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At Highcliffe access to cliffs can be made with ease, indeed fossils occur in high concentrations in the seaward end of the slumped Barton Clay, so it’s not necessary to travel far to find a diversity of fossils.

Close inspection of the Barton Clay reveals a mass of broken fossil material alongside plenty of complete specimens too, especially gastropods.

The varying composition reflects the changing sea levels and proximity to land throughout this time.

The presence of sand is indicative of a high energy environment, in this instance the coastline, and accumulates to a greater extent relatively close to its source.

Immediately left (as it appears) of the Needles is Alum Bay, another classic fossil hunting location and a continuation of the Barton Clay discussed below.

Above: An early morning view across the Solent towards the Needles from the beach at Barton on Sea.

Barton on Sea is a suburb of New Milton, a coastal town on the south coast of Hampshire, 6 miles east of Bournemouth.

The town is home to 23,000 people, many of whom have a heightened awareness of the coastline, if not for its fossils, then for the rate at which it retreats due to erosion, threatening land and properties in the process.The fossils of the Barton Clay are nothing less than spectacular and have interested visitors to the area for centuries.The highly fossiliferous Barton Clay exposed in the cliff between Highcliffe and Barton on Sea provides an opportunity to explore a prehistoric marine environment dating from 40 million years ago.Above: A close-up of the Needles through a zoom lens.Figure 1: Geological summary of the cliffs between Highcliffe and Barton on Sea.Fortunately for the residents the areas considered most valuable/vulnerable are shielded by a series of sea defences, including boulder barriers and planting of vegetation on the slumping cliffs.