By GungHo Travels Staff
For beachcombers, the thrill of the hunt is often the appeal because so much work goes into scouring the shore at low tide for the perfect seashell. But what if there was a beach made entirely of shells? One that was piled so high that you could grab handfuls of cockleshells if you wanted to. Welcome to Shellness Beach on The Isle of Sheppy.
Razor clam atop a pile of seashells on the shore at Shellness Beach.
* Photo courtesy of Glassonion68
Where Is It?
The county of Kent, known as the Garden of England, is located in Southeast. Shellness Beach is found just Southwest of Kent’s Leysdown coastal village on the east side of the Isle of Sheppy. For reference, that’s 75 miles driving distance from London and only 35 miles from the city of Canterbury.
High tide as seen from Shellness Road in Leysdown.
As if having piles of shells on it’s shores was not enough, Shellness is also one of Kent’s infamous “naturist beaches” − that translates to nude beach for those not in the know. At first blush, it seems an odd choice as walking/sitting/laying on soft sand when naked seems highly preferable than doing the same on a bed of sharp seashells, but the remoteness of Shellness seems to be the appeal, outweighing the overwhelmingly rough terrain. It’s either that, or the citizens of Kent are simply made of tougher stock than the rest of us and neither shells, nor mud can keep them away. In fact, the beach is regularly used by 20-30 naturists at a time with 100+ turning up during the warmer months of the year.
If seashells aren’t your thing and getting naked on the beach risks a sunburn in places you don’t want to consider, Shellness is also known for being one of the best fossil beaches in England. The coastline is eroding, exposing what local paleontologists refer to as London clay.
Exposed London clay at low tide.
As new clay is brought up, coming with it are fossils from a bed of sedimentation dating as far back as the Eocene epoic – that’s over 50 million years ago. What kind of things have been found by digging in the clay at low tide? The tooth of a straight-toothed elephant called Palaeoloxodon antiquies, baby mammoth teeth, Otodus shark teeth, and it would not be Shellness without finding various fossilized seashells, lobsters and fish bones. Other treasures have turned up too, such as Celtic coins, and even an 800-year-old human skull that at first was assumed to be a cannon ball until it was properly pulled from the muck and the mire. Throughout the local area and all over Kent, organized fossil hunts are regularly held and there is a great deal of enthusiasm for these local finds which are regularly donated to museums.
Fo1ssil hunting finds.
* Photo courtesy of Discovering Fossils UK
When To Go
The best time to go is May – September as there is less chance of rain and more sunshine throughout the day then at any other time of year.
View of The Ferry House Inn from the tundra.
Where To Eat
The Barn restaurant at The Ferry House Inn in Sheerness is worth the four-mile trek down a rural road to get there. It has great views of the water, award-winning cuisine and English country charm. You can choose to eat in the Barn or the Pub, both offer unique menus that are vegetarian-friendly and utilize local meat and produce. Named Dining Pub of the Year by Taste of Kent, it’s best to call ahead for a reservation to guarantee a table with your name on it.
The Barn restaurant at The Ferry House Inn.
Want To Stay Overnight?
The Ferry House Inn has you covered in this respect as well, though is often sold out. If you travel 27 miles back up the road to Faversham, you’ll have more choices. Two of the best: White Horse Inn and Sun Inn Faversham. If you are adventurous, the Brenley Farm House can’t be beat for a local Farm Stay experience. All are four-star rated and promise unique surroundings not found in large chain hotels.
If exploring the coastline and looking for treasures is your passion, a trip to Shellness Beach on The Isle of Sheppy is certain to please.
What is your best beachcombing find?
Kent Fossil Hunting Resources:
- 2015 schedule of UKAFH group fossil hunts
- Group fossil hunts on The Isle of Sheppy
- Southeast England fossil hunt locations