Fossil fever: exploring Dorset’s Jurassic Coast with Steve Etches

Retired plumber Steve Etches has spent years combing the coast for ammonites and dinosaur bones. He has collected so many a £5m, world-class museum, in the village of Kimmeridge, has been built to house them all

At low tide on an autumn afternoon, the dark shale of Kimmeridge Bay in Dorset is dotted with figures. A group of student marine biologists equipped with instruments are making notes, children clutching nets are rockpooling, and day trippers are picking their way over the natural stone ledges jutting into the water.

Among them is a man who has spent a lifetime discovering and preserving the wonders and secrets of Kimmeridge. Steve Etches, a 67-year-old plumber and self-taught paleontologist, nimbly navigates the rocks like a man half his age, showing me ammonites that date back 150 million years or more. They’re not easy to spot. I follow Etches’ finger as he points at ridges and whorls in the dark rock – and when I find one myself, I feel a flash of pride.

Etches intends to be on hand as much as possible to guide visitors around the collection

It’s called the Jurassic Coast, but this stretch of shore includes rocks from the Triassic and Cretaceous periods too

Even those who know next to nothing about paleontology will find their curiosity about the prehistoric past stirred

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