Sunday, June 04, 2006

Didn't have a lot of time to blog last week, thanks to good old half-term and compulsory quality time with the young 'uns. We did have fun though.

Never one to pass up an opportunity to hammer home evolutionary theory, and given that my in-laws live a mere half-hour drive from Charmouth Beach in Dorset, I dragged husband and kids out fossil-hunting! Well, 'dragged' isn't strictly accurate — I generally find that mentioning fossils to men and children makes them as biddable as those humans with the funny earpieces in Doctor Who's last encounter with the cybermen.

Talk about 'bang-for-your-buck' children's entertainment! I tell you, it was up there with mackerel fishing (you know, where you do it off a boat which has a 'fish-finder' which electronically guides you into the middle of a shoal, you use a line that has umpteen hooks on it and you're guaranteed to catch at least six or seven fish).

Thanks to several recent cliff collapses, there are endless lumps of soft clay just lying around on the beach waiting to be prised apart — even by the smallest of fingers — to reveal amonites, belemnites and lots of other -ites that I'm not spoddy enough to know the names of. It seems bizarre to think that while you can be arrested for walking out of a public park with a stick in your hand, you're free to help yourself to as many fossils as you like from Britain's crumbling coastline, but the practice is positively encouraged — there are hammers for sale and hire at the beach.

Of course, guddling around on a beach is fun at the best of times, but when you have the added bonus of being able to find fossils 175million years old… well, it's difficult to beat. We had a fantastic time.

A word of caution, though. The cliffs really are crumbling, and if you don't follow the safety advice there's a real chance you might end up squashed under several tonnes of clay. Of course you might make a very interesting find for some kid 150 million years from now, but somehow I don't think knowing that will help.

Check out this website for some top tips.

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