Fossil Hunting on Trimingham Beach
Local Beachcomber and Fossil enthusiast Geoffrey Pardon has been collecting important remnants of our geological past for many years, which he has now decided to share.
A quiet and settled winter without any serious storms or tide surges has meant that the beaches have remained sandy and built up and the Bacton sand-scaping defence has continued to effect the overall longshore drift. Also the large landslip that occurred at the Trimingham House caravan site created a temporary block to any local sand movement and this also kept the beaches built up and no fossil finding areas were exposed.
However towards the end of April a moderate northerly storm reduced the beach levels at the very west of the beach and a “stone gully” appeared which stretched from the end of the sea defence through to below Sidestrand Hall. In this location I did find a few fossils.
The “stone gully” just to the west below Watch-tower Lane
A broken brown flint stone containing a number of fossils
In the centre there are two Brachiopods. It is difficult to identify these shellfish as the complete shells are not visible. To the right the black “v” shape is a Graptolite which is a small particle feeder that drifted in the open ocean. To the left there appears to be the remains of other crushed shellfish. Graptolites became extinct at the end of the Carboniferous period and that dates this piece of flint to possibly around 300 million years old!
A complete Conulus Sea Urchin
This fossil has been washed from the chalk bed and the action of the sea has worn the surface which would have been slightly glazed. The Maastrichtian chalk beds here date this fossil to around 60 million year old.
Gryphaea, a bivalve mollusc, known as the devil’s toenail
A filter feeder that lived on the ocean floor and anchored its self with a small “beak” at the pointed end. The “beak” has been broken on the left hand one, this occurred after fossilisation. They lived from the late Jurassic period to Recent times and are part of the oyster family. These fossils are from the local chalk and this dates them to around 60 million years old.
Micraster, Heart Urchin
A sea urchin that lived on the chalk sea bed. The photo shows the underside and the mouth parts are clearly visible. The top part has been crushed flat, probably during fossilisation. Another fossil from the local chalk so again around 60 million years old.
Siphonia, marine sponges
A filer feeding form of coral, anchored to the sea bed by a stem with small roots, they resembled a small tulip flower. The fossils here are the “tulip” heads and the one on the left is fossilised in flint and the one on the right is in chalk. More fossils from the local chalk so again around 60 million years old.
Commune, or common Ammonite
Ammonites are amongst some of the oldest fossils that can be found. They can date from the pre-Cambrian period, over 550 million years ago up to the Palaeocene period, 50 million years ago, when they became extinct. This fossil is a part section of an ammonite and is of a type from around the Jurassic period about 150 million years old.
Bison Horn fragment
Bison roamed the grasslands of Northern Europe and the Americas from the early Pleistocene period to the present day. The European bison or Winset survives today in a nature reserve in Poland, while the American bison is still wild in both America and Canada within National Parks. The European bison became extinct in the wild when most of its grazing habitat, known as Doggerland, was lost to rising sea levels after the last ice-age around 15,000 years ago. The piece of horn here is the tip part and it has lost its shiny horn covering. It dates from around 15 to 20,000 years ago.
Coprolite, fossilised poo!
Coprolite is simply fossilised faeces. It is very difficult to determine what animal produced it or its age. But this fossil has small bone fragments in it when viewed with a magnifying glass so it could possibly have came from a wolf, wild dog or similar.
One of the commonest fossils to be found locally. This is Belemnella lanceolata unique to the Maastrichtian chalk beds here at Trimingham. This one has split nicely to reveal its interior and is around 60 million year old.
A reasonably calm and settled winter period this year with no bad storms or tide surges and the sand-scaping sea defence at Bacton continues to affect the local beaches. The type of beaches that we have are much like what would be summertime beaches with deep soft sand and not much in the way of exposed chalk or rock in which to find fossils. Not many fossils came to light but these few items did.
A really nicely marked echinoid found embedded in chalk at low water just below the Golf Ball. This fossil would be around 60 million year old, the age of the local chalk beds.
A piece of rough flint containing three individual fossils. An echinoid shell: it is quite rare to see the inside of one of these. On the right of the stone is the imprint of an ammonite and on the bottom left is a small belemnite. This flint was amongst flints of a similar size against the metal sheet piling below the old Loop Road area.
Not fossils but an item with a bit of local history. I found one just before Christmas in the stone gulley that forms below what was once known as the Low Grounds on the West boundary of the village. They are the aluminium flight tails from mortar bombs: the Low Grounds was at one time a military training area with practice firing from the clifftop near to Watchtower Lane.
Again the summer months have been quiet for fossil hunting, but there has been one event this summer that has affected all of the local beaches. This was the sand-scaping project for the Bacton gas site sea defence and this changed the normal longshore drift, resulting in extra sand build- up on Trimingham beach. Prior to this there were some early summer storms that did scour the beach and I did make few fossil finds.
Deer antlers are a common fossil mainly because they are shed regularly during the life of the animal. Complete antlers are rare on the beach as they are broken up by the wave action. These pieces date from the Holocene period to recent, approx. 600,000 years ago. Both fossils were found at roughly the same location but on different tides, beyond the sea defences towards Sidestrand.
This fossil is typical of the widespread late Jurassic Perisphinctidea family. Having an average diameter of 35mm, they lived in the Jurassic seas of northern Europe around 150 million years ago. The fossil was only partly visible in a small piece of grey limestone which had to be broken to fully reveal it.
GREATER TROCHANTERAL BONE
Top of the Femur bone from the rear leg of possibly a deer, small horse or similar. Dates from the Holocene period to recent, around 600,000 years ago. This fossil was found amongst the flints roughly below Cliff Farm.
KNAPPED FLINT TOOL?
This was found amongst the shingle on the open beach below the “Golf Ball” and looks man-made to me. It is unlikely to have been created by any natural process and it has sharp edges that would make a small knife or scraper. If not an actual tool, it could possibly be a shard of flint from the process of flint-knapping. Not technically a fossil but evidence of early human activity.
Visit the Deep History Coast website for further information: https://www.north-norfolk.gov.uk/tasks/your-community/find-out-about-norfolks-deep-history-coast/
The earliest evidence of humans in Norfolk is around 800,000 years ago (foot prints at Happisburgh) along with the discovery of Doggerland, an area of land now under the North Sea that once connected Britain to Europe up until the last ice age around 15,000 years ago.
A joint or branch part from a larger deer antler. Found amongst the shingle just east of the gangway. Holocene to recent period, up to 600,000 years old.
This large grey granite type rock appeared at the foot of the cliff below Watchtower Lane in August and at first was thought to be the fossil of a large ammonite. However, it is not a fossil and I believe it is volcanic in origin and known as an “erratic” left behind, along with the glacial till (grey type clay which much of the cliffs consist of), after the last ice age. There are similar types of rock in the northern parts of the British Isles and this particular rock has been brought South by the glacial movement, and when the ice melted it was left behind. The rock measures approx. 1 meter across and it weighs at least 1 ton and has now (Dec) been buried under a recent cliff fall.
No “Beast from the East” this year and consequently the local beaches have not been scoured away as in previous winter months. However, a spring tide at the end of February saw some lower beaches exposed and I made a few finds.
AMMONITE Dactylioceras A part section of the common whirl of this species fossilised in brown sandstone. This family of Ammonite dates from the early Jurassic 200 million years ago and died out in the late Cretaceous 100 million years ago.
METATASUL (top) and METACARPAL bone fragments. The top bone is from the rear leg possibly of a deer and the other smaller bone is from the front lower leg. They date from the Pleistocene to Recent around 200 thousand years ago.
An imprint fossil of an AMMONITE in grey limestone. Well worn by wave action.
BONE FRAGMENTS It is very difficult to identify these but the one at top right is possibly a PROXIMAL PHALANX bone from the foot of a cleft hoof mammal such as a deer. All of these bones were found amongst the stones on the open beach and they have all been well “tumbled” by wave action. They could date from the Pleistocene period 200,000 years ago to Recent, 15,000 years ago, the last ice age.
A piece of grey/brown limestone with a faint squiggly line through it, broken open to reveal what I believe is the imprint of a fish’s fin! It could also be the wing of an insect, or part of a trace fossil from an ammonite.
This piece of bone was found amongst the rocks on Sidestrand beach last month by fellow fossil collector Ian Tubby. Part of the back leg bone, Femur or Tibia from a deer or similar mammal. A sub- fossil from after the last ice-age around 15,000 years old.
Fossil hunting in the summer months is usually not very productive as a good storm is required to shift the beach material to reveal anything. However, if you visit the beach enough times then something always turns up.
These fossils were all found on Trimingham beach this summer. They have not yet been positively identified but I have attempted to suggest what they might be.
↑ A trace fossil of a jellyfish? A very faint imprint on the surface of a flint stone. Flints are formed in a process where silica derived from micro-organisms combines with limestone and chalk to form nodular masses and concretions under huge pressure. This fossil comes from the Trimingham chalk which is about 65 million years old.
↑ MANDIBLE BONE – canine lower jaw bone. The molar and pre-molar teeth are present but the front part of the jaw with canine and incisor teeth is missing. The broad section suggest that it is from a wolf.
Found east of the Vale Road gangway in the stones on the open beach, it dates from the Holocene or Recent after the last ice age around 15 to 20,000 years ago.
↑ FRONTAL BONE – top of the skull from a DEER. The two antler bases can clearly be seen at the top. Found in a hard sandstone / shale bed well down the beach, the rest of the skull has been eroded away. Holocene / Recent, about 15,000 years old.
↑ SCAPULAR – joint end of shoulder blade, possibly from a deer or small horse. This fossil was found amongst loose pebbles halfway down the beach. Holocene / Recent, about 15,000 years old.
In March the “Beast from the East” brought storms coinciding with spring tides, and this scoured the beaches exposing the chalk beds and rocks all along the coast.
The fossils shown here have not yet been positively identified. However, I have attempted to name and age them myself.
↑ HEXACTINELLA SPONGE Found on the chalk at Sidestrand. Quite rare, because the delicate `arms` do not normally survive intact and only the vase-shaped centre is present as a fossil. The Hexactinella sponge gets its name from the six-sided cell structure of the vase wall. They can have six to twelve arms – this one has eight. The Sidestrand chalk is Upper-Maastrichtian in age and this dates the sponge at around 65 million years old.
↑ The exposed chalk at Sidestrand, on a foggy day in April 2018.
↑ Part of the chalk at Sidestrand, viewed from the cliff top.
↑ SYPHONIA SPONGE STEMS Found loose on the chalk at Trimingham just east of the old fishermen’s gangway. The base of the stem would be anchored to the sea bed and the top part was either branched or vase-like, similar to a tulip flower head. The piece on the left is a branch part. Sponge fossils date from as early as the Cambrian age, up to 500 million years old. These fossils were on the Upper-Maastrichtian chalk at Sidestrand and are around 65million years old.
↑ I am not sure about this, but it looks very much like the “pie crust” edge to a fragment of crab shell. Found loose on the Trimingham chalk at the eastern end of the beach.
↑ A piece of fossil bone – not sure what from, but the hollows suggest it may be from a marine mammal such as a seal or walrus.
↑ ANTLER BASE, GIANT DEER This piece has part of the skull at the base and was still attached to the head when the deer died. It was found lying loose amongst the rocks at Trimingham. Holocene to recent, approx. 600,000 years old.
↑ EQUUS or Wild horse Teeth from the upper jaw or maxilla. Holocene or recent, 600,000 years old. Found on Trimingham beach amongst the smaller pebbles.
↑ Big pieces of mammal bone. They are from possibly Bison, Woolly Rhinoceros, Brown Bear or young Elephant. Pleistocene to recent in age, 700,000 years old. Found amongst larger rocks west of the revetment at Trimingham.
↑ Molar tooth from Bovine, wild ox or similar. Found amongst pebbles on the open beach at Trimingham.
↑ Calcaneum, or heel bone from a cleft-hoofed mammal such as deer, buffalo, wild goat or ox. This bone is most likely from a deer and around 600,000 years old. Found on Trimingham beach in rocks to the west of the sea defence.
OFFICIAL IDENTIFICATIONS from Trimingham Beach
The samples which appear below were all collected by Geoffrey from Trimingham beach, and have been officially identified by the paleontology department of Cromer Museum.
Vertebra, thoraxes or back bone segments from giant Bison. Both pieces are incomplete and found at different locations amongst the larger beach pebbles. Known as a sub fossil, they date from late Pleistocene or Holocene age 10 to15,000 years ago, around the last ice age.
< Iron Pyrites – “Fools` Gold”. Not actually a fossil but a metallic mineral which forms nodules and granular masses of cubic crystals in sedimentary rocks. Pyrite is very susceptible to weathering leaving a residue of brownish limonite. Very heavy and dense it is usually found in the lower parts of the beach.
CONULUS – sea urchin on left and MICRASTER – heart urchin on right. Both types lived on the chalk seabed in the late Cretaceous 150 million years ago. Common size about 25 to 30 m/m.
< CENOCERAS – Nautilus. Part fragment of the whorl shell often mistaken for an ammonite. A marine cephalopod that fed on small seabed-dwelling creatures and the head part had well-developed eyes and grasping tentacles. It swam by squirting water out of the body cavity. A single genus survives today living in the southern Pacific. This fossil dates from the middle Jurassic period 160 million years ago.
TYLOCIDARIS – sea urchin. Lived on the chalk sea floor and had large defensive splines around the outside. From the late Cretaceous to Palaeocene period 500,000 years ago. Found amongst the smaller pebbles, they are about 40 m/m in diameter.
< Juvenile Deer, lower right jaw bone. This piece of fossil bone was found in a gravel stream bed which is now under the tarmac at the end of Vale Road next to Marl Point. It dates from the middle Pleistocene, 15,000 years ago. Known as a sub-fossil preserved after the last ice age.
ECHINOID – sea urchin. This fossil has formed in solid flint and the petal bases have been very well preserved. Found in the chalk reef it has been protected from the erosive action of the sea on the beach. It dates from the late Cretaceous period 60 million years ago.
< AUSTRALICERAS – a less common ammonite distinguished by the fine, closely-spaced ribs. It dates from the early Cretaceous period 120 million years ago.
PINNA – a fan mussel, embedded in flint. From the early Jurassic period around 150 to 200 million years ago. A bivalve filter feeder which lived in groups with the pointed anterior end buried in the sediment, this part has become fossilized in this example and in life the shell would have been about 200m/m long.
< BELEMNITES – one of the most common fossils found locally. Usually found scattered amongst the beach pebbles, but can be found embedded in the chalk when it is exposed. The belemnite at the top of this photo is attached to flint and was found on the chalk. Belemnites fossils are the remaining part of cephalopods, which include the living squid and cuttlefish, and they lived in the shallower waters of the Late Cretaceous Chalk sea around 60 to 150 million year ago.
ECHINOCORY, or Sea Urchin. These creatures lived partially buried on the sea bed and with mouth parts on the under side fed on small particles from the sediment. They are often found with the top of the dome missing and this was probably due to the attack of predators. In life they were covered in fine tubercles along the dotted lines clearly seen here. They date from the late Cretaceous period around 60 million year ago. And are found in the upper chalk layers.
< OSTREA, common Oyster. Lived in marine estuarine waters and were filter feeders. They anchored themselves to hard rock surfaces and the young cemented themselves to the older molluscs eventually forming a small reef of shells. They date from the late Cretaceous period 60 million year ago. A common fossil, usually found scattered amongst pebbles and flints on the open beach.
GRYPHAEA, Devils Toenail, a bivalve mollusc that lived on the sea bed anchored to rock a by its tip. Dating from the early Jurassic period around 150 million years ago. Fossils are usually found amongst pebbles and flints on the open beach.
< Juvenile Elephant / mammoth milk teeth. The ones on the left are not in wear. They date from the Lower Middle Pleistocene period, 600,000 to 1 million year ago. These fossils were found amongst the flints and pebbles on the open beach after a scouring storm tide and are likely to have been washed from the sea bed offshore.
Mammoth tooth fragments, broken off from full teeth which would be around 200 to 250 mm in length. They date from the Middle Pleistocene period 600,000 to 1 million years ago.
< Antler fragments. Another common fossil found on the open beach. It is very rare to find larger pieces of antler as they easily break up with the action of erosion and the sea. These fossils date from the Pleistocene period or later 600,000 year ago.
Elephant limb bone fragment. Pleistocene period 600,000 to 1 million years old. Found on the open beach amongst the larger flints. This fragment measures 100 m/m across and 250 m/m long.
< Head of Fema bone, Elephant. From the late Pleistocene period 600,000 years ago. Found on the open beach amongst the larger flints. It measures 150 m/m across.
AMMONITE – one of the oldest fossils to be found locally, they date from the Devonian period 400 million years ago or earlier, and up to the late Cretaceous period when they became extinct, around 100 million years ago. This fossil was found totally encased in grey limestone with only the small area on the right exposed: the stone was broken to reveal the complete fossil inside.
DAY TO DAY FOSSIL COLLECTING
A belemnite discovered on the beach at Trimingham by Liz King. It is part of a squid-like creature which flourished between the Jurassic and Cretaceous ages around 150,000,000 years ago.
Hunt the Belemnite! These seem to be very easy to find on the beach at Trimingham. This is a haul, mixed in with other geological curiosities, which Liz brought back on 9th-10th Feb 2018. Several were discovered all together beside one of the groynes.
For information on what to look for on the beach at Trimingham and continuing on to Sidestrand beach, see the UK Fossils Network web-site:
Sidestrand and Trimingham Cliffs are certified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The official notification for this, containing the reasons for its classification, appears on this certificate: