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Our fossil heritage revealed

Fossils estimated to be 40 to 45 million years old are being revealed on Monks Hill beach as IFA2 excavates cable ducts for the interconnector project to link the electricity transmission systems of GB and France.

The construction site on Monks Hill Beach has brought an unexpected benefit for local resident and amateur palaeontologist Linda Gardner.

Linda, from Titchfield, has collected fossils around the world all her life. Monks Hill Beach is one of her favourite sites and she has had fossil finds there including shark, ray, swordfish, turtle and many more over the years.

Linda brought her extensive fossil collection down to the beach to share with geological consultant Dr Andy King (from Geckoella Ltd) and Dr Dave Evans (from Natural England) who are overseeing the excavation works and who were able to share recent finds with her – including two excellently preserved fossil bivalve shells (called Venericor and Glycymeris), estimated to be 42 million years old.

Linda said: “The excavation works are turning up material from depths below low tide that would otherwise be inaccessible. It’s a very exciting opportunity to find fossils that would otherwise never be discovered.”

The excavations pass through clays and silts that represent the Bracklesham Formation. These were formed during the Eocene Period of geological time (56 to 33 million years ago) when mammals evolved from small, simple forms into a large group of diverse animals and the seas were full of marine life including sharks, rays, fish and a huge variety of shells.

Dave Evans said: “This coast is a Site of Special Interest and is nationally important for its geology and fossils. Natural England wanted to ensure that the beach works provided an opportunity to gain more scientific information about the geology of this site fossils were recovered from the temporary excavations. These fossils and the accompanying data collected by Andy and his team will be deposited in museum collections and available for future research.”

According to Andy, as part of the Geological Clerk of Works role, “arrangements are also being made during the excavation of the second trench in the autumn for local geologists such as Linda and the Tertiary Research Group to briefly visit the site. They will also have an opportunity to collect samples from a specially arranged rock pile located safely away from the main excavations”.