Some people are all about the Jurassic coast – but they’re like the tourists you see trundling into wildly overpriced bars in Leicester Square, thinking they’re in the beating heart of London’s nightlife. You have to know where to look for the real stuff, somewhere that’s not been plundered to death already, a spot people wouldn’t think of. Mine is at a secluded cliff on the south coast – no I’m not telling you where – but I know it’s teeming with fossils, ghosts in the rock just lurking there waiting to be found by me and my chisel.
It’s more painstaking work than these oafs you see at the Jurassic smashing open great big pieces of slate. In fact it’s so painstaking I’ve been coming every weekend for three years and not found any fossils yet, but that’s a good sign. They’re ancient, they’re buried deep – no low-hanging fruit these. They’re just waiting to be found by someone patient enough to keep up the quest of them; they’re waiting to be found by me.
You have to know what you’re doing. I laugh when I see amateurs poking around the rocks with little chisels and brushes. What are they hoping to achieve? I go to other parts of the coast sometimes to watch them, eat my sandwiches sitting on the edge of the cliff, looking down on them scraping away – all that hope in their little hearts, fools!
It’s a dangerous path I tread. There was a massive rockfall late last Monday night and a whole chunk of the cliff was swept off into the sea. It gave me quite a turn, I can tell you, I’d been there until the light went on Sunday night, blasting away with a pickaxe so I could easily have been squashed if it had happened a bit earlier. Still, those are the risks I take for the glory of dinosaur-hunting. It’s big game stuff.