Posted 18 January 2019 by Andrew Gardner
Hey fossil-fans, we have our own Jurassic Park in Sussex! The coast near Hastings has been very popular with fossil-hunters for a long time – significant dinosaur bones have been found there in the past - but it's been in the news again recently. It seems that over the past four years cliff erosion between Hastings and Fairlight has revealed a huge number of very detailed dinosaur footprints from the early Cretaceous period. Some are more than half a metre long, with incredibly detailed markings of skin, scales and claws, and they're thought to be from species including ankylosaurus and iguanodon (see how those tripped off my tongue - impressive, eh?).
Apparently it's quite rare to find footprints, especially with this much detail intact, and these are the first to turn up in 25 years. We've long been aware that dinosaurs roamed widely in Sussex – evidence of lizard-footed sauropods (that's mainly brachiosaurus and diplodocus to you and me) has been found in Crawley and Bexhill – and the first known iguanodon was found in this area, as well as the first fossilised dinosaur brain tissue to be identified. Isn't that extraordinary?
Experts reckon the Hastings-Fairlight site was a source of fresh drinking water, as fossilised plants and invertebrates were also found there. I don't think the actual rocks with the footprints in are on display yet, though I hope they will be, but it's really worth looking up the pictures online as they're absolutely amazing.
For other dino-spotting opportunities in Sussex, Lewes has an annual fossil festival; you could visit the Booth Museum of Natural History in Brighton; check out the Great Horsham Iguanodon at Horsham Museum (which is a treasure trove in itself); Cuckfield Museum has some interesting stuff; and there's a dinosaur museum at Birdham.
Meanwhile, when you're self-catering in Sussex you can look out for fossils yourself along the beaches between Pett Level and Hastings, though take care as the cliffs can be unstable. Just like the more famous Jurassic coast, then!