Roar-some discovery made at Irchester Country Park

Posted 15th May 2024

Physical evidence that dinosaurs once walked through North Northants has been discovered at Irchester Country Park by a grandad and his 3-year-old grandson.

Keen fossil hunter Steve Pulley was exploring with his grandson, Cody, when he spotted a large and unusually shaped rock lying partially buried on the ground.

Having spent hours searching the shores of the Isle of Wight for dinosaur fossils, Steve instantly recognised the dinosaur footprint cast, but was cautious and carried out some more research.

Steve said: “These casts formed as a result of a dinosaur making a footprint in soft ground, which then gradually filled in with local sediment. It then solidified over eons, eventually leaving a cast of the footprint long after the actual footprint disappeared.

“We left the rock, which was 55 cm in length, where it was after visually examining it to confirm it was a sedimentary rock, an essential requirement if we were to prove that we had found evidence of dinosaurs.

“The next piece of detective work that had to be done was to research what the local geology was in order to confirm that it was viable that a footprint cast could have been laid down in the area. After all, if the local geology showed that the area was pre-historically covered in a massive ocean, then it would have been impossible for dinosaurs to have walked on the land.”

But studies of maps from the British Geological Survey clearly showed that the spot in Irchester sat right on an ancient shoreline – overlooking a large inlet.

The Natural History Museum in London were contacted with details of the find and two experts very quickly came back confirming the find was indeed a dinosaur footprint cast and, in their opinion, from a Theropod (meat-eating) dinosaur. Although impossible to say for sure, it is believed that the Theropod concerned was probably a Megalosaurus, a creature that stood at 6 m in length and weighed around 1 tonne.

Cllr Harriet Pentland, North Northamptonshire Council’s Executive Member for Climate and Green Environment, said: “Our country parks are extremely popular with residents, but it is a wonderful glimpse into our area’s past to know that 170 million years ago, dinosaurs were roaming the land and that a moment in time could result in a footprint preserved in stone forever.

“I want to thank Steve for coming to us with this and the team are very excited about this unique and major find.”

It is hoped that the find will be able to go on display at Irchester Country Park. In the meantime, visitors to the Park can take the Ironstone Heritage trail, which tells the story of Ironstone quarrying at the park and the Jurassic geology and fossils this uncovered.