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Fairlight fossils and fossil collecting

Follow the coastal road past Fairlight to Fairlight Cove and then on to Pett Level.
You will come to a pub called the Smuggler Inn. It is usually best to park in the car park immediately past the pub, as parking at the large car park is for customers only. There are public toilets just 50 yards away. There is alternative parking in a small car park at the toilet block, just before the pub.
From here, you can walk along the promenade, from where you can gain access to the beach and cliffs. It is possible to walk to Fairlight from Hastings, but this is several miles and is not recommended, especially if you wish to return to Hastings on foot.

TQ 88725 12859 50.88438°N, 0.68165°E

Fish, shark, crocodiles, turtle, dinosaurs, shells, plant remains
Fossil Collecting at Fairlight

This popular location near Hastings has yielded some important finds over the years. Sharks’ teeth, plants, reptile remains and shells can all be collected, and the site is exceptional for small mammal and fish remains. Crocodile teeth can also sometimes turn up.
Where is it


Fairlight yields excellent small fish and mammal remains in blocks of the ‘Cliff End Bone Bed’. These fall from near the top of the cliff, but can be difficult to find due to over collecting. However, there are usually a few blocks lying around.

Older children

Although Fairlight is suitable for families, the foreshore is very rocky and may not be suitable for younger children. Keep away from the base of the cliff.

Fair Access

Fairlight is fairly easy to access. There is good parking near the pub car park or at the toilet block. Parking may also be possible at the pub car park with permission. The pub owners are usually very friendly towards collectors, particularly if you intend to eat or drink there. Public toilets can be found down the road, just before the pub or at the pub itself if using the facilities. The pub also serves good food.

Foreshore, Cliffs

Most of the fossils at Fairlight can be found on the foreshore, especially after storms. However, fossils are also commonly found at the base of the cliff in the scree slopes. Extreme care must be taken and hard hats should always be worn, if collecting near the base of the cliff. However, we do not recommend this, as the cliffs are constantly crumbling and are very high.

No Restrictions

There are no restrictions at this location, but please follow our own code of conduct for all locations.

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

As always, common sense when collecting at all locations should be used and you should check tide times before going, as the sea can reach the base of the cliffs at high tide. In addition, there is a constant danger of falling rocks from the cliffs. Stay away from the foot of the cliffs and, if you are breaking up rocks, do so well away from the cliff face, as hammer vibrations can cause debris to fall. Hard hats should be worn at all times if near to the base of the cliffs.

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

Other Locations similar to Fairlight

For other similar locations, try nearby Bexhill, and Cooden. You can also collect from Hastings, a similar age

Many fossils can be found either in blocks of the Cliff End Bone Bed or on the foreshore. The bone bed is very hard and you will need good splitting tools and hammer. It is also worthwhile taking some samples home to split in more comfortable surroundings.

Location Photos

Fossil Collecting
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When beginning at the beach at Pett Level, blocks of the Cliff End Bone Bed can usually be found lying on the ground and is packed with bones, scales and teeth. If you break open these blocks, you can see teeth from the fish Lepidotes and the shark Hybodus. A variety of shells can be seen and, very occasionally, insects have been found from this layer.

The grey clay is the ‘Unio Bed’, which contains the shells of the eponymous freshwater bivalve. These can be collected along the foreshore, where this layer is exposed. In this, if you are lucky, you can also find a whole range of different bones and teeth from dinosaurs, crocodiles and turtles. However, note that fossils from this clay are very fragile.

The Fairlight area is the best location outside of the Isle of Wight for dinosaur remains. While not common, they can generally be found anywhere along the Fairlight to Hastings coastline, but are mostly fragments. Along the foreshore, past Fairlight Cove to the east, you can find dinosaur bones in the ‘Wadhurst Clay Ironstone’. Turtle remains have also been recorded. These bones are normally found in ironstone nodules, but are usually only fragments. Bones can also be found at the base of the cliffs, in the scree slopes.

At Pett Level just before Fairlight Cove, a submerged forest can be seen at low tide dating from about 5200 BC. During scouring, in a silt layer exposed on the foreshore, Iguanodon footprints have also been seen.

The Ashdown/Wadhurst fault at Fairlight Cove

Geology Guide Cretaceous,130mya

The rocks here are from the Valanginian age of the Lower Cretaceous. The first cliffs you will come to consist of the Cliff End Sandstone, which is made up of a series of sands and silts. This is part of the Wadhurst Clay Formation. Above the sandstone is the ‘Cliff End Bond Bed’, which contains fish scales, teeth and bones, and shark and reptile remains.


As you head west, you will come to a major fault at Fairlight Cove (‘Haddock’s Reverse Fault’) between the harder Wadhurst Clay at the eastern end and the softer Ashdown Formation to the west. This fault explains why the sea has rapidly eroded the cliff here and the need for coastal defence works. The Ashdown Formation is made up of sands and silts (including the Fairlight Clay, which can be dark grey, pinky or pure white in places) that can be seen exposed on the foreshore, in and to the west of Fairlight Cove.


At the top of the cliffs at Pett Level, there is a small amount of glacial sediment from a drift deposit. ......[more]

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Lepidotes fish plate .....[more]

Estwing Geological

For high quality, steel hammers, Estwing are the best make. They are solid forged. Estwing Geological Hammers come as either Chisel or Pointed picks. We sell Estwing Hammers via our webshop and Estwing Geological Pointed Picks.

We also sell the classic British Geological Hammer in Hickory, Steel or Fibre Glass Handles. As well as over 10,000 related geological tools, equipment, books and maps via our store. UKGE, specialising in Geological and MIcroscopy tools and equipment.

Meteorites can be found all over the world. Often, large pieces are broken down either naturally or by hand, or sliced and sold as small fragments, each fall is well documented. Meteorites are very collectable, especially ones of Mars or Moon rocks.

We sell Meteorites, which are in stock and mostly come in a display boxs. Our meteorites are from all over the world and include Mars and Moon Meteorites, and rocks from outer space. For more information, please see our meteorite page.

For viewing the tiny teeth and microfossils from Fairlight, we have a wide range of microscopes for sale, a Stereomicroscope will be needed for viewing these fossils. The most popular is our IMXZ which comes with zoom control, but a basic microscope will be fine.

At most locations, you can find microfossils. Often, only a small amount of sample is needed. You then need to wash it in water and sieve using a test sieve. Once it is processed, you can then view the contents using the microscope.

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(C)opyright 2008 - UKGE Limited, UK Fossils Network and Deposits Magazine, all rights reserved.
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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