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Yorkshire Coast Beachcombing

Yorkshire Coast Amber

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Winter Gales throw up all sorts of things from lobsters through to golf balls and semi precious materials

Yorkshire Coast beachcombing can be very rewarding. The Yorkshire coast has strata full of fossils and the boulder clay also has fossils in it ripped from the rocks by the glaciers coming down from the North during the ice ages.The general movement of material along the yorkshire coast by the sea is also from the North to the South. This is the direction of the most powerful waves.  Jet is found from just North of Whitby  so can  be found anywhere South of Runswick Bay although more is probably found around the Whitby area as this is where it is concentrated. Similarly Amber is mainly found around the Baltic and the ice sheets carried it down and dumped it in the boulder clay around the North sea so can probably be found anywhere south of Filey where the main deposits of boulder clay start on this east coast.

However it is important to remember that most of the time there is very little of interest washed up. It is very condition dependent. You need a good sustained gale force 8 or above with some East in it.  Northerly gales have the most powerful waves and erode the cliffs fastest particularly if the tides are big but South Easterly gales often halt the southerly movement of material and throw it up on the beaches. Again each individual beach or coveon the Yorkshire coast  has its own conditions when material is thrown up. Most stuff will wash up as the gale starts to subside or swing round to the west. This can then give up to a week or more of good conditions for things to be found as the sea sorts things out into the same density and size. The best clue that conditions are good is the presence of patches of weed and black coal on the beach. Sometimes the weed can be feet thick covering a huge area of beach.These are good areas to look for amber and jet when the sea has sorted it a bit. Amber is far rarer than jet and I go years sometimes without finding any amber. However on my best day I found over 30 pieces of amber, unfortunately many were small. Finding fossils in the cliffs is probably best after a spate of fast erosion ie big northerly seas on a spring tide. Take care as the cliffs can be in a very unstable state after this and there can be further falls. Make sure you are not under one!

Amongst the weed there can be lots of sea creatures, a few still alive. This can include lobsters. In one big winter gale some years ago there were piles of lobsters washed up on the Holderness coast. Just a cautionary note. If you were to take one off the beach as I understand it you are breaking the law unless you have a shellfish gathering license and even then the number you can take is severely limited. You have to leave them and let them die and rot rather than taking them home and eating them. Crazy!

Even if conditions are poor for beach combing as they are in much of the summer you can still find fossils amongst the piles of pebbles and in the rock strata itself. All the fossils, jet, and amber in photos on this page were found by me on the Yorkshire coast. 

Whatever you are looking for remember that the sea sorts things into similar size and density. So if you find one look in the same area for others. Often within a few yards you will find some more.


There is a rich variety of fossils to be found all along this coast. The fossils can be found either in the bedrock in the cliffs or on the beaches already excavated by the rough winters seas. Here are just a few of the ones I have found on the beaches without ever using a hammer or going to our most famous  fossil beaches and rock ledges.
Our Filey page describes one of our famous fossil hunting areas.
A usefull website for all things fossil including good places on the Yorkshire coast is ukfossils
Fossils In
Stones stuffed full of fossils can be found on beaches
Urchins and BelamnitesDevils toenails
                      and some small bivalves
Belamnites, sea urchins,devils toenails, stem of a  giant horsetail fern (dinosaur food) and some fossilized shells


Wherever you find coal washed up you can normally find jet if South of Whitby. A very very tiny percentage of the black stuff is normally jet and even less of it is good quality jet. The way to test it is to rub it on  sand paper (or a sandstone pebble) and if it marks black it is coal, if brown it is jet. However there are also different grades of jet. Good quality jet has a shiny appearance straight out of the sea whereas some looks quite dull. After a while you get your eye in as the shape is often quite different to coal. Anywhere you can get onto the beach or rocks near Whtiby after an easterly gale is probably your best bet for finding jet (and I have found plenty near Whitby) but my largest piece actually came from south of Brridlington sat on a pile of washed up seaweed.



Yellowy orange fossilized tree resin millions of years old and sometimes with insects embedded in it. Fairly common in the baltic countries. It also known to be found washed up on the Norfolk coast. It can also very very occasionally be found on the Yorkshire coast. It is very hard to mistake anything else for it. It feels warm and is light to the touch unlike yellow marble or quartz. it smells of very pleasant tree resin when you rub it on sandpaper. Yellow and orange plastic can look a little like amber from a distance but close examination usually reveals its manufactured nature and of course it does not give off a beautiful tree resin smell when sanded. Fine wet and dry sand paper finished with some sort of polishing paste makes it really shiny. Since it is probably in the boulder clay, it makes sense to look for it where there is boulder clay. ie the southern part of the Yorkshire Coast. Sorry that is all I am saying about where to look.

Sea life

Many different shells are washed up in big easterly gales including some which you rarely see, with animal still alive including razorfish, clams and piddocks. Worms are sometimes washed up and anglers will search for them so they do not have to dig them. As already mentioned lobsters, and squat lobsters along with all the species of crabs can be washed up as well.