If you ask a fossil expert where is the best place in the UK to find and learn about fossils, it's more than likely they'll mention Lyme Regis. It's a little town situated on Dorset's famous Jurassic Coast that has become a hub for fossil hunters and enthusiasts, with a museum and several fossil shops dotted around the town. Even the town's lamposts are shaped to look like ammonites!
Why is Lyme Regis so associated with fossils? Part of the reason is in the town's history. Lyme Regis was the home of Mary Anning, one of the most famous names in the history of fossil collecting and paelaeontology. Back in the early 19th century, a time when very little scientific evidence existed to challenge the biblical creation theory, Mary Anning uncovered skeletons of huge, incredible sea creatures that could not be explained by traditional theories and ways of thinking.
By the time Mary Anning died in 1847, she had contributed greatly to the establishment of paelaeontology and geology as proper scientific disciplines. However, the connection between Lyme Regis and fossils did not end there. Fossil hunters continued to discover wonderful fossilised remains from millions of years ago in the Lyme Regis area long after Mary Anning's time, and incredibly they are still being found today!
So what makes the area so special? Many of the rocks on the Lyme Regis stretch of coastline are from the early Jurassic period, meaning they are approximately 200 million years old. During this time the sea was brimming with interesting creatures, including giant marine reptiles, ammonites and even dinosaurs. Remains of many of these have since been found by fossil hunters on the nearby beaches and cliffs.Because the cliffs are quite high and exposed, they are constantly breaking up, which means that every winter eager fossil hunters get a fresh supply of perfectly preserved fossils.
If you visit Lyme Regis for a holiday or a day trip, you might want to have a go at hunting for fossils yourself.