A dream come true for the amateur geologist: a mechanical digger exhumes, from below the soil of a farmer’s set-aside field, a huge volume of Inferior Oolite, riddled with its characteristic fossils, and spreads it out for us to pick over and scavenge. The hole will soon be filled in again, but things won’t be the same . . .
The man who drives the digger cuts an animated figure
As his bucket scrapes and scoops the earth below.
When he’s finished, there at last is a window on the past:
A grave for creatures buried long ago.
The digger driver’s mates are finding ammonites like plates,
Ignoring Health and Safety guidelines by the score.
Such rules are too restrictive, and those fossils too addictive:
If you find one, you’ve just got to find some more.
Every load the digger’s shifted carries fossils, fresh uplifted
From Jurassic strata out into the light.
Every one gets close-inspected: good ones kept, the rest rejected;
It’s paradise, this hole – a wondrous sight.
So many fossils there: most are common, some are rare.
We stake our claims and search the growing heap.
Our persistence doesn’t waver as we do them all a favour
By extracting them and choosing which to keep.
The hole will be backfilled, the soil re-ploughed and tilled;
There’ll be no surface sign of what we stole.
But when fossil-hunters next search the section, they’ll be vexed
To find the fossil record has a hole!