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Hengistbury Head fossils and fossil collecting

It is highly recommended that you take a map. The location is at the very eastern end of Bournemouth and, until you get near, it is not signposted.
It is best accessed by dropping down from the A35 once you get near Christchurch. From the roundabout, where the A35 meets the A3060, continue straight over the next two roundabouts, heading towards Christchurch.
After crossing over a railway bridge, take the B3059 towards Southbourne. Go straight over the first roundabout, over a narrow bridge, and then straight over the next roundabout. The next right is the road that will lead to Hengistbury Head and is signposted as a car park.
Continue all the way to the furthest car park, which is very large with plenty of spaces. Park here and walk across the grass fields to the shore. From here, walk east to the cliffs.

GRID REF: SZ 17429 90505

microfossils, (seeds)
Fossil Collecting at Hengistbury Head

Hengistbury Head is at the most easterly end of Dorset and is a popular area for hikers. The cliffs are tall, but surrounded by water, with Christchurch Harbour just 400m round the corner to the east. These are Barton Age and are rich in fossil seeds. Therefore, this is an ideal location for the microfossil collector.
Where is it



At the base of the cliff, a sand and clay bed of lignite (part of the Boscombe Sands) is packed with a large variety of seeds, with a good level of preservation. The bed is easy to find. It is 2m thick, but is not uniform throughout its thickness. The siltiest part of this bed is the most productive for seeds.

Older Children


This location is suitable for older children. The beach is fairly safe, as long as you keep away from the cliff. The location is more popular with schools looking at the geology of the small ice age gravel cliffs at the start of the walk.

Fair Access


The walk from the car park to the seed bed is not that far. However, if you are not used to Bournemouth, the start can be a little hard to find. Therefore, a good road map is useful.



Fossils are found by taking samples from the beds within the cliff for processing at home. The cliffs can be dangerous, so take extra care. As this site is an SSSI, only take samples that have collapsed from the cliff and not from the actual bedrock.

World Heritage Site


Hengistbury Head is part of the Jurassic World Heritage Coastline. Please follow the Fossil Code of Conduct on the safety notes page below.


Common sense should always be used at all locations and prior knowledge of tide times is essential. The sea can often reach the base of the cliff, which are sheer in places and frequently crumble.

Hengistbury Head
Tide Times



UK Tidal data is owned by Crown Copyright, and therefore sadly we are not allowed to display tide times without paying expensive annual contracts. However we sell them via our store, including FREE POSTAGE
Click here to buy a tide table



Higher Spence

Farm Cottage, beautiful location 3 miles Charmouth. Double and Family rooms En Suite.

£20-£22.00 per night per adult. Under 12, Half Price.

Contact: Christine Nutkins
Tel: UK (01297) 560556
Tel: International +441297 560556 Address: Higher Spence, Wootton, Fitzpaine, Charmouth, Dorset.

Email: Website: (Typing "Higher Spence into your search engine)


Dorset coastal cottages

We are a holiday agent for 120 carefully selected and inspected cottages within 10 miles of Dorset's spectacular World Heritage Coast and Path. All are old, many are beamy and thatched, most have open fires or logburners plus central heating. Rents include electricity, gas etc. and all linen/towels.

Please call: 0800 9804070 for a Brochure or visit our website on

Last updated:  2012
last visited:  2011
Written by:  Alister and Alison Cruickshanks
Edited by:  Jon Trevelyan
Location Photos

Your Reports

Hengistbury Head provides an excellent opportunity to collect seeds from Barton Age clays. It is the start of the fantastic Eocene coastline, which continues into Hampshire, including Barton-on-Sea and Milford-on-Sea. There are no macro fossils here, apart from the occasional mollusc mould. The fossils found here are microfossil seeds, within a bed of lignite clay.

When you first get to the shore at Hengistbury Head, you will notice the small, low cliffs are gravels. You need to continue to keep walking until the cliffs become taller. The lignite bed can clearly be seen at their base. There are two excellent beds for seeds, both within the final 2m of cliff. The first is a charcoal black lignite bed and the second, a silty clay bed with lignite. Both are full of fossil seeds, which can easily be processed at home. Therefore, it is recommended that you take some samples back, or sieve on site and then take the sediment back for viewing under a microscope or hand lens. There are many different varieties of seeds here.

Microfossils are mostly found in the lignite beds from the Boscombe Sands. This layer is often found at the base of the cliff, and consists of black carbon. The bed is full of seeds. Another bed, which is higher in the cliff, is a silty grey bed, sometimes exposed on the shore beneath the cliff, where the sea has washed fallen debris. This bed has a lot of plant material that also includes seeds.

The best sections are found where the sea has washed out the middle cliff sections and the basal beds are exposed. Bag up samples in heavy duty bags, but make sure you write on them what bed the samples are from and make a note of any important information.

The best way to process your samples is to wet-wash them, which will also clean the samples. It is not a bad idea to do a second wash to clean them further, as this makes looking at them under a microscope easier.
Samples should be sieved to 500 microns, 300 microns and then 250 microns. These will capture all the seeds covering various sizes. You will then need a microscope to view these. (UKGE Ltd sells a wide range of microscopes)

Microfossils from Hengistbury Head are well known for the huge range of fossil seeds that can be found there. The problem is that these seeds, unless preserved, can deteriorate very quickly. After a while of being exposed to air, the seeds will open up and ‘pop’, and once this happens they start to crumble. Therefore, you must preserve them or keep them in air tight containers. ....[more]

Geology Guide Eocene, 38mya

The cliffs here are the equivalent age to the Barton Beds. The cliffs are over 35m tall, divided into four groups - River Gravels at the top, then the Warren Hill Sand Member\, the Barton Clay Member and finally the Boscombe Sand Member. It is in the final section where fossil seeds can be found, although mollusc moulds can be seen in the Barton Clay. The Boscombe Sands are divided into buff and chocolate coloured sands, with small pebbles, and lignitic sands and clays. It is this bed, which makes up the final 2m of cliff, that is most productive....[more]

Geological Succession of Hengistbury Head

More Guides

Bryozoan from Hengistbury Head
Fossil seeds are very common from Hengistbury Head....[more]


A trowel is important for taking samples and we recommend sieves of no greater than 0.5mm for sieving on site. Sample bags are also essential.

Other Locations similar to Hengistbury Head

There are many locations suitable for collecting Microfossils nearby. The ones featured on UK Fossils are Seatown, Watton Cliff and Poxwell Quarries.

Geological Tools
Test Sieves for Microfossils

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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 are used when searching for microfossils. Microfossils can be found in many locations, and 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 Test Sieves, which are the highest in accuracy and extremely durable and long lasting. These Test Sieves are fantastic for microfossils. Endecotts Test Sieves come in a variety of sizes, frame material and types, they are certificated to EU Standards.

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While we (UKGE/UK Fossils) try to ensure that the content of this location guide is accurate and up to date, we cannot and do not guarantee this. Nor can we be held liable for any loss or injury caused by or to a person visiting this site. Remember: this is only a location guide and the responsibility remains with the person or persons making the visit for their own personal safety and the safety of their possessions. That is, any visit to this location is of a personal nature and has not been arranged or directly suggested by UK Fossils. In addition, we recommend visitors get their own personal insurance cover. Please also remember to check tide times and rights of way (where relevant), and to behave in a responsible and safe manner at all times (for example, by keeping away from cliff faces and mud).
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