With apologies to the late James W. Best for appropriating his image (from his 1935 Forest Life in India)

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Fossil-Hunting Seventies-Style

A couple of posts back (‘Wish I’d Written That’) I made gentle fun of an overly optimistic guide to beachcombing from the 1970s. Here is an altogether more realistic practical guide from the same era, one published by Kestrel Books, a Penguin imprint, in 1977:


The authors tell you EXACTLY where to find what at various sites around the English coast. One such site is Warden Point on the Isle of Sheppey, where the road plunges straight into the sea due to the rapidly eroding clay cliffs – cliffs, note the authors, that can be extremely dangerous after heavy rain. Forewarned is forearmed, so I made sure my two eldest, Jessie and Jimmy, together with their friends Josh and Majella, all wore wellies when I took them fossil-hunting there one rainy day back when they were little. Striding down the steep slope, bucket in one hand, trowel in the other, Majella plunged straight into a mass of waist-deep gloop. After much heaving and hauling we finally managed to extract her not only from the mud but from her boots, which remain buried there to this day, fossils of the far future, and undeterred we all carried on down to the beach, where we became so absorbed in our fossil-hunting that we were almost cut off by the flooding tide (something else, to be fair, that the authors warn about). It was but the first of many happy expeditions to sites recommended in this marvellous little book – a book the like of which, I’m sure, would never be published now, not least for reasons of health and safety!