Collecting sharks’ teeth at Beltinge, Herne Bay, Kent

Les Lanham (UK)

Just to the east of Herne Bay in Kent, on the way to Reculver at Beltinge, there is a small area on the foreshore where fossils of shark and other fish remains can be found on a good low tide. As this is a beach location, success will depend on good, local conditions but, if favourable, a good number of fossil teeth can be found. In fact, Beltinge is one of the best areas in Britain to collect such teeth and it is not unusual to find 20 to 30 persons on the beach on very low tides. Even so, everybody there could end up with a good haul of material by the end of the day.

Four keen geological groups meet for the annual extreme low tide event.

I have set out directions at the end of this article detailing where to start your day. From this starting point, go as far out as the tide will let you and shark teeth can be found. Indeed, the chances of finding teeth improve the further out the tide goes. Broadly speaking, the collecting area is in the section of beach between the groynes either side of the concrete steps. Here, when the tide has gone out quite a distance, there appears to be a “stream” running out to sea. This is the junction between the clay beds to the west and the shingle to the east.

Thanet Beds exposed east of Herne Bay.

When the tide is low enough, a small “island” appears in line with the stream, consisting mainly of pebbles. If you wade out to it, this can also be a good source of teeth, as collectors do not often visit the site so teeth tend to build up among the pebbles.

Oldhaven Beds exposed on the foreshore.

Further west of the collecting area is a large spit of shingle, mainly covered in mussel shells and is known locally as “the Rand”. Before bait-diggers found king rag worms burrowing under the shingle here, this was the best place to find teeth and is generally regarded as the junction of Woolwich and Reading Beds (to the east) and the Oldhaven Beds (to the west). However, once the bait-diggers started turning over the shingle, mussels took a hold and teeth could no longer be found there.


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