Just past the end of the prom, Spittal beach merges into the remains of a Lower Carboniferous swamp forest. Scramble a little further and you’re into a three hundred million year old coral reef. White circles speckling grey stone are the branch ends of fossil coral buried in the rock. Interesting, once you’ve been told what to look for, but not very evocative. It takes a rock like this one to bring the ancient coral to life.


fossil coral Spittal beach Northumberland


It doesn’t take so much imagination to picture primitive fish nosing through the branches of this coral in the swampy shallows of a tropical sea.  This is an extinct species of Lithostrotian (formerly known as Siphonodendron) or Actinocyathus (formerly Lonsdaleia)


fossil coral Spittal beach


This kind is much less common on the beach – possibly a species of Aulopora.  Seen from above you can start to get an idea of how the growing coral would have looked.



Click on any photo for a closer look.

With thanks to Dr Ian Killie of Northumbrian Earth for identifying the fossils.