We were met at the museum by our guide Paddy. Paddy is a paleontologist as well as a guide and has scoured these shores almost daily for many years.
Paddy took us down to East Beach, the stretch of sand between Lyme Regis and Charmouth, where Mary Anning found her best specimens.
He told us honestly that it wasn’t a good day for collecting fossils. The best days were the really stormy ones, since the best chance of finding something new was when the tide, rain and wind eroded the cliffs. Also, you had a greater chance of finding something when it’s wet, as the fossils had a distinct gleam to them compared to other rocks. Paddy showed us one of his finds on such a day – it was a piece of a dinosaur vertebrae.
Mary Anning was known for going out on blustery days to look for fossils by the cliffs. She almost lost her life several times from being caught in landslides. Indeed, her dog Tray was killed in one. Another thing to look out for is the tides. At one point the beach narrows so much that you can only pass the point two hours on either side of the low tide. Fortunately the tours were done within this period, and we had no problem with getting cut off.
Once Paddy showed us examples of fossils that we might typically encounter (ammonites, belemnites, ‘Devil’s Toe Nail’, and dinosaur vertebrae, among others), we ambled down the beach to seek our ‘fortunes’.
What did we find?