person visiting this site. Remember: this is only a location guide and the responsibility remains with the person or persons making the visit for their own personal safety and the safety of their possessions. That is, any visit to this location is of a personal nature and has not been arranged or directly suggested by UK Fossils. In addition, we recommend visitors get their own personal insurance cover. Please also remember to check tide times and rights of way (where relevant), and to behave in a responsible and safe manner at all times (for example, by keeping away from cliff faces and mud).
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