A modern-day Mary Anning, aged just 5

Five-year-old Helena Ashby with her impressive fossil (photo by Richard Austin)

IT was a normal fossil hunting visit to Charmouth when 5-year-old Helena Ashby found the fossil of a lifetime.

Helena picked up an innocent-looking, grey pebble and noticed what she thought were fish scales, but mum Jenny dismissed the find as a normal stone.

Helena insisted something was inside the rock so they took it to one of the region’s top fossil technicians, Alex Moore, who cleaned and exposed the amazing imprint of a fish 190 million years old, named a pholidophorus.

Helena said: “I took it to school and showed my teacher, then I had to show the whole school.”

Said mum Jenny: “We are very proud of her. She insisted that it was a fossil so we got it checked out by Alex Moore who prepared it perfectly. Each tiny fish scale being 190 million years old – incredible.’’

The jurassic cliffs were recently declared by Sir David Attenborough as “the best area in the world to find fossils”.

Alex Moore, expert palaeontologist at Moore and Moore Fossils, said: “I was having a normal day at work when this very enthusiastic little girl came into our fossil shop.

“She handed me a pebble that she had found on the beach while having an ice cream with her family .

“She told me she had taken it into the heritage centre at Charmouth as she could see prehistoric remains protruding out of each end of the blue lias pebble. That got her little heart racing when she knew there was something of a fossil in the pebble.”

Now the specimen will be displayed at the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre and Helena is bursting with pride knowing she was the person who found it.

Woodmead Halls

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