Rare 'dragon scale' discovered on north Norfolk coast
PUBLISHED: 12:07 24 January 2020 | UPDATED: 15:36 24 January 2020
A serendipitous fossil hunter, who took up the activity to recover from injury and depression, has unearthed a rare "dragon scale".
Michelle Smith, of Rectory Road in Edgefield, near Holt, first took up the hobby in April 2019 for gentle exercise and "to feel useful again" following a back injury.
The 49-year-old is also diagnosed with fibromyalgia, and therefore suffers with widespread pain which means she has to take lots of medication.
She said: "After being on this medication for 10 years and being in a deep depression, I needed a change. I decided to go and collect plastic from the beaches, gradually increasing the time and distance.
"The more I was looking for little bits of plastic, the more I started to see patterns and shapes in the flints and pebbles around me."
Soon she had built up a collection of fossils which included a piece of amber, coral in limestone, and a piece of mammoth tusk which she discovered in West Runton, on the north Norfolk coast.
"I was hooked," she said. "I had a way of getting exercise, doing good for our planet, and finding beautiful fossils was a bonus."
She now hunts for fossils five days a week, and thanked staff at Seaview Cafe in West Runton for pointing her in the direction of the Facebook group Norfolk fossil finds (uk).
"The group has been exceptionally patient and non-judgemental even when I was not, unbeknown to me, posting fossils. But with time and patience, I started to find out more and more."
But, she said, "nothing else compared" to her "dragon scale" find, which she discovered at Sidestrand beach, near Cromer, in November.
"It's affectionately called Dracarys, as it looks dragon-like, and is a starfish in flint.
"The day I found it, I had been walking and searching the beach. After picking a few belemnite and shards of bone, I seemed to have only picked up the majority of plastic so decided to walk home. As I turned around, there it sat on concrete walkway above the beach."
The fossil is thought to be a long-armed goniasterid, coulonia or nymphaster.
It will be on display at the Rocky-Fossil Road Show on February 29, from 11am, at St George's Roman Catholic Church Hall on Sprowston Road, Norwich.