The Barton Formation(~36 mya) is from the Bartonian age of the Upper Eocene and is part of the Hampshire Basin. The clays tend to be very sandy in the lower part, with dark sandy clays with stiff drab clays in the middle part and light coloured clayey sands in the higher part. In general, the Barton Clay is extremely fossiliferous.
At the top of the cliff, a layer of Pleistocene Brickearth can be seen. Directly under this, plateau gravels (also Pleistocene in age) rest on top of the Barton Formation.
The Barton beds are famous for over 600 species of shells, in particular, gastropods. The beds change from west to east, allowing you to collect a variety of fossils. It is best to work your way along the beach, walking along the base of the slippages. Fossils can be found on the foreshore, at the base of the cliff and, during scouring conditions, on the lower part of the foreshore.
Although climbing the cliffs is not recommended, many of the cliff slippages are full of shells, as rain water has washed then out of the clay. However, extreme care should be taken if planning on searching the slippages, although good shells can often be found. It is easy to become stuck. If you do plan to explore the slippages, make sure someone else is with you and that you walk carefully, ensuring that you tread on hard ground.
Sharks’ teeth are regularly found and are often easier to find in the shingle of the foreshore, particularly just beyond the sea defences. These come from beds that also contain many other fish remains, such as pieces of jaw, which can also be found scattered across the beach in the sand and single. This bed continues upwards at Highcliff to the middle of the cliff, although these are quite poorly slipped.
It is best to arrive on a fairly high tide and stay until the tide retreats, as sharks’ teeth can be found for quite some way out lying on the sand around this area. Some of the fish pieces can be found in flints in this same area.
Equipment: Barton on Sea is an excellent location for fossils. However, some of the shells can be fragile, so bring lots of paper to wrap them with or use Tupperware boxes. In most cases, all you need is a good eye, as most of them can be picked off the foreshore without too much work. However, a trowel or knife does come in handy.
Safety: Common sense when collecting at all locations should always be used and prior knowledge of tide times is essential. Although you can be cut off by the tide, this is not a major cause for concern, as the slippages can be climbed to avoid the incoming water. However, the danger is on these slippages and on the foreshore, especially during winter months. The clay at Barton on Sea can become very soft and dangerous, and care should be taken at all times. Collecting is not recommended directly after heavy or long spells of rain, especially during winter months. Bogs within the slippages are very deep and sometimes difficult to see.
Further information: View public discussions and other people's finds, or add your own reports and photos by going to our Discussion Board. For similar locations, you could try Taddiford Gap, Brownwich Cliff, or Milford-on-Sea in Hampshire. Bracklesham Bay in Sussex, or Herne Bay in Kent. At Whitecliff Bay on the Isle of Wight, the Barton Beds are also exposed.