Were you gripped by a very special documentary on Sunday night? 

Sir David Attenborough visited Lyme Regis to talk about the discovery of a brand new species of ichthyosaur. 

Attenborough and the Sea Dragon screened on BBC One and gave viewers a fascinating insight into the lives of the creatures that lived in our oceans 200 million years ago. 

JENNIFER MULCAHEY meets the fossil hunter who was behind the amazing discovery.

In January 2016, a large block of limestone fell onto Monmouth Beach following a storm. 

Chris Moore, who has been running the Forge Fossils workshop in Charmouth for more than 30 years, noticed the block contained a cross-section of a fossil which turned out to be the two flippers of an ichthyosaur.

Mr Moore said: “It was a winter day after long, hard storms and rain and so a large chunk of limestone had dropped off the cliff, exposing a cross section at the bottom. 

“David Attenborough phoned me about another matter and I happened to mention I had found these two massive paddles in the cliff and that they were nothing like I had ever seen before now. He was very excited by it – so was I.”

Once he’d received permission from Natural England to excavate the site, Mr Moore was then allowed to extract the fossilised marine creature from the cliff, where it could have suffered damage from the elements or fallen onto the beach. The fossil was transported on a pontoon back to the safety of the shore.

Sir David contacted the BBC and the documentary took a year to create. 

“It’s been a year-long process to get the documentary made – I found the fossils the winter before last and it’s taken a while to get permission and for excavations to take place,” said Mr Moore. “But it’s been very good and I’ve enjoyed making it. It’s brilliant that it’s been made – and it’s such an honour.”

It should come as no surprise that the remarkable discovery of the ichthyosaur was made on our doorstep in Lyme Regis. 

“It’s world famous for being the birthplace of palaeontology,” said Mr Moore. “And just look at what Mary Anning did. The warm, tropical seas mean fossils have been preserved extremely well. The area is famous for its preservation.”

Mr Moore’s love of fossil hunting stems back to his childhood, when his parents would encourage him to take an interest in natural history. 

“I’ve collected fossils since I was about five or six,” he said. “My parents would always take me out fossil hunting and I’ve had a love of natural history since then.”

And it looks as though Mr Moore has got his wish – after discovering the fossil back in 2016, he expressed his desire for it to remain in Charmouth, saying: “There is nothing here at the moment to show off Charmouth’s fossil connection, so it would be perfect.”

It was recently announced that the ichthyosaur will be housed at Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre.

If you missed Attenborough and the Sea Dragon, you can catch it on BBC iPlayer at bbc.co.uk/iplayer