The Isle of Wight likes to market itself as a dinosaur destination. I'm not exactly sure that many tourists plan their trips around extinct animals but it does look good on the posters if nothing else.
Some fossil finds look pretty indistinct from stones unless you know what you are looking for but there are some (alleged) dinosaur footprints at Brook Chine which I'd been told by my mother were more dramatic and worth seeking out.
On a glorious sunny day at low tide I headed for the headland where Hanover Point meets Brook Chine, as instructed by my mother. After a fairly long time photographing any vaguely foot shaped rock I decided to phone home for further advice.
"Head for a jaggedy bit, then a flat bit and then there's a big bit missing where someone has taken an angle grinder to one of the fossils" I was told.
An angle grinder! Seriously, why does anyone feel they could possibly get away with stealing a huge fossil embedded in the earth?
Honestly, such thieves (sorry, 'collectors') should be chained to the seabed themselves to replace the attraction they've taken away. Why not knick Stonehenge, or redirect Niagara Falls so that it goes past your window? In fact, if we can start stealing national treasures, why not get the Queen to come and live in your lounge and serve you vol-au-vents?
Anyway, as usual I digress.
My search continued, until I found something much closer to the shore which seemed to resemble a photo I had seen some time ago. I called over some chums I was on the beach with and began the discussion of whether it was a footprint or just a rock that was sort of shaped like a foot.
Half way through the discussion with my sceptical audience, an older gentlemen stopped and started looking at the same rock. I did what my mother would do, and started talking to a complete stranger.
"Is this a dinosaur footprint?" I asked.
"Yes of course, and there are many more on the beach" he replied.
We questioned the evidence, as he was clearly a bit of an enthusiast, to which he replied that it was "accepted knowledge" that these were indeed dinosaur footprints. He also attempted an explanation of how they had formed, which was a little vague and would be even vaguer if I attempted to repeat it.
I then asked him about people stealing such things by taking an angle grinder to a national treasure. He looked a little shifty and asked if I knew who had done it, to which I said I didn't know, before casually saying that he knew someone who had one of these in his private collection.
If I'd been sitting on a chair I'd have fallen off it. After two minutes detective work I had a lead in my search for the thieving culprits. This could be the beginnings of a career in coastal crime detection, or more likely the makings of an ITV daytime police drama called Inspector Cliff Shaw.
I decided not to pin down the elderly gentleman and scream "give me a name!". Instead I made some nice small talk about the weather.
I returned home and showed off my slideshow of 'dinosaur footprints' to my mother.
"Those aren't the dinosaur footprints, those are just rocks that are shaped a bit like feet" she told me confidently.
My excited little face fell. Had I seen the footprints or just a big rock?
Back to the beach then Inspector Shaw.
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