As I wander along Church Cliff Beach with more than 30 eager fossil hunters, my first thought is how easy it is to spot fossils hidden in the rocks along the beach.

My second thought is that I should have worn waterproof shoes.

Experts from Lyme Regis Museum start by giving a talk outside the museum before leading us towards the beach.

They tell the group that the best time to come fossil hunting is from November through to February – because harsher weather such as rain lubricates the cliffs meaning fossils are easier to find.

At the beginning of our walk we’re told about the most common fossils to be found which include both ammonite and belemnite fossils – of which ‘thousands are found every year in Lyme’, Chris Andrew, the museum’s education officer, tells us.

Still, that didn’t stop my excitement as I became one of thousands of people to stumble across both of these common fossils hidden in the sea rocks.

Chris refers to the ammonite fossil as ‘Lyme’s iconic fossil’, with the fossil’s distinctive shape appearing on the town’s street lamps. The Jurassic Coast became famous for its fossils in the 19th century, becoming a major centre for scientific research.

One of the town’s most famous fossil hunters was Mary Anning, the daughter of a carpenter. In 1811, when Mary was 12 years old, she found the body of an ichthyosaur, or a fish-lizard. Mary also found a near complete plesiosaurus, or near lizard skeleton, in 1820; the first of its kind ever discovered.

Lyme Regis Museum regularly holds fossil walks along Lyme’s beaches, which prove popular with residents and holidaymakers alike and are often sold out in peak summer months.

The popularity of the walks may not come as a surprise to many – after all, Lyme received an unexpected tourism boost after being voted the destination for the second-best beach activity in the world. In a survey conducted by travel website, fossil hunting on the beaches of Lyme Regis was only pipped to the post by snorkelling off the Philippines.

The museum’s fossil walks have been featured on TV programmes Countryfile and Coast – and even attracted Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant last month.

My group was told to keep safety at the forefront of their mind while fossil hunting. There is a health and safety talk given with information on the various cliff falls throughout West Dorset in the past couple of years.

As we wander along the beach, Chris tells the group that ‘one rock of a relatively small size could very well end a promising fossil hunting career’.

At the end of the walk, Paddy Howe, the museum geologist, lets us see a different kind of rock he has been collecting throughout the day and breaks the rocks open to reveal much better ammonite fossils than we could ever hope to simply stumble across.

So what makes the museum’s fossil hunting walks so popular?

Among the eager fossil hunters were Alison and John Harling from Bristol, who came along on the walk specifically to find a fossil for their seven-year-old grandson Jack.

Alison said: “The walk was something to do on our holiday anyway but we’ve had a fantastic time.”

Carrie Armstrong from Blackpool also visited the fossil walk as part of a family trip.

She said: “The walk has been really interesting. We have three children here today and they’ve found their own fossils already.”

Oliver and Daniela Conolly from London came fossil hunting in Lyme because it ‘sparks the children’s curiosity’.

The couple, who were staying in Charmouth, found seven ammonite fossils in total on the walk.

Museum director David Tucker said: “To this day people can find fossils on our beaches – but they need to be particularly careful about tide-times and shouldn’t go near the bases of any of the cliffs.”

Paddy described the day as ‘the best day’ he has had for discovering ammonites in three weeks.

In addition, any fossils found on the walk are, of course, the walker’s to keep.

There’s nothing better than coming home with a part of Lyme’s history – and the best part is that you can look back at the fossils and know you discovered them yourself.

For more information on the town’s fossil walks call 01297 443370 or visit