Finding fossils in Ringstead Bay

RINGSTEAD Bay is a fossil hunters’ paradise, graveyard of colossal sea monsters, boasting rock strata to die for.

Somewhere in these parts, they say, the skull of a fearsome 12-ton pliosaur was etched onto these ancient stones.

An artist's impression of a 45-ton pliosaur attacking. Picture: Natural History Museum, University of Oslo, Norway

We don’t find any dinosaurs, but we do happen upon a rare fossilised spiky thing.

(Also, according to the Naturist UK Fact File, Ringstead is home to nudists! Groups of them use the eastern end of the bay. This is news to us, as we thought Studland was the only nudist beach round here. Luckily, everyone we come across is fully clothed. It is March, after all).

The sea has moulded boulders into whirls not unlike the swirls you get on top of a bowl of Angel Delight. Seams of entire historical eras are emblazoned across the cliffs, like a cross-section of time meets space.

We look nervously up at the towering cliffs, hoping they don’t slide down. The sun is high, the tide is slowly taking its leave of the tawny pebble-dashed shore. The water’s clear, sparkling like elixir.

Despite the families out walking dogs and relaxing next to giant pieces of fallen cliff, it’s astonishingly peaceful, with only the piercing mewls of the odd sea bird carrying high on the wind.

Some daring twosome are practicing paddle surfing, while another chap kitted out in a wetsuit tramps past with a harpoon – off to spear-fish his dinner?

The sea inlets and eddies. The shore gives off the harsh tang of seaweed drying in the sun. The rocks smell of salt and pepper, and the pebbles crunch invitingly. I lie down, and watch the waves frill over rocks.

I tilt my head, and the horizon slips in sympathy.

Hopping amid the Moonscape of stone and crag, we’re grateful for our adventure boots. It’s hard work scrambling over the tideline. After a mile and a half, a set of wooden steps lead to the Smugglers Inn at Osmington Mills.

We sit down to a lunch of ginger beer and a shared larder board of pate, ham, cheese, and bread. After feasting on the Sunday papers, we take the coast path proper back to Ringstead, and the car. Glorious clumps of gorse adorn the cliff edge, and the plashing sound of the sea is never far away.


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