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There Be Dinosaurs!

There Be Dinosaurs!

A few weeks ago in February, the children and I drove to Compton Bay early on a Sunday morning to catch the low tide on a mission to find the dinosaur footprints we’d heard so much about.

We gingerly made our way down the rusty, near-vertical, metal steps, to Compton Bay and walked along the sand to the right, with views of the chalk cliffs in the distance, strolling along and searching in vain. The children had a grand time looking for fossils and my daughter (who was doing a dinosaur project at school at the time) was determined to find some remnant of a dinosaur. She amused herself by collecting pebbles and seaweed and arranged them into what she announced loudly as, “Dinosaur nests!” My hawk-eyed son didn’t find any fossils, but did pick up 8 Mermaids’ Purses (see my other blog post for info on these).

It was breezy that day and the wind chill was making us all shiver. We were about to give up when I noticed I had a few bars on my phone. I tweeted for help, saying we were on Compton Bay looking for the dinosaur footprints. Within minutes we got a tweet back from this website’s twitter account @MyIsleOfWight (what helpful chaps and chapesses they are!) telling us they were around at Hanover Point, found along the seam of rock by the shore. Fantastic I thought, but where was Hanover Point?

With the kids moaning about being hungry and cold we retreated to the trusty Bongo in the carpark and warmed ourselves while munching on Scotch eggs from Farmer Jacks Farm Shop in Arreton while watching crests on the tips of waves form ever-bigger, expelling their energy as they fell, tumbling one over another, onto the beach.

With victuals eaten and Scotch egg crumbs all over the seats, we slid open the door and once again returned to the wind-swept beach on a mission to find dinosaur footprints.

Foot cast in the sand taken at Hanover Point IOW by Philip Bell

This time, we went left, at the foot of the rusty steps. As we rounded Hanover Point I was again feeling doubtful but we continued to the “seam” of rock, and climbed up and over large rocks. We looked all around and saw nothing but rock pools and rocks and a slowly advancing tide. A mother and her child were playing nearby and I asked if she knew where our elusive footprints could be found. I felt a bit stupid as she pointed to a rock just below my feet.

“Wow! Kids quick, look – dinosaur footprints!” I shouted, pretending I’d not asked the helpful woman and instead was the first human to discover them. My kids saw through my deception but were nonetheless impressed.

We all gathered around in awe and stared down at the very clear three-toed footprint. In fact it was not a footprint, but more of a foot cast, where a dinosaur had plodded into soft sand. (More helpful info about it all on Simon Perry’s fossil video blogs here). Then as we stepped from stone to stone we discovered more foot casts, some with obvious claws and others with rounder toes. There was one, half in the water, where the children enjoyed stepping on to escape the advancing tide rushing over the sand towards them,  bubbling water encircling their three-toed prehistoric island.

We went home that day very happy that we’d finally seen the dino footprints. Only a few days ago, with the sun finally out and much warmer, we returned with mummy. This time the tide was further in but we still saw the foot casts and also some others along the beach we’d not seen before, buried in wet sand.

Apparently when the tide is out further you can also see the actual footprints, impressed into the sandstone, so we will definitely be back again to catch the low tide and travel back in time to find us some more dinosaurs!