Plan ahead and stay comfortable, be prepared for wind or rain (even in summer), wear strong shoes or boots, carry a drink and snacks, sun-cream etc. You may like to take a fossil spotting chart with you and something to wrap your finds in (old newspaper and some zip-lock bags are great).
Stay safe on the seashore, always go fossil hunting on a falling tide, keep clear of crumbly cliffs and take care of slippery rocks – especially smooth surfaces covered in a green algae. Always tell somebody where you are going and what time you will be finished, don’t rely on a mobile phone signal. Your safety is your own responsibility!
Look for tiny pieces among the beach pebbles, not just big stones. Often crinoid stems or belemnites can be as small as your little fingernail. Fossils are rarely found by breaking open rocks randomly, instead look for pebbles that are an unusual shape, or have some different patterns on them. At some geologically important locations hammering is not permitted so check with someone in the know (like a local fossil shop or museum). Often the best fossils are found without hammers anyway.
Many fossils, especially larger ones or those preserved in the wave-cut platform cannot be collected with breaking them, so leave them there and take a photograph. Responsible fossil hunting plays an important part in palaeontology and geology. Irresponsible collecting is exactly that and helps nobody. If you do find something that you want identified then contact a museum, or feel free to get in touch with me via the website.The most important thing to record is where you found a fossil, that is the one thing an expert can never tell you.
First produced in Issue 23 of The Scarborough Review