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West Bay fossils and fossil collecting

West Bay is easy to access. Its main beach at Bridport is a popular tourist attraction. Follow the signs to West Bay from the Bridport roundabout.
There is a large car park near to the beach. From here, the cliffs can be clearly recognised by their steep, vertical, yellow appearance.
West Bay can also be accessed from Burton Bradstock, if you are planning on visiting the town.

GRID REF: 50.70866°N, 2.75905°W

ammonites, belemnites, echinoids, mollusc's, shark remains, and more.
Fossil Collecting at West Bay

West Bay continues from Burton Bradstock, but is much less productive because the Inferior Oolite beds are much thinner and cliff falls are uncommon. Fossil shells and poorly preserved ammonites can be found in the Bridport Sands.
Where is it



Fossils are not common at West Bay, because cliff falls are quite rare. Ammonites can be found in the Bridport Sands, and trace fossils and fossil shells can be found in the 'Snuff Boxes' (see below).

Suitable for children


The large, sandy beach at West Bay is ideal for children, with nearby car parking, toilets and food. However, the beach can be very popular during the summer. Keep children away from the base of the cliff, which is dangerous.

Easy Access


West Bay is an easy location to access. There is good car parking, with a cafe and toilets. The cliffs are not far from the car park.



Since cliff falls do not occur very often, there is little material on the foreshore to collect from, apart from the 'Snuff Boxes', which contain poorly preserved fossils. Fossils are best found after cliff falls.

No Hammering Cliff


This site is part of the Jurassic World Heritage Coastline. Please follow the Fossil Code of Conduct. Access is permitted SSSI -

NO HAMMERING THE CLIFF - The unstable cliffs are very unpredictable and can fall at anytime, you won't find anything in the sands and can only find fossils in the Oolite blocks which come from the very top of the cliff.


Common sense when collecting at all locations should be used and prior knowledge of tide times is essential. Care should be taken of tides at all locations. The exposures of fossiliferous limestone at the foot of the cliffs are of course the result of cliff falls. Major falls like this are uncommon, but special care must be taken to watch for areas from where loose material can fall. Wet or frosty weather conditions can cause falls. Some other places such as the low cliffs east of West Bay, some parts of Portland or Chesil Beach could be visited instead. At all times, wear safety helmets and watch out for any dangerous activity in the cliffs. Since this is at the most westerly part of Chesil Beach, there is some risk of being cut off by the tide or swept into the sea in very stormy weather conditions.

West Bay
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



Higher Spence

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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.

Rentable by the week or 3 day Short Break all year round!!

Please call: 0800 9804070 for a Brochure or visit our website on

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01305 851033


If you would like to advertise on this page, please 'contact us'.
£10/Year or 'FREE' for return links from accommodation website pages.

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

Locations similar to Burton

For locations which also have Inferior Oolite or Bridport Sands of which fossil collecting is permitted, try 'Burton Bradstock', next to West Bay, 'Ketton Quary' in Lincolnshire, or in Gloucestershire you could visit, 'Gilberts Grave' On the Isle of Skye, Bearreraig Bay also has Inferior Oolite.

Location Photos

Fossil Collecting
Your Reports

This site is part of the Jurassic World Heritage Coastline, so no hammering is allowed on the cliff. The unstable cliffs are very unpredictable and can fall at any time. In addition, you won't find anything in the Bridport Sands and will only really find fossils in the oolitic blocks, which come from the very top of the cliff.

The best fossils are found after cliff falls, but these are uncommon. Therefore, you should examine the 'Snuff Boxes' on the foreshore. These contain fossil shells, trace fossils and ammonite moulds. They are also very hard.

If you are lucky enough to arrive after a cliff fall, there is a thin layer of Inferior Oolite at the top, which not only provides fresh exposures of 'Snuff Boxes', but also contains similar fossils to Burton Bradstock.

Geological Succession of West Bay

Geology Guide Jurassic, 180-195mya

The cliffs at West bay - Burton Cliff and East Cliff – are similar, but, in the middle part, the Bridport Sands are succeeded by the full thickness (3.7m) of Upper, Middle and Lower Inferior Oolite, and a little of the Fuller's Earth. The Inferior Oolite is not safely accessible in the cliff, but large, fallen blocks are present on foreshore. There is access to the beach near to the stream (the River Brit) and, 155m east of this point, there is a fault down throwing eastwards that cuts the cliff, dropping the Inferior Oolite capping sufficiently to bring in Fuller's Earth in a cliff top outcrop. Beyond the fault are large fallen blocks of Inferior Oolite.

The sandstone (Bridport Sands) is blue-grey when unweathered, but has a thick, surface layer of yellow when it becomes weathered, as fine-grained pyrite is oxidised to limonite or goethite. The sands contain belemnites and trace fossils, and the occasional moulds of ammonites. Only moulds are present as their original aragonite shells have been dissolved.

Moving on, there is a smaller cliff referred to as Burton Cliff. This consists of Forest Marble and Frome Clay, but it is much degraded at its base, as it is protected by a stretch of shingle, which is part of Chesil beach. In this cliff, 200m east of the car park, the Boueti Bed can be traced in eroded ground between the footpath and the cliff top. It yields the brachiopods,

Goniorhynchia boueti, Avonothyris and Digonella, together with bivalves and other fossils. Beneath this layer, the Frome Clay can be examined in the cliff, as it crops out in the low cliffs at Burton Common and Cliff End.

The Bridport Sands Formation (Upper Lias in age) is 43m thick and represents relatively shallow faces of a major rhythm of Jurassic sedimentation. The formation is an important oil reservoir rock at the Wytch Farm oilfield and this is the best exposure at the surface. The main sequence is from the Upper Toarcian (Dumortieria levesquei) zone. Interestingly, it contains heavy minerals of a metamorphic type (for example, garnet), probably derived from the Permo-Triassic of Brittany.

Above this is a thin layer of Inferior Oolite. This is much thinner than at Burton Bradstock and contains fewer fossils. Blocks from this bed contain the layer with the 'Snuff Boxes' that can be found on the foreshore. These are disc-shaped structures formed by calcareous organisms forming around a nucleus of fossil fragments. Material was accreted onto the undersides of the growing ‘Snuff Boxes’, when they were periodically turned over by bottom currents. The Inferior Oolite is missing from the middle part of the cliff.

At the top, along the whole cliff at West Bay, is the Fuller’s Earth...[more]

Snuff boxes - These are layers with stromatolites.
Snuff boxes - These are layers with stromatolites.

More Guides

Ammonite from West Bay
Ammonite from West Bay.


Geological Tools

West Bay is a location where you have to work hard for your finds. Take a good, strong, heavy hammer and safety goggles to crack open the oolitic rocks. Remember to take plenty of paper to wrap any specimens in.

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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(C)opyright 2008 - UKGE Limited, UK Fossils Network and Deposits Magazine, all rights reserved.
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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