Watton at Stone resident turns up some interesting items

By Terry Askew

Steve Wasylin
Terry Askew
An old and worn oyster shell
Terry Askew
Hard to imagine what this might have been
Terry Askew
Another mystery item
Terry Askew
Petrified crab (or urchin) ?
Terry Askew
Some of the collection
Terry Askew

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Steve Wasylin, and his partner, residents of Watton at Stone, who have an unusual interest which appears to be taking them over.

Living quite near the River Beane, they have discovered a location where the bank has become eroded and is yielding items which, at first sight, should perhaps not be expcted to be there. The area of search is close so where some cottages existed many years ago and may explain some of the finds.

Examining some of the ‘trove’ I began to wish I had a better knowledge of fossils and the like. By far the greater amount of finds were oyster shells, some of which were fairly sharp and therefore possibly only a century or so old, but others were much larger and worn smooth. It is known that oysters, unlike today, were a staple as far back as the Romans. Could Steve have stumbled upon a ‘midden’ many centuries old.

To add to the mystery, some of the items were seemingly fresh water mussel shells, which seemed to have been ‘petrified’ with the surrounding soil. Could these, therefore, be of great antiquity?

The biggest mystery item was a petrified crab or urchin shell.

Let us see what Steve and his partner find over ensuing months and years ?   

This page was added on 30/01/2013.

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  • This item brought back some fond memories of my childhood free time spent with my mate David French in the gravel pit workings at Colney Heath.  We found the first fossil by accident and then started to collect them.  I still have mine in a large tin in the loft.  The main fossils were ammonites and belemnites’.  We had great fun with our collecting.  Not from the river Colne but the soil dug out by the pit works.

    By John Halsey (13/09/2014)
  • Hello

    Your finds are mostly Cretaceous (between 94 – 84 million years old, according to the BGS) although I believe some may have come from further up stream and could be older. They are preserved in relatively good condition for river eroded Fossils.

    The first image, is a earlier Bivalve then an oyster, Exogyra.

    The next three images are all Echinoid (Urchins), the first two are badly river worn, which makes them hard to identify, the third is a Micraster.

    The last image, with the various Bivalves, all predate modern oysters, some are also Exogyra, some are early oysters, referred to as Ostrea. Most are too river worn to identify. 

    From your description, them being in surrounding soils, I would guess they were eroded, from the chalk, in the last Ice age and deposited in the glacial mud. These all appear to be Cretaceous Chalk, deep sea Fossils, of excellent petrified preservation (keeping their original structures or shells) or excellent casts (in the case of the Echinoids).


    Good luck Fossil hunting in the future!!

    Daniel Herman (editor of Free Fossil Identification)

    By Daniel Herman (27/08/2014)