Most fossil digs want the public to take a hands-off attitude. Not on the Jurassic Coast
. “We’re unusual in that we say, ‘Come on down and have a go,’ ” says Edmonds. Public fossil hunting is allowed and even encouraged at numerous sites along the coast, though eager bone collectors are asked to follow a common sense code of conduct.
Found on the Jurassic Coast by an amateur fossil hunter, the pliosaur skull on display at the Dorset County Museum
in nearby Dorchester is 95 percent complete and nearly 8 feet long. Paleontologists believe the “sea serpent” had the biggest bite of any known animal.
Once you’ve had your fill of rocks, check out some of the Jurassic Coast’s greener attractions — and thank the rocks for them. “All the active erosion creates fantastic habitats for plants and animals that thrive in disturbed soil, very unique beetles and moths and flowers, from about April through summer,” says Edmonds. “It’s all down to the underlying geodiversity.” Two must-visit spots: Durlston Head
, a “limestone grassland full of orchids and butterflies,” according to Edmonds, and the Undercliffs, “the largest self-sown ash forest in England. It’s the nearest we get to a tropical rainforest.”
When you’re ready to unwind from a day of fossil hunting or hiking, the coast is full of spots that offer more than a meal and a bed for the night. “There are also beautiful, historic towns and villages built of locally quarried stone with real character, such as Portland,” says Edmonds.