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Birling Gap fossil collecting (Sussex)

Fossil collecting at Birling Gap

Birling Gap is situated between the Seven Sisters and Beachy Head. Indeed, both of these locations can also be visited from Birling Gap on a retreating tide. However, due to dangerous tides along this part of the coastline, these three locations have been split into separate guides, with separate access points. This guide concentrates on the area around the access point of Birling Gap.

Directions:
From the A259, take the B2103 to the west of Eastbourne. This road is also the main seafront road through the town. Take the road called Beachy Head Road to Beachy Head and Birling Gap. Follow it until you reach Birling Gap. Here, there is a large car park (chargeable) with toilets. There are steps down to the beach, which provide easy access to the location. The site also has a pub, cafe and parking for coaches. In addition, buses frequently run to the site. From here, you can walk either east or west, visiting the chalk at the very eastern end of the Seven Sisters or west of Beachy Head. However, by far the best area is to the west, because the chalk from Beachy Head lighthouse to Birling Gap is not as fossiliferous as other nearby localities.

Geology: The geology here consists of the Lewes and Seaford Chalk, which are Cretaceous in age (85myrs old). At Birling Gap steps, the Seven Sisters Flint Band can be seen as a wave-cut platform. This can also be seen in the cliffs both to the east and west of the steps.

Fossil collecting: Echinoids, sponges, molluscs and fish remains can all be found. The geology here consists of the Lewes and Seaford Chalk, which are Cretaceous in age (85myrs old). At the steps, the Seven Sisters Flint Band can be seen as a wave-cut platform. This can also be seen in the cliffs both to the east and west of the steps. However, the shingle on the beach can make collecting difficult, but a short walk either to the east or west of the steps will provide better exposures of foreshore chalk and rocks to look through.
Sponges are fairly common here - from the Cuckmere Sponge Bed - which is just above the Seven Sisters Flint Band. Some wonderful specimens of the sponge Aptychus can be seen and, from the same horizon, opalised plant remains have sometimes been found. Echinoids are also common here (especially micrasters), which are mostly found in the rocks of the foreshore.

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Fossils - The most common finds are echinoids, sponges, molluscs and fish remains.
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Equipment: Most of the fossils can be found on the foreshore without the need to break up rocks. However, a hammer and chisel are recommended to extract them.

Safety: Common sense when collecting at all locations should always be used and you should check tide times before going. Indeed, this site should only be visited on a falling tide, as the sea comes in quickly. Do not hammer into the cliff face as this can cause rocks to fall.

Further information: View public discussions and other people's finds, or add your own reports and photos by going to our Discussion Board. In Sussex and Kent, there are many excellent locations for collecting chalk fossils. Newhaven, Seaford, Seven Sisters, Eastbourne, Beachy Head , Peacehaven and Birling Gap, Dumpton, Kingsgate, Samphire Hoe, Pegwell Bay, Dover, St Margarets Bay. Read the excellent publications: The Chalk of Sussex and Kent and Fossils of the Chalk.

Stone Tumblers

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.

Microscopes

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. We also sell petri dishes, to help you store your fossils.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

Test Sieves are used when searching for microfossils. 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 and Impact Test Sieves, these laboratory sieves are highly accurate and extremely durable. These Test sieves are fantastic for microfossils. Test Sieves come in a variety of sizes, frame material and types, they are certificated to EU Standards.