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Beach fossil hunting is new craze as Brits inspired by films Ammonite and The Dig

Amateur fossil hunters inspired by films such as Ammonite are descending on beaches in droves.

Thousands of enthusiasts dreaming of walking with dinosaurs have taken up the craze as lockdown eases.

It is so popular, guided fossil walks are selling out and online demand for geological equipment has boomed.

Experts believe would-be palaeontologists have been galvanized by movies such as Ammonite, about Victorian fossil-collector Mary Anning, and The Dig, starring Ralph Fiennes, about the excavation of a Saxon ship in Suffolk.

Last month fossil collectors scoured the beach at Seatown, Dorset, after a 430ft sandstone cliff collapsed in the biggest UK rockfall for 60 years.

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Fossil hunters work the cliff fall after a huge chunk from a 430ft sandstone cliff gave way causing boulders the size of cars to plummet near Seatown in Dorset on the historic Jurassic Coast
Fossil hunters work the cliff fall after a huge chunk from a 430ft sandstone cliff gave way causing boulders the size of cars to plummet near Seatown in Dorset on the historic Jurassic Coast

Hunters sifted through the 4,000 tonnes of rubble despite warnings to stay away for safety reasons.

Some eight miles west, in the cliffs of Lyme Regis, was where Anning – played by Kate Winslet – discovered dinosaur skeletons. In the film, released last year, she has a relationship with a visitor’s wife, played by Saoirse Ronan.

The Lyme Regis Museum, which is on the site of Anning’s former home, expects 5,000 to 6,000 people on their fossil walks this year.

Ralph Fiennes stars in The Dig
Ralph Fiennes stars in The Dig

Museum director David Tucker said: “We’re going to be packed out through the summer. When the tides allow, we’ll take 40 people out a day.

“The school holidays will be booked solid. I’ll have to turn people away.”

Searches on eBay UK for geological hammers and field lenses are up, year on year, by 84% and 500% respectively.

Old, worn, ammonite fossil on a rock, Lyme Regis
Old, worn, ammonite fossil on a rock, Lyme Regis

An overhead view shows the scene of a coastal cliff fall on Dorset's Jurassic Coast near the village of Seatown, on the south west coast of England on April 26
An overhead view shows the scene of a coastal cliff fall on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast near the village of Seatown, on the south west coast of England on April 26

Palaeontologist Dr Fiann Smithwick said: “This summer will see the highest numbers of people descending on the coasts to look for fossils ever.”

She added: “Going for a walk with a specific purpose and the chance of finding pieces of never-before-seen ancient history is a way to connect to a distant past that for most people is unimaginable.”



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