Geology: The upper chalk here contains a huge variety of fossils in a wide range of zones. The Seven Sisters, from west to east, are: Haven Brow, Short Brow, Rough Brow, Brass Brow, Flat Brow, Bailys Hill and Went Hill. More recently due to cliff erosion, an eighth sister has now appeared and this is called Flagstaff Brow. This can be seen between Brass Brow and Flat Brow. At Birling Gap, the Seaford Chalk Formation can be examined which yields a different variety of fossils from other Seven Sister cliffs. In the 1996 tour, 5 different species of echinoid were collected along with many brachiopods and bivalves.
Fossil collecting: This is a classic location for chalk collectors. However, you will not always come away with plenty of fossils, as this location is very unpredictable. Sometimes, the foreshore can be covered in algae and, with few fresh rock falls, this can make collecting poor. The high cliffs can make things even harder, as collecting from these is very dangerous and not recommended, especially if there are overhangs. Having said this, the Seven Sisters is still highly recommended to collectors and, with a cleaner foreshore or large cliff falls, it can yield the best chalk fossils of any chalk site. And, even if it doesn’t, the long, lovely walk through the park still makes it worth visiting. Fossils are mostly found in the scree slopes, cliff falls and from the boulders on the foreshore. Sometimes, fossils can be found loose just waiting to be picked up. Most people visit the first section of the cliff, so walk further (tide permitting) to increase your chances of finding fossils. The most common fossils at the Seven Sisters are echinoids and there are many different species, which fall within four main groups. These are Micrasters, which are the heart-shaped variety; Conulus, which are the small round type; Echinocorys,which are the large oval type; and regular echinoids, which are similar to modern day regular sea urchins. This location is also rich in bivalves and brachiopods, and sponges can additionally be found. You never know what you may find since this site is so rich in fossils.
Equipment: Most fossils at the Seven Sisters can be found on the foreshore or at the base of the cliff from the fallen rocks and scree slopes. You will need a geological hammer and chisel to extract them.
Safety: Common sense when collecting should always be used and knowledge of tide times is essential. There are two broad dangers apparent along the Seven Sisters coastline. The first is the tide, which needs to be taken note of as it can reach the base of the cliffs. Always allow plenty of time to return. The second is the danger of falling debris from the high cliffs. Stay away from the foot of the cliffs and, if you are knocking out fossils or hitting rocks, do so well away from the cliffs, as hammer vibrations can cause debris to fall. Hard hats should be worn. Finally, be careful of slipping on seaweed on the rocks of the foreshore.
Further information: View public discussions and other people's finds, or add your own reports and photos by going to our Discussion Board. In Sussex and Kent, there are many excellent locations for collecting chalk fossils. Newhaven, Seaford, Eastbourne, Seven Sisters, Peacehaven and Beachy Head, Dumpton, Kingsgate, Samphire Hoe, Pegwell Bay, Dover and St Margarets Bay. You can also find middle chalk at Hooken Cliff, and Pinhay Bay in Devon, and at Hunstanton in Norfolk. Read the excellent publications: The Chalk of Sussex and Kent and Fossils of the Chalk.