GEOLOGY EXPLAINED IN THE SEVERN VALE AND COTSWOLDS

Dedicated t o
L . RICHARDSON, F . R . S . E . , F . G . S .

w h o , i n the early p a r t o f this c e n t u r y , d i d s o m u c h pioneer w o r k on the geology of the Cheltenham area and whose b o o k The Geology of Cheltenham 1904 remains a classic on this l o c a l i t y .

GEOLOGY EXPLAINED IN THE SEVERN VALE A N D COTSWOLDS

by WILLIAM DREGHORN, B.Sc, F.R.G.S.
Illustrations the Author by

D A V I D & CHARLES

:

N E W T O N ABBOT

1967

Acknowledgments
The author wishes to express his thanks f o r the help given by Mrs D r e g h o r n i n the p r o d u c t i o n o f this book. He w o u l d also l i k e to express his grateful thanks to the following: T o the e m i n e n t geologist, D r D . V . Ager, w h o s o generously spared t i m e to read and criticise the final script in spite of m a n y pressing c o m m i t m e n t s in m o r e exalted fields of study. To Mr C. E. Leese, B.Sc, r e t i r e d headmaster, past president of Royal Geological Society o f C o r n w a l l , w h o read and criticised the script w h i l e t h e b o o k was t a k i n g shape.

WILLIAM DREGHORN 1967 Printed in Great Britain by W. J. Holman Limited Dawlish for David & Charles (Publishers) Limited Newton Abbot Devon

©

Contents

i I

iKODUCTION T H E JURASSIC SYSTEM OF GLOUCESTERSHIRE Clays, sands and limestones • the L o w e r Lias clay • age of the Ichthyosaurus W A I N L O D E CLIFF The Red Cliffs at W a i n l o d e • the Tea Green Marls • the Rhaetic rocks WESTBURY-ON-SEVERN Rhaetic beds at W e s t b u r y • the Pullastra bed • fossils o f the 'bone bed' • Garden Cliff

7 12

18

25

I

' l l l l i SEVERN BRIDGE Structure lines of the L o w e r Severn • rocks on the Beachley side • the A u s t Cliff side - Aust Rock • the bridge approaches I I I I • SEVERN BORE A N D H O C K CLIFF : The source of the bore • height and speed • the fossils at H o c k Cliff

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46

6

T H E SEVERN TERRACES The terrace villages • W o o l r i d g e terrace • development of a terrace T H E C H E L T E N H A M SANDS The o r i g i n of the sands • Cheltenham gravels • the Waters of Cheltenham T i l l ; C H U R C H D O W N OUTLIER I lucclecote • C h u r c h d o w n H i l l • Tinker's H i l l ROBIN'S W O O D H I L L Tuffley B r i c k w o r k s • the cliff at Tuffley • 'The Age of the A m m o n i t e s ' IIREDON H I L L Oolite limestone • scenery of Bredon • K i n g and Queen Rocks • springs and villages

54

I

60

6 «>

68 73

10

80

6 11

CONTENTS

LECKHAMPTON HILL The Pea G r i t • the Freestone • c u r r e n t bedding • the Devil's C h i m n e y • the Ragstones • C h a r l t o n Kings Common CLEEVE H I L L The Postlip valleys • N o t t i n g h a m H i l l • Cleeve C l o u d B A R R O W W A K E , C R I C K L E Y H I L L A N D BIRDLIP C r i c k l e y H i l l • the B i r d l i p anticline • v i e w f r o m the Peak T H E COMBES The Vale of W i t c o m b e • H i g h Brotheridge • W i n c h combe SPRINGS A N D VILLAGES I N T H E G R E A T OOLITE REGIONS The Great Oolite series • Fuller's Earth series • the 'lost' villages • d r y valleys • the Rendcomb area C O T S W O L D TILES A N D B U I L D I N G STONES Sevenhampton quarries • fossils in slates - slatem a k i n g technique • b u i l d i n g stones THE PAINSWICK AREA Geological origins • m a i n beauty spots • Painswick Beacon THE NORTHERN MALVERNS Rocks of the Malverns • Green V a l l e y and I v y Scar • the Silurian rocks • Herefordshire Beacon • Clutters Cave

12 13

14

15

16

17

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19

T H E SOUTHERN M A L V E R N S The Silurian Pass • G u l l e t Q u a r r y • M i d s u m m e r H i l l • the Bronsil shales • origins of the Malverns • r o c k specimens M A Y HILL Geological background • sandstones and limestones • Wilderness Q u a r r y

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GLOSSARY BIBLIOGRAPHY A P P E N D I X — T A B L E OF ROCK S T R A T A

Introduction

M [s an o l d teaching m a x i m that ' i f y o u w a n t to make a subject live, y o u must make it local'. The purpose of this b o o k then, is to m.ikc geology a l i v i n g subject by m a k i n g it l o c a l . Students o f geology w i l l find i t useful b u t as i t has been w r i t t e n I in . i l l w h o are interested in scenery, the maps, diagrams and Illustrations have been simplified so t h a t t h e y are also i n t e l l i g i b l e to ili< layman. Again, the geological expert usually studies rocks b y looking at exposures in quarries, railway-cuttings and boreholes, as Well as by l o o k i n g at scenery, whereas this b o o k attempts to i n t r o ilin c geology t o the l a y m a n i n terms o f scenery, and explains the relationship of rocks to hills, valleys and plains, and the w a y in M I I H I I rock structures have influenced the e v o l u t i o n o f different iypes of scenery. ( i n l y a f e w maps have been included among the illustrations as I h.ivi' assumed that readers w h o are geologists w i l l purchase the relevant one-inch-to-the-mile Ordnance Survey geological maps, the Miiicion-in-Marsh and the Cirencester sheets. Instead of maps, I hive, whenever possible, used 'block' diagrams, w h i c h non|(OlogistS often find easier t o i n t e r p r e t t h a n geological maps. When d r a w i n g a b l o c k diagram the artist selects a 'block' of landscape and cuts t h r o u g h it w i t h an i m a g i n a r y k n i f e to expose the mi ks <>!' the strata u n d e r l y i n g the scenery, at the same t i m e p u t t i n g in Identifying details of the scenery above. W h e n I used this m e t h o d (0 Illustrate a series of newspaper articles on C o t s w o l d villages w 1111('ii I>y my w i f e , m a n y villagers f o u n d t h a t these b l o c k diagrams li.nl helped them to understand their e n v i r o n m e n t in a w a y no m a p 11.ii I ever been able to e x p l a i n i t . < )nc legitimate c r i t i c i s m w h i c h c o u l d be levelled at this b o o k is ili.it comparatively l i t t l e attention has been paid t o the characterlltli fossils o f the areas covered—particularly as the geology books w i i i i e n by Gloucestershire's nineteenth-century geologists m a i n l y %isl of lists of fossils. H o w e v e r , l i s t i n g fossils has n o t been 'the

8

INTRODUCTION

object of the exercise' in this case, and the reader w h o requires more i n f o r m a t i o n on this subject is recommended to b u y the B r i t i s h M u s e u m booklets on fossils. The choice of the area covered by this b o o k is explained by the fact t h a t Gloucestershire and its adjoining counties are exceedingly f o r t u n a t e i n h a v i n g a r e m a r k a b l y w i d e v a r i e t y o f rocks a l l w i t h i n easy access. The geology student w h o takes his degree at B r i s t o l U n i v e r s i t y can see almost the entire range of rocks in the B r i t i s h Isles w i t h i n fifty miles o f Bristol whereas, i n areas l i k e Australia o r N e w Zealand, the student m u s t t r a v e l hundreds of miles over the same rocks before a change can be observed. W i t h i n f i f t y miles o f Gloucester, Cheltenham o r B r i s t o l there can be seen the f o l l o w i n g w i d e range of r o c k s : 1. The Pre-Cambrian rocks of the Malverns w h i c h are some o f the oldest rocks i n the B r i t i s h Isles; t h e y f o r m p a r t o f the o r i g i n a l f r a m e w o r k of the B r i t i s h Isles constructed by earth movements m a n y m i l l i o n s of years ago. 2. The Silurian rocks a r o u n d M a y H i l l , the Malverns and Ledbury. 3. The Carboniferous rocks of the L o w e r Severn and the A v o n Gorge. 4. The O l d Red Sandstone rocks of the Forest of Dean. 5. The Coal Measures of the Forest of Dean. 6. The Jurassic rocks of the Cotswolds. 7. The Triassic rocks of the South Midlands. 8. The Cretaceous rocks (the chalk h i l l s of W i l t s h i r e ) . 9. The finest exposures in the w h o l e of the B r i t i s h Isles of the Rhaetic rocks. These are in the L o w e r Severn area at A u s t and Westbury-on-Severn and c o n t a i n the famous 'bone bed', r i c h in the fossil remains of fishes and reptiles.
PHYSICAL F E A T U R E S OF T H E AREA

The m a i n physical features of the area covered by this b o o k are s h o w n in the sketch at M a p 1 and include the Severn Vale bordered on the east by the strong escarpment of the Cotswolds and, to the west, the h i l l y regions o f the W e l s h borderlands. These t w o m a i n features guide the River Severn in its south-westerly course to t h e B r i s t o l Channel. To keep the sketch map clear and simple, the numerous valleys of the Cotswolds are n o t s h o w n , b u t east of the m a i n escarpment the drainage is to the Thames.

MAP i

SKetrert m o p o f f t c Coirswolds

Severn Yale

The corresponding geological map (Map 2) shows the c o n t r o l exercised by geology in f o r m i n g those r e l i e f features. In general, the high g r o u n d of the W e l s h borderlands is f o r m e d of older or Palaeozoic rocks w h i c h , being harder and m o r e resistant to erosion, stand o u t as higher g r o u n d . The l o w - l y i n g areas of the Severn Vale, I >n the other hand, consist of the softer clays of the Trias and L o w e r Lias, and clearly demonstrate h o w rivers t e n d to erode t h e i r valleys in the softer rocks. H a r d e r rocks of the O o l i t i c limestones are

10

INTRODUCTION

responsible f o r the h i g h g r o u n d of the Cotswolds and these f o r m a plateau, or 'dip-slope', w h i c h falls a w a y g e n t l y south-eastwards d o w n t o the p l a i n o f O x f o r d . B y c o m p a r i n g the t w o maps i t w i l l be seen t h a t the C o t s w o l d escarpment has been eroded back to leave remnants of the f o r m e r scarp, i n c l u d i n g such conspicuous hills as C h u r c h d o w n and Robin's W o o d , r i s i n g castle-like o u t of t h e Severn Vale. These remnants,

MAP 2 SIMPLIFIED GCOI-QCrY SKE-TCVt MAP Oldev falfteozolc. rooKs on Hie- Wt&t. Younger" M*soz»ic rocKs on flit- e a s f
"ReterfroiUuvfum deposits Loot's*"*"") t» ftt- 5«/erti. v a l f r .

INTRODUCTION

11

I n o w n as 'outliers', are the subject of a later chapter. The M a l v e r n range, t o o , is a v e r y m a r k e d feature and, composed of ancient crystalline rocks r i s i n g suddenly f r o m the plains of t h e II las, is r e a l l y p a r t of the backbone of England. The A u s t r a l i a n t e r m 11 ii such a range w o u l d be 'jump-up' and, geologically, these h i l l s were pushed up m i l l i o n s of years ago. Looking at the p h y s i c a l map, one m a y ask w h e r e is the best Nccnery to be found? The answer depends u p o n w h a t y o u f a n c y , for (here is c e r t a i n l y no lack of v a r i e t y . The highest parts of the (iotswolds are o n Cleeve H i l l , 1,083 f t above sea level, and these are line scenic areas; f o r m o r e rugged scenery the Malverns are the .inswer and, in parts, resemble the h i g h l a n d zone of the W e l s h interior. Craggy, limestone c o u n t r y is to be f o u n d in the Chepstow .ind W y e valley, w h e r e the massive Carboniferous limestones are deeply cleft by the incised meanders of the River W y e . There are sonic d e l i g h t f u l spots, t o o , along the banks of the Severn, w h e r e the red rocks of the Trias (the Keuper M a r l ) f o r m cliffs at W a i n l o d e , Westbury-on-Severn and at A u s t , f u r t h e r evidence t h a t the v a r i e t y of scenery in this region is m a i n l y due to the great variations in the type o f r o c k . A geological map is rather l i k e Jacob's Coat, a t h i n g of ' m a n y colours', w i t h a different c o l o u r f o r each different p e r i o d of r o c k f o r m a t i o n — a n d the prettiest maps w i t h the greatest v a r i e t y o f colours are u n d o u b t e d l y those of the areas in and a r o u n d (iloucestershire.

CHAPTER

1

The Jurassic System of Gloucestershire

M o s t of the rocks in the eastern h a l f of Gloucestershire belong to the Jurassic system—so n a m e d after the rocks in the Jura M o u n t a i n s in France w h i c h are of the same age. There are several m a i n aspects of any r o c k system w h i c h have to be studied in a geological assessment, and these a r e : S T R A T I G R A P H Y , o r descriptions o f the various bands or strata o f r o c k and the relationship between those bands; P E T R O G R A P H Y , w h i c h is the study o f the nature o f the materials i n the bands; a n d P A L A E O N T O L O G Y , the study o f the fossils f o u n d i n the strata. Palaeontology serves s t r a t i g r a p h y in t h a t a bed of r o c k (or s t r a t u m ) can b e identified b y the fossils i t contains. T h e n , b y studyi n g the fossils as complete assemblages and n o t m e r e l y as i n d i v i d u a l fossils, the geologist endeavours to arrive at a conclusion about the l i f e o f the t i m e w h e n they w e r e deposited. This p r i n c i p l e of i d e n t i f y i n g strata by means of fossils was first p o i n t e d o u t b y W i l l i a m S m i t h , t h e son o f a n Oxfordshire b l a c k s m i t h w h o became a surveyor and c i v i l engineer d u r i n g the great days o f canal-building at the end of the eighteenth c e n t u r y . He was engaged i n survey w o r k f o r the b u i l d i n g o f the Somerset Coal Canal f r o m 1 7 9 2 t o 1 7 9 5 and t h r o u g h o u t t h a t p e r i o d h e made a p r o f o u n d study of the Jurassic rocks a r o u n d Bath, h a v i n g been f r o m earliest boyh o o d an observer and collector of Jurassic fossils—even p l a y i n g marbles w i t h t h e m ! I t was h e w h o was the first t o recognise t h a t it is 'a general l a w t h a t the same strata are f o u n d always in the same order of superimposition and c o n t a i n the same peculiar fossils' — t h e r e b y l a y i n g the foundations f o r the n e w science of geology. The greatness o f W i l l i a m S m i t h d i d n o t rest u p o n book-learning, b u t came f r o m his powers o f accurate observation, o r i g i n a l i t y o f t h o u g h t a n d his constructive i m a g i n a t i o n . He was less concerned w i t h devising appropriate names f o r his fossils t h a n h e was w i t h perceiving t h e i r place in the ordered sequence of the rocks w h i c h he

T H E JURASSIC S Y S T E M O F G L O U C E S T E R S H I R E

13

,iii<l his fellow-engineers were uncovering. H e was a p r a c t i c a l m a n Whose learning was alive and direct and, above a l l , he was an original creative t h i n k e r . The terms w h i c h W i l l i a m S m i t h chose t o describe the layers o f l i n k he uncovered were m e r e l y w o r d s b o r r o w e d f r o m the language Of I he c o m m o n w o r k e r s of the day, w o r k e r s in a g r i c u l t u r e and the q u a r r y i n g and b u i l d i n g industries. I n fact, i n 1831, w h e n the savants dl the Geological Society presented h i m w i t h a medal, his phraseology was described as 'those a r b i t r a r y and somewhat u n c o u t h terms w h i c h we derive f r o m h i m as o u r master'. Nevertheless, most of (hose terms are s t i l l in use t o d a y . The most i m p o r t a n t p o i n t to remember about stratigraphy is 11i.iI w h e n various strata are l y i n g one above the other, the older rocks are b e l o w and the younger are on t o p , except w h e n it can be seen that the w h o l e mass m a y have been t u r n e d upside d o w n by '.nine earth m o v e m e n t w h i c h has t i l t e d , folded and dislocated t h e beds of rock.
C L A Y S , SANDS AND L I M E S T O N E S

The C o t s w o l d h i l l s are composed of limestone and the l o w - l y i n g plains of the Severn Vale are of clay. The f o o t h i l l s are sandy rocks. This is a neat order of clays, sands and limestones—and is repeated many times t h r o u g h o u t the series of Jurassic rocks, w h i c h w e r e formed w h e n the area t h e y n o w cover was under the sea. This recurring order of clay, sand, limestone is k n o w n as a ' r h y t h m i c MII ( ession', and these different substances t e l l geologists w h a t k i n d of sea was once there. Clays, f o r instance, denote a m u d d y sea, i .i I her deep, whereas sands indicate a shallower sea w i t h i n c o m i n g i i vers b r i n g i n g sand f r o m the s u r r o u n d i n g h i l l s . Limestones represent clear seas, s h a l l o w l i k e the Bahamas o n a c o n t i n e n t a l shelf. b.ach s t r a t u m , w h e t h e r clay, sand or limestone, has its o w n assemblage of fossils w h i c h indicates the conditions existing at t h e lime o f deposition. For example, most o f t h e ammonites l i k e d t o live in m u d d y seas. So d i d the marine reptiles, because p l e n t y o f food was thus available. O n the other hand, corals, sea lilies and animals w h i c h l i k e d t o live and feed i n clear seas are most p l e n t i f u l in I lie limestones of the Cotswolds. ligures 1 & 2 overleaf s h o w h o w the rocks of the Cotswolds '•.Iiike' d o w n the c o u n t r y f r o m n o r t h t o south and a t the same t i m e dip gently eastward, so t h a t the u p t u r n e d edges face Wales. A n d remembering t h a t the strike of rocks is always at r i g h t angles to the

14

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

CEOLO&Y OF THE RECrlON- VERY SlMPLIFiEQ
Tflc course-of--flic R;ve<- Severn ij ^cncra-ily zonfrtlltd by (lie. STRIKE. OF THE ROCKS, The ri\/e/5 flowing ac^os.? Hie. placo to join Wit S c r e e n o**e flowing cx^ain^f tftc- -DIP of -ttie rticKs diet- const<^icm^y Sometimes meet" tfbstvuctio** of lAptuf necL bois, T^cs Ciiaseds- "rapids" *f <z v<rA/ vmvia/* watuire- bu-t ^ood oxoitjlt ha WTaklisli Witts,

d i p or i n c l i n a t i o n of the strata, t h e y also show h o w this strike controls the d i r e c t i o n i n w h i c h the Severn flows. I t w i l l be n o t i c e d t h a t rocks older t h a n the Jurassic appear o n the surface to the west of the region. These are called Triassic rocks and, i f traced n o r t h w a r d s , t h e y w i l l be seen t o f o r m the Plain o f Cheshire. It can also be seen t h a t wherever t h e y appear the c l a y plains f o r m a great c o r r i d o r r o u t e f o r rivers, r a i l w a y s and m o t o r w a y s f r o m the Midlands t o B r i s t o l . A n d , since transport facilities are d e t e r m i n i n g factors in the l o c a t i o n of i n d u s t r y today, this is one good reason w h y industries and people f r o m the o v e r c r o w d e d M i d l a n d s are n o w s p i l l i n g d o w n this c o r r i d o r .
T H E L O W E R LIAS CLAY

The clay f o r m i n g the plains has t h i n bands of limestone w h i c h used to be quarried by layers. Eighteenth-century q u a r r y w o r k e r s called this t y p e o f r o c k the 'Lias' and W i l l i a m S m i t h b o r r o w e d the t e r m . The L o w e r Lias clays f o r m the plains of the Jurassic system and t h e l o w e r shelf of sands and sandy limestones are called the M i d d l e Lias. The Cotswolds are t h e O o l i t i c limestones of the M i d d l e Jurassic system, the nature of w h i c h is explained later on in this book.

T H E JURASSIC S Y S T E M O F G L O U C E S T E R S H I R E

15

I In Lower Lias clay is a blue clay w h i c h was l a i d d o w n in a Biuddy sea some 170 to 180 m i l l i o n years ago. It is about 600 ft iIn* k in the Cheltenham/Gloucester area and reaches a m a x i m u m 11! 'Kit) It near Evesham. T o w a r d s B r i s t o l it t h i n s o u t to 100 to 200 f t . I he; Is because the m u d d y , s h a l l o w sea was constantly changing i t s •.lion- lines and, at times, s i l t i n g up to swamps and deltas as sediment f r o m the constant erosion o f the h i g h m o u n t a i n s i n t h e surrounding lands o f the Mendips and Wales was deposited i n i t . '.i niietim.es, too, the rivers carried i n t o the sea l i m e y muds f r o m t h e products of erosion of limestone m o u n t a i n s l i k e those of the Mendips w h i c h , t o d a y , are m e r e l y the remains of m u c h m o r e BCtensive mountains. This i s w h y w e often f i n d bands o f h a r d limestone i n the L o w e r Lias clay and w h y , w h e n m o t o r i n g over the plains f r o m Cheltenham towards B r i s t o l , we see gentle undula-

SKETCH M A P TO SHOW WOW T H E
PATTERN OF RIVERS A N D

SraeAins

• R E F L E C T S THE UNDERLYING G E O L O G Y COMPARE THIS W/TH T H E O,S„geological ™ p .

16

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

tions caused by these h a r d bands. It is n o t a flat p l a i n and is k n o w n to most people as the Severn Vale. These limestone bands increase in n u m b e r t o w a r d s the south and are best seen in the c l a y cliffs near Frampton-on-Severn (Figure 3). This area is called Fretherne, and here one can w a l k along the foreshore of the River Severn and o b t a i n m a n y fossils f r o m the l i m e stone bands. It is v e r y rare, however, to f i n d exposures of the L o w e r Lias clays, f o r whenever a c u t t i n g is made, as f o r a b r i c k y a r d or a r a i l w a y l i n e , the exposure is soon covered w i t h grass. The Rivers Chelt and Swilgate, and a f e w other left-bank tributaries of the Severn, a l l s h o w an angular p a t t e r n on the m a p and this c o u l d b e related t o the u n d e r l y i n g structures f o r m e d b y the h a r d bands in the L o w e r Lias c l a y . There is also the p o s s i b i l i t y of an o l d drainage system h a v i n g been disorganized by glacial action. In some cases the small stream tumbles over a h a r d band of c l a y e y limestone (argillaceous limestone) and here the rapids f o r m e d b y the break o f slope led t o the establishment i n the M i d d l e Ages o f i m p o r t a n t m i l l s , a m o n g t h e m Slate M i l l at B o d d i n g t o n , Barrett's M i l l i n Cheltenham, Sandford M i l l i n C h a r l t o n Park, and the m i l l s at B r o c k w o r t h and Stoke O r c h a r d . I n some cases the m i l l sites are at breaks o f slope caused b y a special feature o f r i v e r erosion termed b y geomorphologists ' n i c k p o i n t s ' — w h e r e a sudden d r o p in the r i v e r profile results f r o m changes in t h e base level of the master r i v e r , in this case the Severn.
T H E AGE O F T H E ICHTHYOSAURUS

T h e f o r m e r m u d d y seas of the L o w e r Lias c l a y lasted f o r about t e n m i l l i o n years and i n t h e m , 180 m i l l i o n years ago, l i v e d m a n y kinds o f ammonites and reptiles, i n c l u d i n g m a n y types o f oysters, some being quite c u r i o u s l y c u r v e d . B u t it is rare indeed ever to f i n d a large a n i m a l preserved in its e n t i r e t y in the strata because w h e n i t died and f e l l t o the b o t t o m o f the sea i t was almost i n v a r i a b l y devoured by scavengers. Moreover, in large organised animals the skeleton is h e l d together by bands of muscle and w h e n these decompose, the articulated bones are released and d i s t r i b u t e d by the currents on the floor of a s h a l l o w sea. The most c o m m o n a n i m a l at t h a t t i m e was a m a r i n e reptile called Ichthyosaurus, w h i c h often g r e w u p t o t w e n t y - f i v e o r t h i r t y feet i n l e n g t h . The plaster cast o f one f o u n d i n the B r i s t o l r e g i o n i s n o w i n

T H E JURASSIC S Y S T E M O F G L O U C E S T E R S H I R E

17

I**

CUri"

ntnr F R e T H S R N E

cliffs of LOWER. LIA,S flAY knrt ^ands of RNtr S t « r n ovi H>e l i f t , at low tide.

i i " « h e l t e n h a m Museum, and there i s the actual fossil o f another i n llie church p o r c h i n the village o f T r e d i n g t o n — w h e r e i t i s being •in away by the steps of t h e f a i t h f u l ! flu- Ichthyosaurus l i v e d on fish, sea-urchins, and creatures l i k e l l i r sea squids, o f w h i c h the o n l y h a r d p a r t left b e h i n d as a fossil is H ird, called 'belemnite', w h i c h can often be f o u n d in the | l i y I , Like other mammals, such as o u r c o n t e m p o r a r y whales and dolphins, w h i c h r e t u r n e d to the sea in the course of e v o l u t i o n , the 11 hiliyosaurus was a viviparous r e p t i l e — t h a t is, it produced l i v i n g VHUIIJ; in an advanced stage o f d e v e l o p m e n t — w h i c h gave up the I HMI w i t h its constantly shifting shore-lines, and t o o k to an aquatic HI)

D

CHAPTER

2

Wainlode

Cliff

Cheltenham prides itself on being the t o u r i s t centre f o r the Cotswolds and the Severn Vale, and in order to s i m p l i f y d i r e c t i o n finding i t w i l l be assumed t h a t the reader is either l i v i n g or staying in the Cheltenham/Gloucester area. Thus, t o get t o W a i n l o d e Cliff f r o m Cheltenham, one takes the T e w k e s b u r y r o a d and drives across the clay plains of the L o w e r Lias. There is a sudden rise at Coombe H i l l w h i c h is caused b y the t i l t e d nature o f the rocks, h a r d bands o f limestone f o r m i n g p a r t o f a r o c k d i v i s i o n k n o w n as the Rhaetic. COOMBE HlLU
dbout- 8D' to loo'

FIG. 4

G E O L O G I C A L SECTION

ACROSS

COOMBE H I L L

These Rhaetic beds f o r m a m i n o r escarpment w h i c h p r o v i d e d a convenient causeway f o r b u i l d i n g t h a t p a r t o f t h e A 3 8 m a i n r o a d w h i c h runs between Gloucester and T e w k e s b u r y . D r i v i n g along the t o p o f this scarp, y o u w i l l enjoy some remarkable v i e w s — o n one side y o u l o o k d o w n across the fields t o w a r d s the Severn and on the other there are extensive v i e w s across the plains towards t h e Cotswolds and Bredon H i l l . T o reach W a i n l o d e Cliff i t is best t o take the t u r n i n g t o H a w Bridge, b r a n c h i n g off to the left before reaching the bridge itself. Here the r i v e r swings alongside fine red cliffs by the Red L i o n I n n , i n f r o n t o f w h i c h green meadows stretch d o w n t o the river's edge. This is Gloucester's ' L i d o ' , w h i c h becomes quite c r o w d e d on sunny

WAINLODE

CLIFF

19

Cu.tr into H\c

MAR-L.

WAlNLOtDE. CLIFF . < l ends, and is no place to go to after heavy w i n t e r rains. For IIM n ihe surrounding fields become flooded, parts of the r o a d are Imp i '..ihle and, w h e n the flood waters subside, t h i n coats of m u d n • I ' l l behind w h i c h , i n course o f t i m e , accumulate t o f o r m plains Q| I ((impacted i n t o layers. [Ull in front of the Red L i o n I n n is a good place f o r ' r o c k ij mi;', and if y o u scramble d o w n to the water's edge over the i ' n fool high cliffs y o u w i l l see a l l the layers o f sediment l a i d d o w n renin ancient floods. These layers, some of w h i c h c o n t a i n shells of iic freshwater mussel, U n i o , represent the passage of several thousand years, b u t i n r e l a t i o n t o 'geological' t i m e y o u w i l l be liinl mi; .ii deposits w h i c h are v e r y recent indeed. I l u r e is considerable erosion of the r i v e r banks here, caused by 'In .peed of the current and t i d a l effects. A n d as the River Severn • ml.il right up t o T e w k e s b u r y , the w a s h created b y passing boats n|i|ili incuts and accelerates the n o r m a l erosion process. In '.nine layers of the a l l u v i u m — t h e name f o r a recent deposit of i i " i mud small pebbles o f coal can b e dug out, and a s t h e i r • II Ijdn Is obscure t h e y are often the subject of p r o f o u n d discussions in i he bar o f the Red L i o n . ' O l d stagers' w i l l t e l l y o u t h a t over 100 i UN ago barges came up the r i v e r c a r r y i n g coal and t h a t some of iIn ' i H11(I have dropped i n t o the r i v e r — a l t h o u g h h o w coal pebbles mild he lodged five feet d o w n is a m y s t e r y , unless the places w h e r e i In-, i rs is 'made up' g r o u n d . To the geologist, the t h o u g h t occurs Mi ii die coal pebbles m i g h t have been transported by the r i v e r in

20

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

quite ancient times, possibly h a v i n g been b r o u g h t d o w n f r o m the coalfields of the Midlands.
T H E R E D C L I F F S AT WAINLODE

Another topic in the i n n is ' W h y are the cliffs red ?' and here t h e geologist is on firmer g r o u n d . The rocks are red because t h e y w e r e l a i d d o w n in a vast desert some 190 m i l l i o n years ago in the p e r i o d k n o w n as the Triassic. The rocks of any desert always show b r i g h t colours—reds, b r o w n s or yellows—because there is n o t enough r a i n f a l l t o c a r r y a l l the colour-bearing minerals a w a y i n s o l u t i o n . The scene in the Triassic desert w o u l d have been something l i k e the sketch b e l o w . It was a vast p l a i n w i t h salt lakes evaporating under a fierce sun. Here and there m o u n t a i n ranges appeared as 'islands' (inselbergs), the Malverns in those days appearing as a m u c h larger n o r t h / s o u t h range. W h e n the lakes to the n o r t h dried u p , vast deposits of salt were left behind and these are used by m a n today in the Triassic rocks of the Cheshire Plain. The W a i n l o d e red cliffs are deposits of v e r y fine lake muds, r i c h

THC TYPICAL SCENERY OF THE TfilASS IC PESEKTS ?8MC gOO Mi Ufan HEARS Ago The *nonhta.Cv\$ G.ypoy it'Ke. islands iv a SCO- i>f Sard,— island, mountains or JNSELBERG-S ~ b - plains u/wc* plains of-oxcuwiMcLtion because fWt wt/c. no petf-mawcniT" rivevs *e oa.rry Hie vVftgte products o - Sands a rV ^vaVe's down lb ftt- sea*. ^ wf
FIG. 6 A T R I A S S I C LANDSCAPE

WAINLODE

CLIFF OF THE UlWeS-VJAS

21

ACCELERATED CMRF gcMsioiS CAUSE p B Y PASSING BARGES. FIG. 7 WAINLODE CUFF

in i r o n oxides—and of such fineness t h a t it weathers in a most peculiar w a y , and crushing it becomes a game of endless fascination for v i s i t i n g c h i l d r e n . Playing along the cliffs, t h e y p i c k up pieces of the r o c k and can w a t c h it c r u m b l i n g f r o m cube shapes to cubes w i t h rounded corners and then r i g h t d o w n t o small, marble-like ipheres w h i c h f i n a l l y shatter to fragments. This process is called '< uboidal w e a t h e r i n g ' . Visitors t o W a i n l o d e Cliff can a c t u a l l y hear and see erosion L i k i n g place, p a r t i c u l a r l y on summer evenings after a fine day w h e n l lie sun has been shining on the cliffs. As the temperature drops in the evening there is expansion and c o n t r a c t i o n o f the cliff surface and l i t t l e pieces of the r o c k come t u m b l i n g d o w n . Erosion of b o t h clill's and banks is v e r y r a p i d here o w i n g to the extreme softness of the rock, and the l a n d l o r d of the Red L i o n estimates the loss of the Ii.inks of the r i v e r to be as m u c h as one y a r d each year. The Germanic-sounding w o r d , 'Keuper', w h i c h appears i n the sketches in this chapter, is derived f r o m the name given to one of ihe divisions of the Triassic deposits in Germany, and the t e r m

22

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

'Triassic' itself comes f r o m G e r m a n y w h e r e these deposits occur in three m a i n d i v i s i o n s : Bunter Sandstone, M u s c h e l k a l k (shell l i m e stone) and Keuper. The t e r m ' m a r l ' , however, is r e a l l y a m i s n o m e r perpetuated f r o m earlier usage, because this p a r t i c u l a r m a t e r i a l is, in fact, a v e r y fine-grained, wind-borne dust o r lake m u d w i t h h a r d l y any stratificat i o n , i.e. almost structureless. A g a i n , marls are calcareous whereas this Keuper M a r l is n o t , and breaks w i t h a starchy fracture w h i c h m a y be related to the m i n e r a l d o l o m i t e in the r o c k — d o l o m i t e is c a l c i u m and magnesium carbonate. A n d this m a y possibly account f o r t h a t curious cuboidal w e a t h e r i n g w h i c h , as y e t , is one of the unsolved mysteries of the geologist's w o r l d .
T H E TEA G R E E N MARLS

The Red Marls are about seventy-five feet t h i c k b u t above t h e m the c o l o u r m a r k e d l y changes to green. These rocks are k n o w n as the Tea Green Marls and t h e y are about t w e n t y - t h r e e feet t h i c k at W a i n l o d e . To e x p l a i n the cause of this change in colour we have to t u r n to chemistry, f o r the colours in the W a i n l o d e C l i f f rocks are due to the presence of minerals. The chief c o l o u r - f o r m i n g m i n e r a l in this case is oxide of i r o n , of w h i c h there are several kinds. Red to b r o w n minerals are f e r r i c oxides, and green minerals are ferrous salts, and where y o u have o x i d i s i n g conditions y o u tend to get the red-to-brown minerals, i.e. the ferric c o n d i t i o n . I f , however, as often occurs in stagnant waters, o x y g e n is taken away f r o m the minerals by bacteria, y o u t h e n have w h a t is k n o w n as 'reducing' conditions and w h e n the o x y g e n is reduced the materials go back t o ferrous compounds, w h i c h are green. A n d i t i s the w r i t e r ' s belief t h a t the green c o l o u r in the Tea Green M a r l s is due to the presence of ferrous h y d r o x i d e (Fe(OH) ). The necessary reducing conditions m u s t have occurred in the s w a m p y lagoons as the Rhaetic seas came i n , and these are referred to again in a later chapter on Garden Cliff, Westbury-on-Severn. T o p u t this i n t e r p r e t a t i o n i n another w a y : red rocks o f the desert c o n t a i n i n g ferric minerals were deposited in lakes under clear w a t e r and good o x i d i s i n g conditions. Later, the lakes became stagnant w i t h vegetation because the climate was changing to a more h u m i d one and the sea was now beginning to invade the land. Bacteria became active in the r o t t i n g vegetation a r o u n d the lagoons and the o x y g e n was taken f r o m the red ferric minerals, thereby changing
2

WAINLODE C L I F F

23

them to the green ferrous c o n d i t i o n . There are no fossils in these rocks, b u t the w r i t e r has f o u n d leaf impressions of the p r i m i t i v e p l a n t Naiadata in the red rocks. A small, bivalved crustacean called Euestheria minuta also l i v e d in the lakes and can be f o u n d in the upper p a r t of the cliff.
THE RHAETIC ROCKS

The sea came in s l o w l y , g r a d u a l l y engulfing areas w h e r e condilions w e r e s i m i l a r to those f o u n d in the Dead Sea t o d a y . Lagoons w i t h vegetation were f o r m e d and l i f e began t o r e t u r n i n abundance. This metamorphosis can be m o r e easily understood by reference Ki the different r o c k systems depicted in Figure 8. N o t i c e the sudden
| DETA1LSJ ,| FOSSILS] j I N T E R P R E T A T I O N ! MAIN SYSTEMS

li&cslcc . bl*e(< skat"
-

JURASSIC base of LoWcy enc/osei fea ar
-

LI A 5 ' <>

SUcK amour 30NE- 8ED

smalts

contort A. r«p— l*H^ -fiftitr

Sto-QVMrLVT-t

•RHACT1C

Waters 'VttltlCCnq C n i i w O dcn S DESERT TRJASS1C WiW blown cUst ALU LA WD DEPOSITS OyicusCnC; Conditions

TE.A C-RE.6W MARLS

Zyctpb a
jeou-

KEUPER
fv\ARL.

plant" remains

ria. 8

SIMPLIFIED

SECTION

OF

WA1NUOOE C U F F

24

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

change to black rocks in the Rhaetic system. These rocks are t h i n , paper-like shales, ancient coastal muds, black w i t h the m i n e r a l ferrous sulphide. In this region, between A u s t C l i f f and W a i n l o d e Cliff, w e r e congregated crowds of fishes, lung-fishes and m a r i n e reptiles. U n d e r these c r o w d e d conditions the carnivores ate up t h e herbivores and their remains w e r e compressed i n t o the t h i n band of r o c k k n o w n as the 'bone bed'. Because deposition in the lagoon was v e r y s l o w , the bone bed is v e r y t h i n here, and as it can be seen t o better advantage at Westbury-on-Severn (Garden Cliff) i t w i l l be more f u l l y described i n the n e x t chapter. F u r t h e r u p the cliff i n the Rhaetic rocks w i l l be f o u n d bands o f sandstone w i t h m a r i n e fossils, t h e n m o r e g r e y shales and, f i n a l l y , the blue limestone band w h i c h is the 'evidence' of the Lias sea of the Jurassic system. This b a n d has oyster fossils called Ostrea liassica and is the base of the Jurassic f o r m a t i o n k n o w n as the L o w e r Lias. Just b e l o w , one can p i c k o u t the m i n e r a l gypsum, in the f o r m of v e r y small selenite crystals. This has been f o r m e d by percolating w a t e r dissolving o u t i r o n sulphide w h i c h , i n t e r a c t i n g w i t h calcite f r o m calcareous minerals, produced c a l c i u m sulphate, w h i c h is gypsum. Before y o u leave W a i n l o d e C l i f f l o o k o u t f o r 'fools' g o l d ' , i n t h e f o r m o f brassy-yellow crystals o f pyrites ( i r o n sulphide, FeS ). T h e y occur in clusters in some of the Rhaetic shales and some are as b i g as O x o cubes. T h e y t u m b l e d o w n the cliff and can often be p i c k e d u p i n the r i v e r s i m p l y b y dredging near the water's edge w i t h one's hand. F r o m t i m e i m m e m o r i a l , m e n have been fooled i n t o believing t h a t this was t r u l y gold whereas, in fact, these p y r i t i s e d shales are, again, the result of stagnant conditions, p o o r in o x y g e n , t h e i r different c o l o u r in this case being due to a different c o m b i n a t i o n of chemicals.
2

CHAPTER

3

Westbury-on-Severn

Westbury-on-Severn is about six miles south-west of Gloucester on the r i g h t bank of the Severn. It is reached by t a k i n g the A 4 8 main road after crossing the r i v e r at Gloucester, and there is a footpath across the fields w h i c h leads past W e s t b u r y ' s c h a r m i n g church. The cliffs by the r i v e r are the same rocks in age and t y p e as those at W a i n l o d e C l i f f — t h e r e d Triassic rocks and Keuper M a r l — Inn the rocks of the 'Garden Cliff' at W e s t b u r y are even more g j l i k i n g in appearance. This is no place, l i k e W a i n l o d e Cliff, f o r bucolic m e r r i m e n t and cheerful c u r i o s i t y about the past. The late afternoon sunshine glints on b r o a d reaches of the Severn and on wide expanses of sand- and mud-flats, and the v i s i t o r is a w e d by the remote and m e l a n c h o l y grandeur of the cliffs of the Keuper M a r l . The rocks themselves are something of a geological c o n u n d r u m . There is the same cuboidal w e a t h e r i n g as at W a i n l o d e Cliff and kinds of Tea Green M a r l s occur at the t o p of the Red Keuper M a r l but there are also peculiar differences. There are distinct bands of green o c c u r r i n g at l o w e r levels and even pieces of red r o c k can he picked up w h i c h have a core or centre of the green ferrous I Ondition. Some geologists believe t h a t this l o c a l r e d u c t i o n is due to bacterial a c t i v i t y . Often it radiates f r o m a centre and often occurs in w h a t m a y be an ancient crack. The organisms c o u l d have been awakened by access of moisture, after being encysted d u r i n g II id conditions. The geologist, of course, does n o t have a clear and easy r o c k 'blueprint' to read. Rather, his task is t h a t of f i t t i n g together a gigantic jigsaw puzzle w h i c h i s n o t o n l y i n three dimensions b u t ulmse 'pieces' have been scattered by movements of the earth's I I ust and w a r p e d and weathered b y geological t i m e measured i n millions of years. The rocks at Westbury-on-Severn are reassuringly legible in one respect, however. T h e y are w h a t is k n o w n as 'conformable', w h i c h

26

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

CONFORMITY
-Beds A,UG

w.'tfn beds D.E.F

conformable.

,

UNlCOKFQRhAlTY Jxds AB,C are unconformable.
^ ^
5

'

E

F

C

[

means t h a t t h e y l i e in the same plane. The t w o diagrams at Fig. 9 s h o w the geological d i s t i n c t i o n between c o n f o r m i t y and unconformity.
THE RHAETIC BEDS AT WESTBURY

The Keuper M a r l rocks at W e s t b u r y dip to the north-east so t h a t t h e o v e r l y i n g Rhaetic rocks are b r o u g h t d o w n to the water's edge at the n e x t p o i n t or 'headland'. Figure 10 shows h o w the beds of three d i s t i n c t ages—Keuper, Rhaetic, Jurassic—all l i e conformable. I t is best t o l o o k at Garden Cliff b o t h f r o m b e l o w and f r o m afar; f r o m b e l o w to see those e x t r a o r d i n a r y bands of Tea Green M a r l (at least five of t h e m in most places), f r o m afar to see the a l a r m i n g r a p i d i t y w i t h w h i c h the t o p o f the cliff is eroding. Large amounts o f scree f r o m this erosion have collected at the f o o t o f the cliff and FIG. 10

WEfTBURY ON SEVERN

T r i a g e . „ d , Rfeodric rocKs

alt «,nf* m»Ue.
f

WESTBURY-ON-SEVERN

27

the top o f the cliff seems t o be disappearing at the rate o f several feet per year. Notice, t o o , t h a t the muds of the River Severn are red in colour, having been transported f r o m the Triassic rocks f u r t h e r up the river. Other things t o see as y o u go along the base o f the cliff are the bands o f t h i c k sandstone w h i c h have fallen f r o m the cliff t o p . This t y p e of r o c k is called the Pullastra Sandstone of the Rhaetic scries, being named after a fossil called Pullastra (Figure 12). These flat sandstone slabs s h o w r i p p l e marks w h i c h w e r e made On the sea shore in the Rhaetic lagoons about 190 m i l l i o n years ago. It is amazing to t h i n k t h a t before one's eyes lie ripples and trails ,is t h e y w e r e left by the tides and by w o r m s and other organisms On the shores of the Rhaetic sea. A n d yet, if we t u r n o u r glance to recent r i p p l e marks on the t i d a l sand flats of the Severn, we m u s t realise t h a t these, t o o , w o u l d b e preserved f o r m i l l i o n s o f year i f they happened to be covered q u i c k l y by r a p i d deposition, or a sudden sandstorm at l o w tide.

28

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

The Rhaetic beds at W e s t b u r y are p a r t i c u l a r l y w o r t h close e x a m i n a t i o n because it is generally accepted t h a t t h e y p r o v i d e the best exposure of these p a r t i c u l a r rocks a n y w h e r e in the B r i t i s h Isles. Figure 13 shows the general succession of the Rhaetic and p a r t of the L o w e r Lias—the lowest d i v i s i o n of the great Jurassic system— and is a v e r y simplified version o f the rocks the reader w i l l see. The s i m p l i f i c a t i o n is necessary because the Rhaetic beds are a series of t h i n n i s h strata l a i d d o w n under peculiar conditions i n B r i t a i n , a l t h o u g h m u c h t h i c k e r elsewhere. In B r i t a i n , t h e y represent a lagoonal (or enclosed sea) t r a n s i t i o n stage between t w o great systems, the Trias (previous desert conditions) b e l o w , and the Jurassic (marine conditions) above. As at W a i n l o d e Cliff, the observer w i l l notice t h a t the cliff section shows a sudden change f r o m the r e d rocks of the desert to the black shales of the Rhaetic, a stagnating lagoon phase as the Rhaetic sea s l o w l y invaded the desert. The shales are black because ferrous sulphide has been produced by the a c t i o n of bacteria on decomposing vegetation. M a r i n e reptiles and lung-fish congregated in these lagoons and a p a r t of these Rhaetic bands, k n o w n as the 'bone bed', forms a r o c k

WESTBURY-ON-SEVERN

29

cemetery w h i c h is packed w i t h the fossilised fragments of fishes and reptiles. The bed is o n l y a f e w inches t h i c k , because deposition in these lagoons was so slow. Desert conditions had previously existed there, so there w o u l d have been no rushing rivers to b r i n g clown masses of debris, or to pile up sediment w h i c h w o u l d later f o r m t h i c k bands o f r o c k . O n l y gentle currents w i n n o w e d the deposit, c a r r y i n g l i g h t e r m a t e r i a l a w a y and concentrating the heavier debris, such as bones and phosphatic nodules. This n a r r o w bone bed is h i g h l y p y r i t i s e d (the r o c k gleams w i t h pyrite crystals) and packed w i t h fish and reptile teeth and w i t h nodules of black phosphate w h i c h are a c t u a l l y fossilised r e p t i l e

Lowe* Lias — | i'r«csto«)6 Eueitherlc. ^Oftnct' Wditt wia/ls — Conspicuous

FIG. 13

S l a c l < Shales

PuAtaptva. Bed

S i m p l i f i e d Version a*t ttie RHAETIC S E D S

3 U e K Shales T O P »f tint K E U P E R .- T p ^ - )-"~V\ i8 f - oj Tea, Srcen. Marls
fc

;

TOTAL H E I G H T of C L I F F

10

{t

30

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

d u n g — a m a z i n g l y w e l l preserved and o c c u r r i n g i n such profusion t h a t t h e y have even acquired a technical name, 'coprolites'. Other discoveries w h i c h c o u l d be made in the bone bed are Ichthyosaurus vertebra or perhaps the j a w of a lung-fish. This lung-fish, called Ceratodus, is p a r t i c u l a r l y interesting because it belongs to t h a t e v o l u t i o n a r y stage w h e n creatures l i v i n g i n w a t e r started t o adjust themselves t o l i v i n g also o n l a n d , thereby p a v i n g the w a y t o t h e development o f creatures l i v i n g e n t i r e l y o n l a n d . A t t h a t t i m e a certain g r o u p o f fishes used t h e i r s w i m m i n g bladder also as an air bladder, t h a t is, as a k i n d of l u n g to enable t h e m t o breathe i n air w h i l e t r a v e l l i n g f r o m one p o o l t o another. Thus, i f pools d r i e d u p , t h e y c o u l d survive, w h i l e those w h i c h l i v e d e x c l u s i v e l y i n w a t e r w o u l d die o u t . ( I t m u s t b e n o t e d here t h a t amphibia had evolved f r o m another g r o u p o f f i s h e s m i l l i o n s o f years earlier, late Devonian period.)
F O S S I L S O F T H E 'BONE B E D '

Figure 14 depicts a v a r i e t y of bone-bed fossils, some of w h i c h can occasionally be f o u n d j u s t a l i t t l e above or a l i t t l e b e l o w the actual bed. T h e sketch i s w o r t h careful study f o r y o u w i l l o n l y b e l u c k y enough t o make some good f i n d s i f y o u k n o w w h a t y o u are l o o k i n g f o r . N o t i c e p a r t i c u l a r l y the shape o f the Ichthyosaurus vertebra— rather l i k e a cotton-reel. Fossils are r a r e l y f o u n d in the black shales and this dearth of relics of f o r m e r l i f e is evidence of the stagnating conditions in w h i c h the shales w e r e deposited. Because of t h e i r resemblance to leaves of black paper, t h e y are sometimes called 'paper shales' and some w i l l be seen t o have been streaked y e l l o w b y an efflorescence o f sulphur minerals. Reverting t o the Garden Cliff, i t w i l l be n o t e d t h a t although the Pullastra Sandstone forms a conspicuous band of h a r d r o c k n o t far f r o m the cliff t o p , the d i p o f nine degrees brings i t r i g h t d o w n t o shore level w h e r e a grand p l a t f o r m overhangs the r i v e r . W h a t has happened here is t h a t the r i v e r has eroded the soft black shales underneath and left the sandstone j u t t i n g o u t as a p l a t f o r m . T o w a r d s the t o p o f the cliff can be seen a conspicuous band o f w h i t e limestone. This marks the t o p of the Rhaetic series and is f o l l o w e d b y t h i n bands o f creamy-coloured limestone w h i c h f o r m the v e r y base of the L o w e r Lias w h i c h is, of course, the base of t h e Jurassic rocks.

WESTBURY-ON-SEVERN

31

FIG. 14
ICHTHYOSAURUS r c w j . C S Ostrtco liassica.

- e«v»b«y«nfc Toot*

Avicula, contorra.
or Hhaetav.cu.laContcrta.

3>e«fe£ blate reptile bon« C*«5 Fkt,

luc»H>ert«. minut*., °f crustac*a_

fish hetti

A piece of rb* J o

o e

One other feature of this area, o n l y occasionally visible at v e r y [Ow tide, is a peat bed—a v e r y y o u n g deposit indeed compared w i t h the Rhaetic rocks. W a l k i n g back along the cliffs to the o l d 'Severn M i l l ' , y o u w i l l see small cliffs o f m u d recently f o r m e d b y the Severn, and a f e w feet b e l o w t h e grass is a layer of peat d e n o t i n g iIn- presence of a b u r i e d forest. The trees of this p a r t i c u l a r forest u r i c b i r c h and pine, and deer antlers have been f o u n d in the bed. Obviously, w h e n this forest w a s flourishing, the level of the River El \•crn must have been m u c h l o w e r t h a n it is t o d a y . At t h a t t i m e , probably a r o u n d 6,000 BC, England was s t i l l j o i n e d to the Continent and the Severn entered the sea somewhere between B r i s t o l iml < !ardiff. Then, as the m e l t i n g of the p o l a r ice-caps in the last In Age was finally completed, the sea level rose, f o r m i n g the English Channel, i n v a d i n g the rivers and flooding the nearby i c H mI rysides.

CHAPTER

4

The

Severn

Bridge

The Severn Suspension Bridge, situated about eight miles upstream f r o m A v o n m o u t h and spanning a m i l e of w a t e r between A u s t C l i f f and the Beachley Peninsula, is the seventh largest bridge in the w o r l d . It was opened by H e r Majesty the Queen on 8 September 1966, and the cost of its c o n s t r u c t i o n was a r o u n d figure of £8 million. M a g n i f i c e n t l y o u t l i n e d against the sky, it is an artefact of sweepi n g grace, of l i g h t and seemingly effortless p o w e r , y e t it supports a r o a d w a y f r o m towers r i s i n g 450 feet above the r i v e r and carries a span 3,240 feet in l e n g t h . It is a t r u l y noble example of the t y p e of architecture w h i c h can t o d a y express itself in high-grade steel, and a feat o f engineering f o r w h i c h geologists w i l l never cease t o admire the m e n w h o dared t o achieve i t . For t o t h e m , the difficulties seemed w e l l - n i g h insuperable, so w i d e l y disparate in nature are the rocks u p o n w h i c h it stands and so numerous are the difficulties arising f r o m t h e i r v a r y i n g n a t u r a l architecture. T o p o g r a p h i c a l l y , t o o , the site presented a n u m b e r of m a j o r problems, and w h e n t h e engineers first began t h e i r d a u n t i n g task in 1961 James M o r r i s , r e c o r d i n g his reactions in the Guardian, w r o t e : It is not an easy sort of place. The Severn here is more than a mile wide. The tides run faster than anywhere else in Britain and they rise and fall more than forty feet. The river is turbulent with shoals and eddies, convulsed at some seasons, viscous at others w i t h millions of elvers wriggling their way to fresh water. When the water is low acres of glistening mud are revealed, morasses of harsh water grass, labyrinthine rivulets. Navigation is so tricky that in the old days many a foreign captain refused to load at Gloucester and the three little motor ferries that now run from Aust to Beachley struggle across the currents, when the tide is favourable, w i t h infinite labour and circumspection. For more t h a n s i x t y years before the bridge was b u i l t , b o t h sides of the Severn at this p a r t i c u l a r place had been the rendezvous of geological parties, w h o w e r e d r a w n t o i t b y the great v a r i e t y o f rocks offered b y nature w i t h i n s o small a n area. W h y , then, d i d

T H E S E V E R N BRIDGE THE S E V E R N SUSPENSION BRIDGE FROM AUST C L I F F

33

11" i ngineers choose so difficult a site? To understand this one m u s t l l r . i appreciate the nature b o t h o f the traffic p r o b l e m i n v o l v e d and • 1 the ro< ks on the bed and sides of the r i v e r . I In- traffic p r o b l e m was to select a crossing-place on the Severn iwhere between B r i s t o l and Gloucester to relieve the already ippalling congestion at Gloucester and to cope w i t h the s t i l l heavier 11 nllli w h i c h c o m p l e t i o n of the n e w m o t o r w a y s w o u l d b r i n g to the in .1 Map ' overleaf shows t h a t i m p o r t a n t lines cross the r i v e r H tWO places, Sharpness and Beachley, w h i l e M a p 4 shows in d e t a i l thi nature of the rocks at Beachley. To appreciate the significance ul ilu-Nt- structure lines, the l a y m a n requires some e x p l a n a t i o n of i l i ' in ni and this can best be afforded by i m a g i n i n g B r i t a i n , n o t as in Island, but as a region in the N o r t h e r n Hemisphere some 600 m i l l i o n years ago. It was then something l i k e a cracked pavement • •I hard, crystalline rocks and w h e n sedimentary rocks were later I ml d o w n on this f o u n d a t i o n the cracks and ridges s t i l l showed 11 r l i i II had some influence on the strata f o r m a t i o n . This ancient m i ' i i i i . i l line is k n o w n t o geologists as the M a l v e r n i a n or Malver' " • i l l IMS and is made visible o n the surface b y the a l i g n m e n t o f the i ilvi 111 I Mils and M a y H i l l . The line crosses the Severn at Sharpness .mil continues on to T o r t w o r t h and Bath, w h e r e it has its influence • MI iIn- famous h o t springs.
1

G

34

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

"HiC main structure lines of ftjt Lower* SevA-yn
!• TVie LoWc/ Severn Ayis — C«l«rdom*fiti 2, "tlic 3ath Axis — lv\alucrnifl.n •3, fVic BeccKley CUnrw, per ic tine- — ^fmoticnn 4 *Tfi« Oeps+ow Anticline — Arvnoir Ccan

MAP 3

" V structural Convergences show" Ti < "tvo bufiginj point's. Gloucester.

v«rn bote begins tew.

TlorfWorth

Coal Measures?
( Carboniferous) 1 )

3>evoni«ri ruclfe 1 H 11") Stale: U:U

STRUCTURE LINES OF THE LOWER S E V E R N

T H E S E V E R N BRIDGE

35

1

I i " i n l i m e to t i m e d u r i n g t h e last 600 m i l l i o n years there have l" i n periods of earth movements w h i c h have taken up alignments liong certain directions. For example, it can be seen in M a p 3 t h a t till Lower Severn A x i s is such a line and this d i r e c t i o n , r u n n i n g Nl'. to SW, is called 'Caledonian'. Other structure lines s h o w n on thlft map are the Chepstow a n t i c l i n e — a n u p f o l d w h i c h causes a i"ii;> . I I K I the Beachley-Qanna pericline, w h i c h is a dome-shaped fold, The net result of structure lines is t h a t , v e r y often, older a n d ir irdcr rocks are t h r o w n up near the surface, either as h a r d outcrops in .IN lhe result of the upheaval of rocks l y i n g above t h e m . I m o l i n g again at M a p 3, it can be seen t h a t the L o w e r Severn A n || .mil the Bath A x i s cross at Sharpness. This brings the D e v o n i a n mi ks to the surface and, as t h e y are harder t h a n t h e rocks farther north along the r i v e r , t h e y o u t c r o p in red cliffs at Gatcombe a n d Sharpness. There, in 1874, a r a i l w a y bridge was b u i l t , b u t a f e w • i r . ago it was smashed by a barge w h i c h got o u t of c o n t r o l . The Severn Bridge c o u l d have been b u i l t at Sharpness b u t possible i i a l l n congestion and its greater distance f r o m Bristol made i t less convenient t h a n Beachley. A t Beachley t h e t w o structure lines •iliown o n the map p l a y some p a r t i n b r i n g i n g t h e h a r d limestones nl i l i r (:.irhoniferous rocks t o o u t c r o p n o t o n l y o n the r i v e r bed b u t III in.ill clill's to the w e s t of Beachley. In fact, there are islands of i l i > \ r limestones almost i n the m i d d l e o f the r i v e r . W h a t better y> " l o g i c a l choice, t h e n , c o u l d be m a d e ! I I H ic was also the added f a c t o r t h a t by b r i d g i n g the Severn ar l\i n l i l i y the appalling traffic congestion at Chepstow w o u l d be " In v c d . Furthermore, t h e Vale of Berkeley f r o m T h o r n b u r y to llom ester is t h i n l y p o p u l a t e d and l i k e l y t o become a 'target area' l"i the overspill populations o f B i r m i n g h a m and L o n d o n . A l l i n a l l , | l f l i hli'v slood o u t a s the obvious place f o r the bridge.
T H E ROCKS ON T H E B E A C H L E Y S I D E

f u r t h e r reference t o M a p 4 w i l l s h o w t h a t Carboniferous limeItil11 H " i i t c r o p in a w i d e area to the south-west of the Forest of i Ii HI a n d that the R i v e r W y e has c u t t h r o u g h these rocks at ' In p . l o w . The Chepstow a n t i c l i n e m u s t have some influence on (In outcrop of the limestones on the Beachley peninsula, and so c m i ils convergence w i t h t h e Beachley-Clanna pericline, f o r b o t h 11II ' i "ii I he ancient s t r u c t u r e l i n e of t h e L o w e r Severn A x i s . Along the foreshore west of the f e r r y landing-stage and under

36

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

the bridge, the h a r d limestone can be seen o u t c r o p p i n g . A l t h o u g h deeply f i s s u r e d i n places and w e l l j o i n t e d , i t was obvious t h a t these rocks w o u l d f o r m a good base f o r the bridge. In fact, the m a i n p r o b l e m in b u i l d i n g the bridge was to understand the nature of these basement rocks. Close inspection of the rocks towards Beachley Point reveals fissures filled w i t h a hard breccia, i.e. angular lumps of the limestone cemented together n a t u r a l l y . This is the D o l o m i t i c Conglomerate w h i c h betrays an ancient landscape surface.
MAP 4

FOREST OF JJEAW

•'SEVERN ESTUARY

o^lcat sKetck rnarj crj" fkfc "Beachjew "fte. Chepstow Anticline, and 'BeacMev — Clanno. pert cU'ne. brt'nj Hit C arban iferou lime stones •JD HC ^ur-fitce, £< many places ^_ '"
4

afCtL

T H E S E V E R N BRIDGE

37

11 can also be seen t h a t the limestones are folded i n t o ridges i IflCli lines) and i n t o small valley downfolds (synclines), b o t h factors Which added to the c o m p l e x i t y of the task of finding the basement Wi I-. In w h i c h to sink the piers of the bridge. The limestones are g r e y and are classified as ' d o l o m i t i c ' (containing .1 p r o p o r t i o n of magnesium carbonate as w e l l as c a l c i u m I .n lion.He) and numerous fossils can be seen on the smooth surface, particularly the columnals of ancient sea lilies called crinoids. In I ' l l ' rs, corals can be seen and these are useful in i d e n t i f y i n g the limestones as being of Carboniferous age. I hr geological sketch (Map 5) shows t h a t the Beachley Point l " I I I I I . I I I . I is covered w i t h sands and gravels t o a depth o f some iiiy ilirce feet. These are o f recent geological age (Pleistocene) md were probably related to glacial and i n t e r g l a c i a l periods w h e n i In Severn f l o w e d in other areas and at higher levels. II i . i n . therefore, be seen t h a t the Beachley anchorage concrete i ' i i had to be dug d o w n t h r o u g h these soft sands and gravels in I ' l l to reach the basement rocks. In fact, the steel tubes here go down .some s i x t y feet, and getting t h e m i n t o p o s i t i o n presented no problems for the engineers as the site was on d r y l a n d . M.i11 'i also shows t h a t the areas of limestones have i n t e r v e n i n g is o f the Keuper M a r l , the same r o c k as seen at the base o f

38

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

the A u s t Cliffs on the opposite shore. These red rocks f o r m cliffs in a f e w places near Beachley Point. A f t e r the Carboniferous limestones w e r e l a i d d o w n some 300 m i l l i o n years ago t h e y became folded, eroded and f o r m e d an ancient l a n d surface in the p e r i o d of the Triassic deserts 200 m i l l i o n years ago. The ancient valleys t r e n d i n g i n a N W d i r e c t i o n were the first t o b e filled u p w i t h Triassic sediments—the Keuper M a r l . This presented a p r o b l e m to the engineers w h o bored d o w n f o r the site of the Beachley pier to support the great steel t o w e r . A f t e r going d o w n t h i r t y - f o u r feet, some h a r d mudstones w e r e encountered, b u t n o t the good h a r d limestones. Nevertheless, t h e y p r o v e d to be Carboniferous rocks by the nature of the fossils f o u n d in t h e m and the engineers considered t h a t these steeply-dipping beds presented a strong enough structure f o r the Beachley steel t o w e r f o r the suspension o f the bridge. N o d o u b t these mudstones w i l l p r o v e t o be sufficiently strong b u t i t i s the w r i t e r ' s o p i n i o n t h a t the b o r i n g should have gone even deeper in order to get d o w n to the greater security of limestone rocks. Even the m o n k s in the M i d d l e Ages recognised the greater security presented by using limestone as a f o u n d a t i o n , and there is a r u i n e d medieval chapel, St T w r o g , on t h e limestone r o c k k n o w n as Chapel Rock. I n c i d e n t a l l y , it is r a t h e r r i s k y t r y i n g to reach this p a r t i c u l a r r o c k , as there is a deep channel i n one o f the fissures w h i c h soon becomes impassable w i t h t h e i n c o m i n g tide. Even in m i d w i n t e r , q u i t e a pleasant afternoon can be spent here in one of the m i n i a t u r e coves collecting calcite crystals f r o m the limestones, e x a m i n i n g the s m a l l anticlines and various structures exposed on the foreshore. It is also quite a good place to demonstrate h o w limestones can be folded, f o r it is most difficult to imagine this w h e n m e r e l y c o n f r o n t e d w i t h a h a r d l u m p o f r o c k i n the hand. T h e sketch in Figure 15 shows the Carboniferous limestones p l u n g i n g a w a y under the Severn.
T H E AUST C L I F F S I D E O F T H E S E V E R N

These cliffs are visited by geologists f r o m a l l over B r i t a i n because the best display of Rhaetic rocks in the w h o l e c o u n t r y lies t o w a r d s the t o p of the cliffs and contains the h i g h l y fossiliferous r e p t i l e 'bone bed'. The cliffs reach a height of over 140 feet and are m a i n l y com-

T H E S E V E R N BRIDGE

39

PIO. IB

Sm<iU cliffs of Carboniferous Limestone, about 20ft hicjli, a* 3eachley Point". - wel/jo;nW W T i « « r e d i , A SmalL up-fo'i or anCic'ine. oxn be seen m ftc fortjrDuncf In.Somt «f Wie- fesMres are masses of flje. "DolomiffcTc Conglomerate, which forms ftic base of ftie-"T(?(AS.

eel of Red Keuper M a r l , b u t about eighty feet up the colour • lunges to the greenish tinge of the Tea Green Marls (not to be i < in fused w i t h blotches of green m a r l w i t h i n the Red Keuper beds!). This Keuper M a r l is r e a l l y a compact of v e r y fine silica dust l a i d t l o w n by w i n d s b l o w i n g across the Triassic deserts some 200 m i l l i o n years ago. The m a x i m u m thickness o f the red rocks here is about MO feet b u t they reach a t o t a l thickness of 2,000 feet in Cheshire, where t h e y c o n t a i n valuable salt deposits, i n d i c a t i v e of vast salt [ikes in ancient deserts. Visitors to the site of the Severn Bridge m a y find themselves becoming quite alarmed at the behaviour of these red rocks, as on HI iny afternoons the noise of lumps f a l l i n g d o w n can be heard • ontinuously, and the l u m p s themselves can easily be c r u m b l e d i n t o dust. I l a r d l y the k i n d o f r o c k o n w h i c h t o b u i l d a bridge, one m i g h t . I V . SO w h a t is it t h a t is h o l d i n g the r o c k together? One t h e o r y is i l u i it is a h e a v i l y compacted r o c k of e x t r e m e l y fine particles

40

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

m e r e l y held together b y physical b o n d i n g . Once i t is 'inside' the cliff it remains a h a r d r o c k b u t i m m e d i a t e l y it is cut i n t o and exposed t o the weather i t q u i c k l y disintegrates b y this curious process o f cuboidal c r u m b l i n g . The cause of the disintegration stems f r o m the fact t h a t clay minerals have a great a t t r a c t i o n f o r w a t e r , and w h e n the surface of the r o c k i s exposed t o w a t e r i t swells and w h e n i t subsequently dries o u t it shatters at or near the surface. This is a p r o b l e m w h i c h had to be considered w h e n b u i l d i n g the approach roads on the Aust Cliff. H i g h up on the cliff can be seen a sudden change f r o m the Tea Green Marls to deep black shales w h i c h are about eight feet t h i c k . These are k n o w n as the Rhaetic beds, w h i c h w e r e l a i d d o w n in shallow lagoons w h e n seas began to invade the Triassic deserts about 190 m i l l i o n years ago. A b o v e the black shales are t h i n bands of grey argillaceous l i m e stones w i t h a band of y e l l o w clay intercalated. These are the U p p e r Rhaetic beds and indicate the onset of marine conditions. F i n a l l y , at the v e r y t o p o f the cliffs, b u t n o t continuous along the cliff edge, are shales w i t h thinly-bedded limestones of the L o w e r Lias. Between the o l d f e r r y pier and the n e w bridge, small headlands j u t o u t and it is here t h a t Rhaetic and L o w e r Lias rocks can be seen b r o u g h t d o w n to a l o w e r level. A l t h o u g h this c o u l d be due to f a u l t i n g , it is also possible t h a t t h e y are landslipped blocks w h i c h have m e r e l y slipped d o w n because the t o p p a r t o f the cliff collapses w h e n t h e softer rocks at the cliff base are eroded a w a y . I t can be seen t h a t the L o w e r Lias limestones at the cliff t o p are b r o u g h t d o w n to a l o w e r level and being more resistant to erosion are thereby responsible f o r the p r o m o n t o r i e s . The f a u l t i n g has also changed the i n c l i n a t i o n of the beds to a different angle and d i r e c t i o n ( n o r t h e r l y ) and the consequence is the appearance of small springs in the f a u l t zone. The surface w a t e r percolates t h r o u g h the limestones at the t o p and is released at t h e j u n c t i o n of a t h i n bed of clay w i t h the f a u l t . This causes a profuse mass of vegetation and, as the w a t e r c o m i n g f r o m the limestone rocks at the t o p of the strata is r i c h in c a l c i u m carbonate, this v e g e t a t i o n — m o s t l y mosses and grass plants—is petrified i n t o w e i r d stone 'plants'. On the foreshore are extensive mudflats, w h i c h are colonised by the salt-loving Spartina townsendi grass. A b o u t fifty years ago some seeds of a South A m e r i c a n grass p l a n t came off a ship at Southamp-

T H E S E V E R N BRIDGE

41

na.

16

St-dbut'S; Cliff

I'miKiuS bands of T r i e s inffllt'nq ancient-valleys

Sfvcu'tjfvt^&ands of Carboniferous Uwe.sttin«. cavftred with S-ed.wi&d,

tell I Jocks and crossed w i t h an English species. Later came a related new species w h i c h spread a l l r o u n d the coastal mudflats of B r i t a i n . O u t across the waters of the Severn are seaweed-covered rocks, Nome of w h i c h show remarkable c u r v i n g lines. Figure 16 shows t h a t ihi-y represent the v e r y base o f the Triassic rocks f o l l o w i n g the i n d e n t valley system developed on the surface of the Carboniferous limestone rocks.
AUST ROCK

Aust Rock (see M a p 5) is a planed-off surface of the limestone upon w h i c h rests the A u s t anchorage f o r the bridge. The engineers found the r o c k was rather fissured and had to go d o w n ten feet to gel a secure h o l d . The A u s t pier, w h i c h carries the w e i g h t of t h e •IDi) feet-high t o w e r , is on Ulverstone Rock, and o n l y a f o u r - f o o t pil was necessary here as the limestone on this r o c k was v e r y h a r d . Near the bridge i t can be seen that the w h o l e structure o f t h e Cliff is that o f an u p f o l d o r anticline, the crest o f w h i c h is j u s t b y tin- bridge at A u s t Cliff, as s h o w n in Figure 17.
im 17 SITE or SRIDG-E APPROACH

S U C T I O N ALONG, T H C AUST

CUFFS

SHOWING- ANTICLINAL

STRoieruRe

42

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

The strata g r a d u a l l y become h o r i z o n t a l t o w a r d s the cliff t o p , a n d Professor W h i t t a r d , w h o made a detailed survey o f this area i n 1949, came to the conclusion t h a t it was a ' c o m p a c t i o n structure'. This implies t h a t the first series of Triassic beds (the Keuper M a r l ) were l a i d d o w n on an uneven surface and these structures w e r e developed w h e n the rocks 'settled d o w n ' or became compacted. R i g h t on the crest of this a n t i c l i n a l structure and close to the bridge it can be seen t h a t there are streaks of w h i t e to p i n k r o c k . These v e r t i c a l bands are alabaster, a v a r i e t y of the c a l c i u m sulphate m i n e r a l g y p s u m , and b r a n c h i n g off h o r i z o n t a l l y are t h i n w h i t e streaks o f another f o r m o f g y p s u m called Satin spar. This w h i t e m i n e r a l shows a b e a u t i f u l s i l k y lustre. The alabaster f i l l s i n f i s s u r e s i n the Red Keuper M a r l , b u t i n m a n y places the sides are c u r v e d and show a p a t t e r n comparable to the c o n t r a c t i o n cracks w h i c h can be seen in the dried-up muds of the foreshore. It is believed t h a t the g y p s u m is derived f r o m saline lakes in the ancient Triassic deserts, a feature often seen in salt lakes t o d a y in the M i d d l e East. This m a t e r i a l c o u l d be used f o r m a k i n g plaster of paris, b u t the deposits are n o t t h i c k enough f o r c o m mercial exploitation.
T H E BRIDGE APPROACH ON T H E A U S T S I D E

The m o t o r w a y s approaching the bridge on the A u s t side are excavated t h r o u g h the U p p e r Lias limestones, the Rhaetic beds and d o w n t h r o u g h p a r t of the Keuper M a r l . A l t h o u g h Figure 18 does n o t s h o w the real nature o f the p r o b l e m i t does show h o w the cliffs o f Keuper M a r l p r o v i d e s t a b i l i t y f o r the approach r o a d . M u c h research has gone i n t o the p r o b l e m o f r o c k mechanics i n the red Triassic rocks because so m a n y roads of the Midlands are cut t h r o u g h these rocks and the problems w h i c h arise as the result o f t h e i r w e a t h e r i n g demand careful study. I t i s p e r f e c t l y sound ' r o c k mechanics' t o b u i l d t h e approach r o a d o n the Keuper M a r l , b u t this r o c k must n o t b e disturbed t o o m u c h . Once it is disturbed, w e a t h e r i n g takes place and a l l the disintegration factors of d e h y d r a t i o n and shrinkage begin to operate. The correct angle of slope of the great embankments on the approach roads had also to be c a r e f u l l y planned and a l l slopes w e r e grassed over v e r y q u i c k l y t o prevent erosion. Figure 19 o n page 44 w i l l give the reader an idea o f the r o c k structures encountered in b u i l d i n g the Severn Bridge. It should

T H E S E V E R N BRIDGE

43

be remembered t h a t it is v e r y difficult to find o u t a l l details of the .nurtures in the limestones unless a large n u m b e r of borings are n u d e t h r o u g h the seaweed-covered rocks. f i n a l l y , v i s i t i n g amateur geologists s t u d y i n g the rocks at A u s t ( f i l l should always bear i n m i n d the correct sequence o f the strata in this area. M o s t o f the specimens t h e y w i l l find w i l l be ' o u t o f order' c h r o n o l o g i c a l l y because t h e y w i l l p r o b a b l y be taken f r o m

APPROACH to BRttWSE

<N T H E A U S T C U F F S *

I he numerous blocks w h i c h have fallen to the f o o t of the cliff. The rocks w h i c h t h e y are most l i k e l y to p i c k up are as f o l l o w s : (i) Pieces of the 'bone bed'. (i i) Pieces of the L o w e r Pecten Bed (black fossiliferous limestone). (iii) Slabs of arenaceous limestone. (iv) Pieces of h a r d cream-coloured limestone. (v) Larger slabs of the L o w e r Lias limestones w i t h the bedding planes covered w i t h a k i n d of oyster fossil called Ostrea liassica.

44

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

BEACHLEY

AUST
Toners are- 4 5 0 ft above, the, bed. of Hie river

/

Mactsfronej Cohered- by TRIAS
ANCHORAGE <i0 ft down tVoucjn "Pleistocene Sands to reabn the bctserne-nt limestones. PI£R >3S"ff- down tnroiyh T R I A S and penetrating steeply dipping

Car bor> if erow.s

LirnesTone

PIER

tests an tne limestone 0/
Ulversfone

ANCHORAGE

rests oa
Aust RocK

Carboniferous HvLcLstones

RocK Only 4-ftJown

10 ft down j*issurei limestone.

FIG. 1 9

THE E N G I N E E R I N G G E O L O G Y O F T H E S E V E R N B R I D G E T H E AUST C L I F F SUCCESSION

The f o l l o w i n g is a list of the strata in the order in w h i c h t h e y can be observed f r o m the top o f A u s t Cliff d o w n to the base.
LOWER LIAS

UPPER RHAETIC

= shales and t h i n bedded limestones = C o t h a m Marble, 6 in t h i c k = y e l l o w clay w i t h limestone bands, about 4 ft t h i c k = g r e y argillaceous limestone, 2y ft t h i c k = y e l l o w thinly-bedded argillaceous limestone, 4 ft t h i c k = greenish black shales, 1 ft t h i c k = h a r d grey limestone called the U p p e r Pecten bed, 1 ft t h i c k
2

T H E S E V E R N BRIDGE LOWER RHAETIC

45

IIUASSIC ROCKS

= b l a c k shales, 8 ft t h i c k = h a r d p y r i t i s e d limestone called the L o w e r Pecten bed, a f e w inches t h i c k = h a r d fissile paper shale, about 8 in t h i c k = the famous 'bone bed', 1 to 4 in t h i c k = G r e y or Tea Green Sandy M a r l , 3 ft t h i c k = h a r d sandy bed, 1 f t t h i c k = Grey or Tea Green Sandy M a r l , 18 ft t h i c k = R e d Marl, 52 ft thick = g y p s u m series, 25 ft t h i c k = R e d Sandy M a r l , 2 0 f t t h i c k

The red beds of the Triassic rocks have n o t revealed any fossils, but the w r i t e r has f o u n d leaf i m p r i n t s in the Keuper M a r l of W.iinlode Cliff, near T e w k e s b u r y . Of the fossil invertebrates f o u n d in the Rhaetic and L o w e r Lias beds, bivalves are the most c o m m o n . Next come arthropods and a f e w p l a n t remains. For the identification of fossils, the best b o o k is Mesozoic Fossils, published by the B r i t i s h Museum of N a t u r a l H i s t o r y , p r i c e 12s 6d.

CHAPTER

5

The

Severn

Bore

and

Hock

Cliff

The one t h i n g t h a t almost everyone k n o w s about the River Severn—and often i t i s a l l t h e y d o k n o w about i t — i s t h a t i t has a bore. Just w h a t a bore is and w h y the Severn has one w h e n other rivers, i n c l u d i n g even the m i g h t y Thames, do n o t , is less w e l l k n o w n , t h o u g h i t can b e s i m p l y explained. The behaviour o f a r i v e r i s determined b y the n a t u r e o f the rocks i t flows over and between, and the Thames flows over v e r y different rocks f r o m those of t h e Severn. In its t i d a l part, t h e Thames flows over a clay p l a i n w i t h n o h a r d bands o f r o c k t o complicate its manner o f f l o w i n g . The River Severn, too, flows over and alongside a t y p e of clay b u t in t h a t clay and above and b e l o w it are m a n y other bands of different and sometimes harder rocks. Its passage is f u r t h e r complicated, and n a v i g a t i o n u p o n i t made t h e m o r e hazardous, b y h a r d bands o f limestone w h i c h o u t c r o p t h r o u g h the clay, as w e l l as by s h i f t i n g shoals o f sands w h i c h occur i n m a n y o f the estuarine stretches o f the r i v e r . In fact, the Severn p r o b a b l y has m o r e sands and muds t h a n the Thames because the Severn Basin is in softer sedimentary rocks and also receives a h e a v y run-off f r o m the h i g h r a i n f a l l of t h e Welsh mountains. Let us n o w take a closer l o o k at the rocks w h i c h h o l d the 'secret' of the Severn's bore. H o c k Cliff, some five or six miles up-river f r o m Sharpness, is the best place to observe t h e m . Here, near Fretheme, t h e cliffs are of L o w e r Lias clay, and remember that, to a geologist, clays, sands and gravels are 'rocks', just as m u c h as m o r e obvious rocks such as limestone and granite. Remember, too, t h a t the L o w e r Lias is the oldest band of the rocks of the Jurassic system and was l a i d d o w n after the rocks of the Triassic system—so t h a t the rocks at H o c k Cliff, representing a p e r i o d a p p r o x i m a t e l y 170,000,000 years ago, are younger t h a n those of A u s t . H o c k Cliff is o f outstanding geological interest because i t is rare t o find a cliff or quarry-face o f clay w i t h the bands o f strata so c l e a r l y visible. U s u a l l y , c l a y either crumbles a w a y or is q u i c k l y

T H E S E V E R N BORE AND HOCK C L I F F

47

grassed over. We have already learned t h a t clays denote a m u d d y sea, rather deep, b u t i n the case o f H o c k Cliff i t is reasonable t o suppose t h a t the sea there was n o t as deep as in the area of N o r t h Gloucestershire and near Evesham. There the L o w e r Lias clays are 960 feet t h i c k , whereas at H o c k Cliff t h e y are o n l y between 200 t o 500 feet t h i c k . One s h o u l d n o t i n f e r f r o m this, however, t h a t a t h i c k

FIG. 20

I k<an<t of- argillaceous Uweshine--fiboufl it bVcK thinly [amruxkd shalts

, II0CK CLIFF near .FRtTHERME
Notlot, how rtit-jofrvfa run et an

cliffs of Lowe/ UaS Cf«y wiHi band* of [t'mcsfane. angle -to tde. 'cliff fa" jive triangular projections

Hock C L I F F

48

GEOLOGY I N T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

M A S T E R TOiNfTS

-

W T H E LOWER U A 5

AT HOCK C W F F F R E T H E R N E
/

deposit i n v a r i a b l y indicates a deep sea because this s i t u a t i o n can also occur w i t h a c o n s t a n t l y s i n k i n g sea bed. H o c k Cliff is no simple example of a clay cliff and a r i v e r f l o w i n g p l a c i d l y over a c l a y bed. The M e n d i p H i l l s , the eroded remnants of a m u c h larger range of limestone mountains, are n o t far a w a y a n d rivers r u n n i n g off t h a t range of mountains deposited the erosion debris i n the m u d d y seas b e l o w . Hence, i n the c l a y o f H o c k Cliff there are r e c u r r i n g bands of limestone about a f o o t t h i c k . T h e n u m b e r of bands to be seen varies w i t h the height of the tide, b u t an observer in 1901 reported seeing as m a n y as t w e l v e . The w r i t e r has seen three bands i n one p a r t o f the actual cliff structure, increasing to five f u r t h e r up the r i v e r , and has noticed t h a t t h e r e c u r r i n g p a t t e r n of the bands is repeated on the foreshore, w h i c h goes d o w n almost in limestone 'steps' set in the clay. The number of 'steps' visible again varies w i t h the height of the tide and the c o n d i t i o n of the w a t e r , b u t one constant and almost u n c a n n y feature i s the w a y i n w h i c h the limestone bands a l l 'strike' i n the same d i r e c t i o n . This consistent s i m i l a r i t y i n the d i r e c t i o n o f

T H E S E V E R N BORE AND HOCK C L I F F

49

the rocks is repeated in the cliffs above w h e r e the bands of l i m e stone n e a r l y a l l p r o j e c t f r o m the softer c l a y i n w h o l e lines o f triangular shapes at an angle of about forty-five degrees. T a k e n together, t h i s remarkable consistency, evident i n b o t h cliff and foreshore, makes it reasonable to assume t h a t the p a t t e r n is repeated on the bed of the r i v e r , and t h a t there are bands of h a r d r o c k o u t c r o p p i n g i n the clay.
T H E S O U R C E O F T H E BORE

A n d , l o o k i n g a t the w a t e r a t l o w tide, f u r t h e r c o n f i r m a t i o n i s t o b e f o u n d i n the occasional darker folds i n the w a t e r , a s i f i t w e r e r u n n i n g over ledges at those places. F u r t h e r m o r e , in those same places a higher level of 'rushingf noise can be d i s t i n c t l y heard against the b a c k g r o u n d of the water's gentle l a p p i n g against the m u d and stones of the foreshore. It is a m i c r o c o s m of a sound, the thunder o f a m i g h t y w a t e r f a l l represented i n m i n i a t u r e . B u t i t i s also the 'secret' of o u r famous Severn bore, f o r here we are o n l y a mile o r t w o a w a y f r o m t h a t p a r t o f F r a m p t o n Sand w h e r e the bore begins. For a detailed, m a t h e m a t i c a l exposition of the causes of the bore, the reader is recommended to Dr R. A. R. Tricker's excellent b o o k /lores , Breakers, Waves and Wakes (1964). Here o n l y a simple geological e x p o s i t i o n w i l l b e attempted, t h o u g h m e n t i o n m u s t b e made t h a t p a r t of Dr T r i c k e r ' s e x p l a n a t i o n is that, w h e r e the bore begins, the Severn encounters a sudden rise or 'step' in its bed. A n d a t Sharpness, o n l y t w o miles f u r t h e r d o w n s t r e a m , the w i d t h o f the
-

M\AKPWESS

SHALLOW WATER. V E R Y WIOE. STRETCH OF THE RiVER FRAMPToW S A N D

CONDITIONS A TAST T I D E

FOR

CAUSING-

THE

SEVERN

BORE S L O P I N G "BED

ENTERING, A

RIVER

WITH A

1)

50

GEOLOGY I N T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

r i v e r n a r r o w s r a p i d l y to o n l y one m i l e as against its t w o miles w i d t h at F r a m p t o n Sand. This c o n s t r i c t i o n of the r i v e r is the second m a i n reason f o r the bore and also has a geological explanation. Figure 23 explains the geological significance of the area r o u n d Sharpness and shows a convergence of the m a i n s t r u c t u r a l lines of the rocks w h i c h c o n t r o l the b u i l d o f this p a r t o f B r i t a i n . These rocks are h a r d , and a r i v e r f l o w i n g t h r o u g h h a r d rocks remains n a r r o w ; o n l y w h e n f l o w i n g t h r o u g h soft rocks does i t erode its banks and become w i d e . Thus the Severn is n a r r o w at Sharpness whereas, alongside F r a m p t o n Sand w h e r e t h e rocks are soft, the r i v e r widens o u t , a l t h o u g h there are here some dangerous bands of h a r d limestone r o c k w h i c h o u t c r o p t h r o u g h the c l a y i n 'steps'. I t should be m e n t i o n e d t h a t Silurian rocks o u t c r o p along the Severn at Tites Point near Sharpness. T h e y consist of calcareous shales a n d sandstones. W h e n the i n c o m i n g w a t e r piles up and is concentrated in the

T H E S E V E R N BORE AND HOCK C L I F F

51

W i r r o w part of the r i v e r at Sharpness the rate of f l o w is accelerated and the fast-moving w a t e r rushes on to meet the obstruction of a Htep of h a r d r o c k f o l l o w e d by the w i d e , s h a l l o w stretch of sand at I'rampton. Thus is f o r m e d t h e bore beginning at F r a m p t o n Sand.
HEIGHT AND S P E E D OF T H E BORE

The height of the bore depends on the configuration of F r a m p t o n Sand w h i c h , i n t u r n , i s c o n t r o l l e d b y the master joints i n the L o w e r Lias hedded limestones. The speed of the bore depends u p o n its height and the depth o f the r i v e r w a t e r . I n fact, there w i l l be n o bore at a l l if high-water at Sharpness is less t h a n t w e n t y - s i x feet, a situation w h i c h tends to occur at the Spring equinox, w i t h i n about t w o o r three days o f a n e w or f u l l m o o n . D r T r i c k e r points o u t i n his b o o k t h a t another factor affecting (lie speed of the bore is acceleration due to g r a v i t y and gives some

52

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

fascinating m a t h e m a t i c a l f o r m u l a e i l l u s t r a t i n g the state and speed of the bore in v a r y i n g circumstances. The f o r m u l a e m a y be somew h a t d a u n t i n g t o the average reader w h o m a y prefer t o settle f o r the t w o f o l l o w i n g useful pieces o f i n f o r m a t i o n : (i) A good definition of a t i d a l bore is t h a t it consists of a b o d y of w a t e r advancing u p the r i v e r w i t h the i n c o m i n g tide and h a v i n g a well-defined f r o n t w h i c h separates i t f r o m the s l o w l y ebbing w a t e r i n t o w h i c h i t i s advancing. T h a t f r o n t takes the f o r m of a w a v e or a series of waves. (ii) F r o m its i n c e p t i o n above Sharpness, the bore increases in height and attains its m a x i m u m between Framilode and Stonebench. Thereafter, the h e i g h t s l o w l y diminishes t o w a r d s Gloucester, a l t h o u g h the bore travels b e y o n d t h a t c i t y . It can b e w e l l observed a t M i n s t e r w o r t h o n t h e r i g h t bank o f the r i v e r , or at Framilode and Stonebench on the left. I f y o u observe the bore f r o m its p o i n t o f o r i g i n , stay a w h i l e t o l o o k at the rocks w h i c h cause it and to examine the types of fossils w h i c h help t o i d e n t i f y t h e m . Those limestone bands are called argillaceous limestones because t h e y are so clayey, the w o r d 'argillaceous' m e r e l y meaning ' c l a y e y ' . Local farmers, on the other h a n d , s i m p l y , and just as accurately, c a l l these stones 'claystones'. For centuries m e n have taken advantage of h a v i n g in these stones readymade ingredients f o r cement—finely g r o u n d clay and l i m e stone—and, in some places, these limestone beds are k n o w n as 'cement beds', and have been quarried in the past to make h y d r a u l i c cement.
T H E F O S S I L S A T HOCK C L I F F

H o c k Cliff is also a h a p p y h u n t i n g - g r o u n d f o r fossils b u t i t is a p e c u l i a r i t y of the area that, a l t h o u g h fossil fragments can often be f o u n d clustered t h i c k l y together, there are m a n y large expanses of r o c k w i t h o u t trace of a single fossil. These are w h e r e the presence of h i g h l y destructive i r o n sulphide in the clay has tended to discourage the s u r v i v a l of fossil remains. W h e r e fossils have survived the f o l l o w i n g are the most p l e n t i f u l and the most i n t e r e s t i n g : (i) Gryphaea arcuta, a curiously-curved oyster whose fossil shell, p o w d e r e d and m i x e d w i t h w h e y , was used i n the M i d d l e Ages as a cattle medicine. Fretherne foreshore, near H o c k Cliff, is i n t e r n a t i o n a l l y famous as a good place to find this fossil.

T H E S E V E R N BORE AND HOCK C L I F F

53

Section
F I G

stem,
(«,-e*Wt <f oystej)

' *
2

Belemnites: these l o o k l i k e slender bullets b u t are r e a l l y the hard calcareous 'guards' of an e x t i n c t creature w h i c h l o o k e d l i k e a squid. (iii) The limestones abound w i t h the c o l u m n a l fragments of the sea l i l y , Pentacrinus: these exquisitely-beautiful five-pointed star shapes are a cross-section of the m a i n stem and the dozens of dots w h i c h m a y sometimes be f o u n d near the stars are t h e cross-sections of the dozens of smaller branches or rootlets f r o m t h e m a i n stem. (iv) A m m o n i t e s : these can be f o u n d in t h e shales and are often pyritised, i.e. the fossil has been replaced by pyrites ( i r o n sulphide).

(ii)

CHAPTER

6

The

Severn

Terraces

The Severn shares a c o m m o n feature of most rivers in t h a t it has n a t u r a l terraces. Beyond those treacherous, gleaming m u d flats and the rocks w h i c h j u t o u t o f the w a t e r l i k e the teeth o f legendary reptiles, there are, f u r t h e r up the r i v e r , pleasant fields and meadows w h i c h w e r e a l l p a r t of a w i d e erosional v a l l e y carved o u t l o n g ago by the r i v e r i n t o a remarkable series of green 'terraces'. For in those far distant times the Severn, l i k e most other B r i t i s h rivers, was m u c h w i d e r , higher and m i g h t i e r t h a n i t i s n o w — t h e result o f the m e l t w a t e r of the ice-sheets and the heavier r a i n f a l l d u r i n g inter-glacial periods. This 'terrace' region is a quiet backwater, a s o f t l y pleasant l a n d r a t h e r l i k e the Constable c o u n t r y of Essex and Suffolk, w h e r e fertile fields are interspersed w i t h sleepy villages—Apperley, T i r l e y , N o r t o n , Deerhurst, Hasfield, A s h l e w o r t h , Sandhurst and Maisemore.
THE TERRACE VILLAGES

I f y o u branch off f r o m the H a w Bridge r o a d y o u w i l l get t o A p p e r l e y , w h e r e the lanes are l i n e d w i t h t y p i c a l houses of the plains, either in red b r i c k or h a l f - t i m b e r i n g . There is even an excellent example of an o l d c r u c k cottage at A p p e r l e y , conscientiously restored by Cheltenham R u r a l D i s t r i c t C o u n c i l , and a magnet f o r h i s t o r y students every year. Remember t h a t the k i n d o f housing w h i c h occurs most f r e q u e n t l y in any area is often a good p o i n t e r to l o c a l rocks since these u s u a l l y p r o v i d e d the b u i l d i n g materials f o r the poorer houses. This area is no exception and o n l y churches and the houses of the w e a l t h y have i m p o r t e d C o t s w o l d stone i n t h e i r fabric. Look at the m a p and y o u w i l l see t h a t A p p e r l e y is v e r y close t o the Severn. Y e t go t h r o u g h A p p e r l e y and y o u cannot at first see the Severn! But if there has been heavy r a i n u p - c o u n t r y and the r i v e r is in flood y o u can l o o k t h r o u g h the trees there and, surprisingly,

THE SEVERN TERRACES

55

A-Hajc of Appedey — a. crucK. c o f o y c Most of ( i t . Uouies on Hit clny pUiws are naif timbered or of reef fcricX

find y o u r s e l f gazing d o w n on flooded meadows resembling an i n l a n d sea. The village itself, standing over 100 feet above the flood p l a i n , is safe enough, b u t an abrupt descent w i l l b r i n g y o u t o the W h i t e L i o n I n n r i g h t b y the r i v e r , and here the unpredictable Severn has been k n o w n to lap up to the level of the bars!
VilU$t

Tht White. Lion InnApPEBUc-Y.

T%e village, of Apperley

if u j on tfii WiU.brra.ce.

In Hit- o l i d a y s fcargts t r o c h e coat

tdei/iUe^e-, deuce Hie n«"nc. Coal house fnay

56

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

The W h i t e L i o n served as a c o a l - w h a r f in the o l d days w h e n barges came up the r i v e r and d u m p e d the coal to be taken up to t h e n a t u r a l terrace o n w h i c h A p p e r l e y stands. Other pubs i m p o r t a n t i n local h i s t o r y are a t H a w Bridge and A s h l e w o r t h , also f o r m e r l y useful as f e r r y crossings or coal wharves. I f y o u t u r n a w a y f r o m the flood p l a i n and cross H a w Bridge y o u w i l l come t o the n e x t village, Hasfield, and again i t is obvious t h a t this is also on a terrace, a l t h o u g h a l o w e r one t h a n t h a t at A p p e r l e y . L i k e A p p e r l e y , Hasfield is safe f r o m the flood menace of the Severn, and this menace is a v e r y real one, f o r the Severn floods m u c h m o r e r a p i d l y t h a n the Thames. W h e n there are heavy w i n t e r rains i n Southern England, m u c h o f the w a t e r m e r e l y sinks i n t o the c h a l k r o c k s u r r o u n d i n g the Thames Basin, whereas the h a r d rocks of Wales a l l o w a r a p i d run-off, q u i c k l y b r i n g i n g the River Severn i n t o f u l l spate. Hence those village settlements clustering on the terraces.
T H E WOOLRIDGE T E R R A C E

Behind the village o f Hasfield there is another h i g h h i l l and, approaching the t i n y settlement of W o o l r i d g e , it is easy to see t h a t here is y e t another terrace, a k i n d of r e m n a n t plateau. This p a r t i c u lar 'flat' is also p a r t l y s t r u c t u r a l — t h e r e is evidence t h a t it is an ' o u t l i e r ' o f Rhaetic rocks f r o m w h i c h the s u r r o u n d i n g rocks have been eroded a w a y — b u t it is nevertheless s t i l l a r i v e r terrace carved o u t by the ancient Severn. L o o k at the fields around and y o u w i l l see t h a t t h e y are positively
HasfielJ Couft

A R.Vgg TERRACE FIG. 27

fie. village, of H « « f i e U I its on a/ e l W a . c c so, SO jtr WjH „f So frefc *bet/o &e Severn/ flooeL- »Ja£r),
5 r a v

THE SEVERN TERRACES

57

gleaming w i t h ploughed-up pebbles, some of t h e m quite large. These smooth, r o u n d pebbles are 'rocks' quite alien to this d i s t r i c t f o r t h e y are of Bunter Sandstone, w h i c h is f o u n d in the M i d l a n d s and have been swept here b y a n ancient r i v e r m i g h t y enough t o c a r r y along pebbles larger t h a n a man's fist. Professor L. J. W i l l s named this terrace the W o o l r i d g e Terrace (after the nearby village, not the famous geomorphologist, the late Prof. W o o l d r i d g e ) , and i f y o u l o o k across the Severn t o Sandhurst y o u w i l l see a similar terrace k n o w n as N o r t o n H i l l . But t o geomorphologists i t i s n o t s o m u c h N o r t o n H i l l b u t m o r e the W o o l r i d g e terrace once again because it is the same height, 250 feet, and was obviously f o r m e d at the same t i m e and subjected to the same conditions.

Geomorphology, i t should b e explained, i s the study o f the f o r m of the g r o u n d , of the shape w h i c h a landscape has taken o w i n g to relatively recent erosion and r e l a t i v e l y recent and therefore '.superficial' deposits. A r a p i d l y developing n a t u r a l science, geomorphology already promises to achieve some independence b o t h of geology and of physical geography b u t , w h i l e the boundaries s t i l l overlap, areas such as the Severn Terraces r e m a i n a source of endless fascination to this n e w k i n d of scientist, so abundant are the clues they offer to the v a r y i n g behaviour of l a n d and w a t e r . To the tourist, the terraces offer panoramic v i e w s of b r e a t h t a k i n g beauty. I f y o u stand j u s t above the village o f Sandhurst and l o o k out across the Severn y o u can see east to the Cotswolds, south to Gloucester Cathedral a n d far a w a y north-west to the Malverns. A n d b e l o w y o u , the Severn glints a m o n g the trees and fields, appearing, disappearing, reappearing, c o n s t a n t l y changing its character w i t h the changing l i g h t o f day.

So

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

A n d w h e n y o u are u p there, o r o n the W o o l r i d g e Terrace o n t h e opposite side of the r i v e r , l o o k o u t also f o r the erosion scars on the hillside, those ancient meander scars the r i v e r made w h e n it was f l o w i n g a t this m u c h greater height, fed b y the m e l t i n g ice o f the great c o n t i n e n t a l p o l a r ice-caps. T h a t was, v e r y r o u g h l y , about 10,000 years ago, and w i t h i n the last m i l l i o n years or so there have been several w a r m inter-glacial periods d u r i n g w h i c h w a t e r f r o m m e l t i n g ice-sheets f l o w e d south f r o m the M i d l a n d s creating great rivers w h i c h spewed gravels f r o m the M i d l a n d s a l l over the plains w h e r e we n o w see t h e Severn

terraces. These gravel terraces are thus related to periods w h e n the ancient Severn was m u c h bigger and h a d far greater erosive p o w e r t h a n t o d a y and represent m u c h longer intervals o f t i m e t h a n t h e steps in between w h i c h relate to a p e r i o d w h e n the r i v e r was c u t t i n g d o w n more r a p i d l y . A n d , i n c i d e n t a l l y , f o r those interested i n archaeology, i t i s w o r t h w h i l e keeping a l o o k o u t f o r the f l i n t implements of Palaeolithic M a n and the m a m m o t h remains t h a t are sometimes to be f o u n d in the terrace gravels. As the gravels on the 250 f t - h i g h W o o l r i d g e Terrace are o b v i o u s l y the oldest, the sequence of w h a t has occurred in geomorphological t i m e is, i n this instance, the v e r y reverse o f w h a t happens i n geological t i m e . W i l l i a m S m i t h , i t w i l l be remembered, p r o v e d t h a t

THE SEVERN TERRACES FIG. 30 Woolrli-qc Terrace a.s» it

59

120 }e<.t

terrace.

tWnry

Severn

of tit

" t e Severn terraces between AMtWeYtW and- Haw Bridcp r> w h e n rocks are h o r i z o n t a l the older beds are those w h i c h are b e l o w and those on t o p are younger. Y e t on the Severn terraces we have the older beds (of gravel) up above. B u t this is characteristic of the w h o l e complicated geological h i s t o r y of the Severn, t h o u g h neither geologists n o r local farmers have a n y reason to c o m p l a i n about i t . For geologists, the region is one of altogether exceptional c u r i o s i t y and interest. As f o r the farmers, thanks to the conditions created by the Severn, t h e y are f a r m i n g good a l l u v i a l soil, and even the river's unpredictable flooding is no hardship to t h e m because the n e t w o r k of terraces provides superb high-and-dry sites f o r farms and villages. The l a n d is fertile and also easy to w o r k because it is k e p t w e l l drained by the u n d e r l y i n g sand and gravel. F i n a l l y , roads can r u n across the higher flats of l a n d , so c o m p l e t e l y a v o i d i n g the flood plain.
terraced ol<t wieandef scars

-Developmtfnt- of FIG. 31

e

river terrace

TU .steps" indicate periods when H, rii/er w«r fbwinj faster; "rtie jtats wWe it wtr f&winc; slowly
e

CHAPTER

7

The

Cheltenham

Sands

'Cheltenham Sands' are n o t f o u n d o n l y at Cheltenham, and the t e r m applies equally t o m a n y other deposits o f s i m i l a r sands f o u n d scattered haphazardly over the Severn Vale. T h e y are classified by geologists as superficial deposits and it is interesting to m a p b o t h the areas w h e r e t h e y are f o u n d and the locations w h e r e village settlements have existed f o r hundreds o f years. I t w i l l be f o u n d t h a t t h e y dovetail v e r y n e a t l y i f y o u g o back t o Saxon times. W h e n the Romans left B r i t a i n i n the f o u r t h c e n t u r y A D , t h e Saxon invaders began to settle in p l a i n areas, w h i c h h a d been deliberately avoided b y the earlier N e o l i t h i c and I r o n Age tribes because t h e y had no heavy tools capable of w o r k i n g the heavy c l a y soil. Instead, t h e y k e p t to areas l i k e the Cotswolds and the Chilterns w h i c h h a d m u c h l i g h t e r soils and w h e r e the forest cover was thinner. B u t the Saxons b r o u g h t w i t h t h e m better p l o u g h i n g implements and so w e r e able to w o r k the heavy Lias clays of the plains. At the same t i m e t h e y looked a r o u n d f o r d r y sites f o r t h e i r homes and these t h e y f o u n d w h e r e v e r there w e r e deposits of sand. This practice o f seeking sand o n w h i c h t o b u i l d was pursued r i g h t u p t o the last c e n t u r y , and Cheltenham itself was, o r i g i n a l l y , m e r e l y a single street on a convenient patch of sand. Today, h o w ever, the c i t y has g r o w n so b i g t h a t it has sprawled far b e y o n d t h a t o r i g i n a l p a t c h of sand and m a n y of its houses are b u i l t on clay. A n y o n e l u c k y enough to have a house on the sands in Cheltenham w i l l be d r y and his garden w i l l be easy t o c u l t i v a t e , whereas i f his neighbour's house on the opposite side of the r o a d happens to have been b u i l t on c l a y his w a l l s m a y tend to crack, w i n d o w frames go s l i g h t l y askew, c h i m n e y stacks get o u t o f a l i g n m e n t — a n d he w i l l p r o b a b l y always be c o m p l a i n i n g t h a t his house is damp. O b v i o u s l y , then, anyone b u y i n g a house w o u l d be well-advised to find o u t the whereabouts and depth of these superficial deposits of sands i n his neighbourhood. T h e y v a r y w i d e l y i n thickness f r o m

T H E CHELTENHAM SANDS

61

n e a r l y zero i n some parts o f the c o u n t r y t o a m a x i m u m depth o f f i f t y feet at C h a r l t o n Kings, w h i c h m a y help to e x p l a i n the great prosperity of this p a r t i c u l a r area! The villages of S w i n d o n , Gotherington, C h u r c h d o w n (not Churchd o w n H i l l ) , Bishops Cleeve, A l d e r t o n and T w y n i n g a l l originated o n patches o f sand. I f y o u v i s i t t h e m , l o o k o u t f o r diligent gardeners i n the older parts of the villages and notice the l i g h t sandy soils being t u r n e d up by the spade. The n e w housing-estates g r o w i n g up r o u n d villages have, however, t o p u t u p w i t h heavy c l a y w h i c h , n o doubt, explains the occasional untended garden one sees on these estates.
FIG. 3 2

CoTHERtl4GToN
village, centre

A t G o t h e r i n g t o n , b y w a y o f contrast, the present shape o f the village reflects almost e x a c t l y the o u t c r o p of the Cheltenham Sands, despite the fact t h a t G o t h e r i n g t o n has seen a dramatic rate of g r o w t h d u r i n g the last f e w years. The e x p l a n a t i o n i s t h a t m u c h o f t h a t g r o w t h has occurred by the process of ' i n f i l l i n g ' between existing houses and spreading o u t f u r t h e r along existing belts of sand. The sands are n o t o n l y valuable as sites b u t also provide basic b u i l d i n g m a t e r i a l f o r t h e rapidly-developing areas a r o u n d Cheltenh a m . A n d w h e n s i x t y tons o f sand and gravel are needed t o b u i l d a single house, the nearby presence of sand has obvious economic advantages. So, understandably enough, b u i l d i n g firms are constantly c l a m o u r i n g f o r permits f r o m the p l a n n i n g authorities t o excavate f o r sand. But w h a t happens w h e n it is excavated ? At the b o t t o m of the n e w l y - d u g sandpit is the f a m i l i a r L o w e r Lias clay, and as w a t e r w i l l n o t d r a i n a w a y t h r o u g h i t , the p i t soon fills u p

62

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

w i t h r a i n w a t e r . A t one t i m e some a t t e m p t was made t o keep these n e w ponds as sailing areas f o r y o u t h clubs b u t most authorities n o w t e n d t o insist u p o n the w a t e r being p u m p e d o u t and the pits filled i n w i t h rubbish t o make sites f o r school p l a y i n g fields o r n e w housing developments. B u t w h a t e v e r use t h e y are p u t to t h e y are c e r t a i n l y going to be a b i t of a headache f o r archaeological societies excavating t h e m again i n hundreds o f years' t i m e ! A p i t filled i n w i t h the debris of a demolished Regency house plus the refuse of t w e n t i e t h - c e n t u r y l i v i n g w i l l b e quite a p r o b l e m t o interpret correctly.
T H E ORIGIN O F T H E SANDS

The grains of the sands are n i n e t y per cent quartz and t h e r e m a i n i n g minerals indicate t h a t they are derived f r o m Triassic sands f r o m the Midlands. F u r t h e r evidence of t h e i r o r i g i n are the facts t h a t the grains are s i m i l a r in size to desert sand of today, and t h a t if e x a m i n e d under a microscope t h e y have the t y p i c a l suboval shape of desert sand grains. A s f o r the m e t h o d o f t h e i r j o u r n e y f r o m the Midlands, this i s suggested b y t h e i r v a r y i n g thicknesses and b y the v a r y i n g altitudes at w h i c h t h e y are f o u n d — f r o m about 130 feet to 370 feet near D o w d e s w e l l . These variations indicate a w i n d - b o r n e action and, as the sands are of recent o r i g i n , t h e y c o u l d have been carried by w i n d s f r o m the M i d l a n d s d u r i n g a d r y glacial p e r i o d of, say, some 200,000 years ago. Eroded fossils f r o m the Lias c l a y are f o u n d in some deposits so e v i d e n t l y , in a subsequent w e t inter-glacial p e r i o d , the sands w e r e p a r t i a l l y re-sorted by streams r u n n i n g off t h e Cotswolds. Such w i n d - b l o w n sands are also to be f o u n d in m a n y other parts of t h e w o r l d , i n c l u d i n g Europe and i n vast areas o f N o r t h China. There t h e y are k n o w n as 'loess' and deposits as deep as 1,000 feet have been discovered i n N o r t h C h i n a .
T H E ORIGIN O F T H E G R A V E L

I t w i l l be recalled t h a t i n the previous chapter o n the Severn terraces presence of gravel was seen to prove t h a t the r i v e r h a d 'been there before', and sometimes large deposits of gravel are f o u n d parallel w i t h deposits of the Cheltenham Sands. There are, f o r example, large gravel deposits at W h i t m i n s t e r , near Beckford, and again at T w y n i n g , w h e r e huge quantities are n o w being

T H E C H E L T E N H A M SANDS

63

TWYNINCT

excavated, presenting a dramatic p i c t u r e of the i m p a c t of the l a t e r Ice Ages on t h e face of t h e earth. Figure 33 shows t h a t the village of T w y n i n g is sited on the Cheltenham Sands, w h i l e deeper d o w n are beds of gravel. At t h e v e r y base there are quite large boulders of Bunter Sandstone ( f r o m the Midlands), M a l v e r n rocks and even large f l i n t nodules. These stones f r o m different areas are a great help to geomorphologists in tracing the movements of the ice-sheets, and even p r o v i d e a clue to the size and force of the torrents of w a t e r w h i c h w e r e released w h e n they m e l t e d . The ice l a y t o the n o r t h o f the M i d l a n d s f o r m a n y thousands o f years and, w h e n it melted, large boulders w e r e swept southwards as far as the Severn Vale. Some of these boulders, called 'erratics', were t w o feet o r m o r e i n w i d t h and there i s one such monster i n the Gloucester M u s e u m . L o o k i n g at i t , one can o n l y m a r v e l at the I'orce and p o w e r of a t o r r e n t of w a t e r capable of t r a n s p o r t i n g such a heavy object f o r so m a n y miles. Map 7 and Figure 34 overleaf show the changes w h i c h t o o k place after the Ice Ages began some 1V m i l l i o n years ago, as revealed by the latest 'Carbon 14' d a t i n g methods. Some fascinating hours can be spent in r a m b l i n g r o u n d the excavations at T w y n i n g , l o o k i n g at the boulders and pebbles of so m a n y different sizes, colours and combinations of m i n e r a l content, .Hid d e t e r m i n i n g t h e i r different places of o r i g i n . M a m m o t h teeth, hones of deer, and teeth of the w o o l l y rhinoceros have all been found in these gravels, b u t it is rare f o r the bones of Palaeolithic
2

64

GEOLOGY I N T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

M a n t o t u r n up—his remains h a d l i t t l e chance o f s u r v i v a l i n such a hostile e n v i r o n m e n t . T h e gravels at W h i t m i n s t e r are n o t such a collector's paradise. O n l y a f e w 'alien' rocks occasionally t u r n u p a n d m o s t o f the gravel consists o f C o t s w o l d debris. This i s n o t s u r p r i s i n g since, even i f these limestone h i l l s w e r e free of ice, the s o i l i t s e l f w a s p e r m a n e n t l y frozen and m u s t have generated q u i t e a r a p i d r u n o f f of w a t e r .
T H E W A T E R S O F CHELTENHAM

Cheltonians have m o r e reason t h a n m o s t citizens f o r t a k i n g a n interest i n the geology o f the site o f t h e i r t o w n , f o r n o t o n l y w a s i t o r i g i n a l l y chosen because o f the sands n o w k n o w n a s the C h e l t e n h a m Sands b u t its subsequent r a p i d g r o w t h was d i r e c t l y due
•Ridcts of dentine, and tnoMti ^Xf alt. Only faurhcth are, use*- at* a time. on* in cask naff of rtie-jaiV. As Sity are worn, down tiiey are- pushed forward-. Species of mam»nfitn5 are. identified \*y tne pattern, cf- ttece. ytaces.
;

FIG. 3 4

-jound at Twymhcj.

MOLAR, TOOTH

of A

MAMMOTH

one foot" iw Iftlfifcn

ElephaS prima-tienius

The scene n<tr "Bre-4.cn Will by the. ice front about S'aopco years ajo.
c

"Tbrrevits iss**i 5 ^rbwl caue-s in tHe ice , a boulae/" grave/ arid sand platVi 'Talaeoiitnic (Hal 4 Hie Achculian penW. of culture hunting manmotds,
rt

T H E C H E L T E N H A M SANDS

65

(o the nature of the rocks on w h i c h it stands. Wells sunk in the L o w e r Lias clay almost a n y w h e r e in Gloucestershire m a y y i e l d a k i n d of saline w a t e r and even spring w a t e r , issuing f r o m the sand and gravel deposits resting on the clay, is often s i m i l a r l y impregnated. Cheltenham's famous saline waters also originate in the L o w e r Lias and do n o t , as was once t h o u g h t , rise through fissures i n the L o w e r Lias f r o m the u n d e r l y i n g Keuper M a r l . The p r o b l e m of t h e i r s a l i n i t y , h o w e v e r , is difficult to understand when one considers the nature of the L o w e r Lias. The first spring to be discovered in Cheltenham was f o u n d on a Mr Mason's g r o u n d and, f o r about t w o years after its discovery, it remained open and accessible to people of the t o w n and neighbourhood. In 1718, it was r a i l e d i n , locked up and a l i t t l e shed erected over i t , its w a t e r being sold as a medicine u n t i l 1721. In 1738, Captain H e n r y Skillicorne n o t o n l y erected a p u m p r o o m 'on the west side f o r the drinkers . . . b u t protected the spring f r o m
E

66

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

a l l extraneous m a t t e r ' . A b o u t fifty-eight gallons o f the w a t e r w e r e d r a w n d a i l y f r o m this, the o r i g i n a l O l d o r R o y a l W e l l . But i t was George I l l ' s v i s i t t o Cheltenham i n 1788 t o take the waters w h i c h r e a l l y p u t Cheltenham o n the n a t i o n a l m a p and n e w w e l l s w e r e r a p i d l y sunk i n m a n y parts o f the t o w n . B y 1814, a s m a n y a s t h i r t y - f o u r w e l l s and springs w e r e in use f o r d r i n k i n g purposes at the p u m p rooms or f o r the manufacture of salts. This n u m b e r later rose t o m o r e t h a n f i f t y , books and pamphlets p r o l i f e r a t e d i n t r i b u t e to the remedial properties of the waters, and the p o p u l a t i o n of the t o w n increased f r o m 1,500 i n 1666 t o 31,385 i n 1841. Cheltenham is no longer a spa t o w n m a i n l y e x i s t i n g f o r the e x p l o i t a t i o n of its waters b u t even its later g r o w t h can be d i r e c t l y CheltenKujm Spa

ZDtffl-r*«n. to s&iow the orCo'm of the- Cheltenham- **Hncral Sprites. U-ndej-cjroanet waiter tends to iloW ctoWn the- direction of cLcp. " h theory that the w a t e r originateoC frun, ttie Keu-per- JMarf- is not hekt fecial Te
e

CHELTENHA/vA

SPA

a t t r i b u t e d to its geology. The sudden spectacular p o p u l a r i t y of the waters made it possible to p l a n and b u i l d on a grand overall scale never before k n o w n i n English t o w n s , w h i c h had p r e v i o u s l y g r o w n up piecemeal. Cheltenham is thus a planned t o w n , and one of the first examples o f t o w n p l a n n i n g a s w e k n o w i t t o d a y . A n d h o w f o r t u n a t e indeed f o r Cheltenham t h a t discovery o f its m i n e r a l waters was made before present-day mass m e d i c a t i o n ! Analyses v a r y , of course, b u t most of Cheltenham's famous waters m e r e l y c o n t a i n p e r m u t a t i o n s of those h u m b l e ingredients magnesium sulphate, s o d i u m sulphate and s o d i u m c h l o r i d e ! These and o t h e r minerals m a y occur i n the waters because o f the presence o f i r o n sulphides and bands of limestones in the clays. Percolating w a t e r sometimes reaches the surface o w i n g to the general southeasterly dip of the strata (see Figure 35), b u t a l l kinds of c h e m i c a l changes can go on u n d e r g r o u n d w i t h the r e a c t i o n of the sulphides and the c a l c i u m carbonate of the limestones. N o t a l l t h e w a t e r under Cheltenham, h o w e v e r , is so h e a v i l y

T H E CHELTENHAM SANDS

67

impregnated w i t h minerals, and those early Saxons w h o settled on the Cheltenham sands f o u n d good d r i n k i n g w a t e r easy to o b t a i n merely b y digging s h a l l o w w e l l s i n the sand deposits. Today, m a n y of these w e l l s in the sands have been sealed off because t h e y are too liable to c o n t a m i n a t i o n f r o m house and garden refuse and m i g h t become a danger to health. W h e n operating under favourable conditions, however, the ( m o u n t of w a t e r w h i c h can be gained f r o m these w e l l s is amazing. There are t w o m a i n w e l l s s t i l l w o r k i n g i n the Cheltenham Sands, .it Sandford Park, by the L i d o , and at the Cheltenham B r e w e r y in ilie H i g h Street. The w e l l at Sandford Park goes t w e n t y - f o u r feet i n t o the sands and yields some 200,000 gallons a day, w h i c h is pumped to the o u t l y i n g h i l l o f H e w l e t t ' s Reservoir t o get the necessary pressure f o r d i s t r i b u t i o n . The Cheltenham B r e w e r y w e l l is thirty-five feet deep, w i t h the b o t t o m resting o n L o w e r Lias clay, and the average y i e l d is 27,000 gallons a d a y .

CHAPTER

8

The

Churchdown

Outlier

An o u t l i e r , as m e n t i o n e d earlier, is an area of r o c k separated by erosion f r o m the m a i n mass—and this dissection by erosion is precisely w h a t has happened to the C o t s w o l d escarpment. It once l a y v e r y close to the Severn, and m i g h t even have extended as far as the W e l s h borderlands, b u t , in the course of m i l l i o n s of years, the escarpment has been eroded back eastwards —rather u n e v e n l y and leaving remnants here and there. H o w e v e r , these o u t l y i n g h i l l s d o have some sort o f a l i g n m e n t o f t h e i r o w n and M a p 8 shows one of the ancient lines of the C o t s w o l d escarpment. T h e eroded debris f r o m the escarpment has l o n g since disappeared i n t o the sea, carried there by r i v e r w a t e r , b u t these outliers are,

OUTLIERS

T H E CHURCHDOWN O U T L I E R

69

V/ictv of ChttrcWcUwn -from Huccltcote.

ncvertheless, i m p o r t a n t subjects of study f o r anyone interested in geology. This is because the C o t s w o l d escarpment as it is t o d a y is often covered w i t h slipped-down masses o f U p p e r Lias c l a y and Inferior Oolite debris w h i c h conceals the m a i n outcrops of r o c k whereas those in the o u t l y i n g hills are m u c h less obscured. M o r e over, being open to inspection ' a l l the w a y r o u n d ' , as it were, these outliers are n a t u r a l l y far better places f o r s t u d y i n g t h e various divisions of the L o w e r Jurassic system. The C h u r c h d o w n o u t l i e r is p a r t i c u l a r l y interesting because it forms a v e r y conspicuous topographical feature of the p l a i n between Gloucester and Cheltenham. Its name, i n c i d e n t a l l y , is derived f r o m 'Circesdune', a c o m b i n a t i o n of 'Cruc', meaning ' r o u n d ' , and ' D u n ' , meaning ' h i l l ' — s o the name m e r e l y means ' r o u n d h i l l ' and does n o t refer to a n y c h u r c h in the l o c a l i t y . T h e general v i e w of Churchdown f r o m any direction is that of a flat-topped or tabular h i l l and Figure 36 shows i t as seen f r o m Hucclecote. I t is best t o ascend the h i l l f r o m the Hucclecote side because changes in its geology are clearly visible in the fields on this side. Round about the 300 ft level, the slope of the g r o u n d becomes steeper, c o i n c i d i n g w i t h sandy ferruginous soils in v a r y i n g shades of rusty b r o w n ; a reddish-brown c o l o u r i n g being a m a r k e d feature l o c a l l y o f this M i d d l e Lias t y p e o f r o c k . I n fact, the m a i n b u l k o f the C h u r c h d o w n o u t l i e r (half a m i l e across) consists of M i d d l e Lias rock l y i n g o n t o p o f the older L o w e r Lias. This is n o t good arable l a n d . W h e n percolating w a t e r reaches the L o w e r Lias clay b e l o w , it creates a slippery underground base and w h o l e masses of the hillside m o v e d o w n h i l l . The results of this m o v e m e n t can clearly be seen a l l r o u n d the slopes of C h u r c h d o w n h i l l , h i g h l i g h t e d b y the occasional tree w h i c h leans d r u n k e n l y i n an effort to adjust itself to its shifting foundations. This slip process is t y p i c a l of a l l the M i d d l e Lias areas of the C o t s w o l d slopes, so t h a t farmers tend to use such l a n d o n l y as

70

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

permanent pasture. A n d even this l i m i t e d use is often f u r t h e r restricted by prolific invasions of gorse (Ulex europaeus) w h i c h , as recent research by Dr Eric Jones of Nuffield College has s h o w n , r a p i d l y colonises disturbed g r o u n d such as w h e r e archaeologists have been at a ' d i g ' , the sites of deserted a r m y camps and airfields o r w h e r e landslides have occurred. O n one side o f C h u r c h d o w n H i l l , in p a r t i c u l a r , w h e r e the U p p e r Lias sands rest on U p p e r Lias clay, a v e r y considerable expanse o f gorse w i l l be n o t i c e d . F u r t h e r u p the h i l l , o n t h e steep sides, there are numerous badger holes in t h e sandy soil w h i c h these animals prefer, limestone being t o o h a r d and clay far t o o s t i c k y f o r t h e i r claws. These holes are always a b o o n to the geologist e x p l o r i n g ' i n the field' as the badgers' q u a r r y i n g activities often uncover m u c h interesting detail w h i c h w o u l d otherwise have become o v e r g r o w n and passed unnoticed. A t about t h e 450-foot level, a n d close t o t h e t o p o f t h e h i l l , there is a steep, almost cliff-like, slope caused by a b a n d of h a r d r o c k k n o w n as the Marlstone, a f o r m of sandy limestone, or ironstone, w h i c h often occurs at the t o p of the M i d d l e Lias and w h i c h the amateur geologist should n o t confuse w i t h the Keuper M a r l .
TinKsrs 'lilt

£rfa for new reservoir
Sinpliftta. blo-cK Siaeyum of CKurchdoWo Hill Outlier". Pint trees emw Well on ffce

Sandy .Soil* of Ik Niidk lifts

T H E CHURCHDOWN O U T L I E R

71

CHURCHDOWN H I L L

A l t h o u g h the Marlstone in this case is o n l y some ten to fifteen feet t h i c k , i t forms a h a r d cap t o the t o p o f C h u r c h d o w n H i l l and so has saved it f r o m being eroded d o w n to the level of the clay plains (as has happened w i t h the l a n d between C h u r c h d o w n and the present m a i n C o t s w o l d escarpment). This h a r d and almost h o r i z o n t a l band of the Marlstone, itself resistant to erosion, is also the cause o f the flat shape o f the t o p o f the h i l l . Figure 37 is a generalised b l o c k diagram o f C h u r c h d o w n H i l l s h o w i n g its general f o r m of relief and its m a i n features of general interest.

1H« Chuvch is built en a Wafd. rocky pforrii:"l"*VTce?T TWC »toirte„ w & U on tne left is vnacte of oelevnvubCc nAarlston©"Here at C h u r c h d o w n , and in this p a r t of the C o t s w o l d escarpment, the Marlstone is m u c h m o r e sandy t h a n elsewhere. M i l l i o n s of years ago, it was deposited in the sandy bays of the L o w e r Jurassic sea and as m a n y shell-bearing animals l i v e d i n those shallow seas the Marlstone r o c k is v e r y fossiliferous, the most noticeable fossils being bivalves (e.g. the Pectinids—Tecten) and belemnites. It is also a v e r y ferruginous t y p e of r o c k , w h i c h is w h y springs issuing f r o m the M i d d l e Lias are often a r u s t y b r o w n in c o l o u r and have a h i g h i r o n content.

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GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

The c h u r c h of St B a r t h o l o m e w , on C h u r c h d o w n H i l l , is b u i l t on a r o c k y eminence of t h e Marlstone, b u t t h o u g h the stone was once quarried there—remains of the o l d q u a r r y lie between t h e c h u r c h and the reservoirs—it is n o t good b u i l d i n g m a t e r i a l because the fossils are large and, w h e n attacked and etched o u t by frost, give the r o c k a ragged l o o k . This is p a r t i c u l a r l y noticeable on the w a l l b y the c h u r c h w h e r e the d o m i n a n t fossils i n the Marlstone blocks can be p l a i n l y seen. The M i d d l e Lias Marlstone has a general tendency to f o r m platforms w i t h flat summits and steep sides because the soft sands and clays of the U p p e r Lias, w h i c h lie above this r o c k , are as r a p i d l y eroded as the soft c l a y of the L o w e r Lias w h i c h lies b e l o w i t . T h i s erosion battle can be observed to p a r t i c u l a r l y good effect on C h u r c h d o w n H i l l , the highest p o i n t o f w h i c h is on the western corner, by Y e w Tree Cottage, w h e r e a tenacious r e m n a n t of U p p e r Lias sands reaches a s u m m i t of 511 feet. Figure 39 explains this.

Geological Section of Churchdown Hill

1"* Middle Lias is about IS"0 ft thicK

As f o r the adjoining Tinkers' H i l l this, in the w r i t e r ' s v i e w , is a slipped-down mass of Marlstone, as it reaches a height of o n l y 350 feet, whereas o n C h u r c h d o w n H i l l the Marlstone outcrops at about 450 feet. The h i l l already has large covered-in reservoirs on its s u m m i t and m o r e are to be added in the near f u t u r e to cater f o r the evere x p a n d i n g populations of Cheltenham and Gloucester. The h i l l is also the site f o r a BBC booster aerial f o r television—an equally v i t a l modern commodity. But the ' f o l k w h o live o n the h i l l ' probably d o n o t w o r r y overm u c h about progress on these reservoirs. For surface r a i n w a t e r on the h i l l i s retained i n the w a t e r - h o l d i n g f o r m a t i o n o f the Marlstone — k n o w n as an 'aquifer'—and sinks s l o w l y t h r o u g h the sandy beds of the M i d d l e Lias to be released at springs w h e r e the j u n c t i o n occurs w i t h the impervious L o w e r Lias clay. A good example of one of these springs can be seen in use by the f a r m to the n o r t h of The Green at C h u r c h d o w n .

CHAPTER

9

Robins

Wood

Hill

Robin's W o o d H i l l , o n l y t w o miles f r o m the centre o f Gloucester, was once k n o w n as 'Mattes K n o w l e ' — t h e name, l i k e t h a t of nearby Matson, deriving f r o m the de Matteson f a m i l y w h o became lords of the m a n o r after the N o r m a n Conquest. Matson s t i l l perpetuates their m e m o r y b u t the h i l l n o w bears the name o f an o l d Gloucestershire f a m i l y , the Robins, generations of w h o m leased the l a n d f o r sheep-farming f r o m 1526 u n t i l 1759.
Suburbs of £ l o u c a » t e f *

Robin's W o o d H i l l has k n o w n other occupations beside f a r m i n g , however, and at its f o o t there is s t i l l t o be seen an o l d b r i c k w o r k s , n o w derelict, w h i c h was once t h e prosperous and w e l l - k n o w n Tuffley B r i c k w o r k s (Figure 41). The bricks w e r e made f r o m the L o w e r Lias c l a y w h i c h forms the f o u n d a t i o n o f the h i l l and, i n its n a t u r a l state, is bluey-grey in colour o w i n g to the presence of finely-disseminated i r o n sulphide. On exposure to weather, hydrat i o n o f the i r o n minerals changes the c o l o u r o f the clay t o b r o w n . But the real misfortune of the Tuffley B r i c k w o r k s , as of other once equally-famous b u t n o w abandoned l o c a l b r i c k w o r k s , was that, b y comparison w i t h an U p p e r Jurassic clay, L o w e r Lias clay is an unreliable m a t e r i a l for m o d e r n b r i c k m a k i n g and unless p r o d u c t i o n

74

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

TH-E STRATA ArT TUPFLCY OLD BRICKWORKS ,-RpBtNS WOOT> IAV,u»L_

i s scientifically, and expensively, c o n t r o l l e d bricks made f r o m i t w i l l often shatter d u r i n g firing o r else disintegrate later o n i n the w a l l s i n t o w h i c h t h e y are b u i l t . T o d a y a greater p a r t of the 760 m i l l i o n bricks produced each m o n t h i n Great B r i t a i n are made f r o m an U p p e r Jurassic c l a y — t h e O x f o r d C l a y near Peterborough. A t the abandoned Tuffley B r i c k w o r k s relics o f the chancy business of using L o w e r Lias c l a y m a y s t i l l be seen—blue-grey bricks left w h e r e t h e y w e r e being air-dried, red bricks w h i c h l o o k p e r f e c t l y sound, and fragments o f shattered red b r i c k w h i c h have on t h e m a w h i t e crust of s o d i u m sulphate. There should also be evidence nearby of another abandoned i n d u s t r y — a n i r o n w o r k s , b u t a l l trace o f i t n o w seems t o have vanished. Y e t the records of its existence are q u i t e clear and a G o v e r n m e n t p u b l i c a t i o n of 1952, 'The Liassic Ironstones' (Geological Survey Memoirs), s t a t e d : ' A c c o r d i n g to P. B. Brodie ( i n Gavey 1853, p.31) ironstone was f o r m e r l y w o r k e d at Robin's W o o d H i l l , near Gloucester, and W o o d w a r d (1893, p.31) adds t h a t the f o r g i n g o f i r o n appeared t o have been carried o u t there to a considerable extent, the ore being dug out of the h i l l . ' A n y geologist l o o k i n g u p a t the cliffs o f Tuffley q u a r r y w i l l f i n d this quite credible f o r , higher u p , the cliffs begin to change colour. The blue-grey of the L o w e r Lias c l a y rock-face gets m o r e and m o r e sandy u n t i l a t h i n band of ironstone nodules can be seen, t h e i r n u m b e r steadily increasing as the eye travels higher up the rockface. I n fact, the i r o n c o n t e n t i s n o w o n l y about ten t o t w e n t y per

ROBIN'S WOOD H I L L

75

cent, w h i c h i s n o t h i g h enough t o make i t w o r t h m i n i n g . These are the same ferruginous rocks as those in the M i d d l e Lias o f C h u r c h d o w n H i l l and, w h e n traced n o r t h w a r d s , can be seen t o have given rise to the early steel industries of B r i t a i n . It appears at Cleveland in Y o r k s h i r e , in the great open-cast quarries of G r a n t h a m , M e l t o n M o w b r a y and i n the B a n b u r y districts. T o d a y , h o w e v e r , more t h a n h a l f o f the t o t a l o u t p u t o f B r i t i s h iron-ore comes f r o m the I n f e r i o r Oolite, the rocks of the M i d d l e Jurassic series. This is called the N o r t h a m p t o n ironstone and extends f r o m L i n c o l n t o Grantham.
THE CLIFF AT TUFFLEY

At the t o p of Tuffley q u a r r y there is another cliff-face set f u r t h e r back, and this 'near t o p ' of the L o w e r Lias rocks forms a convenient grassy p l a t f o r m o n w h i c h t o w a l k r o u n d and l o o k u p a t the finest i n l a n d exposure of the M i d d l e Lias rocks to be f o u n d in England. Here grey shales f i n a l l y c u l m i n a t e at the t o p w i t h the Marlstone

THE MARLSTONET ROCKVBED ON ROBINS. WOOD HIV.U

76

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

rock-bed, w h i c h is here about fifteen feet t h i c k . It is a buff-coloured, f i n e - g r a i n e d sandstone, w h i c h glows w i t h c o l o u r i n the sunlight—a b o l d and handsome cliff, n o t d i n g y and c r u m b l i n g l i k e the c l a y cliff below. L o o k at i t closely and y o u w i l l see w h y i t gleams i n the sun. There are fine flakes of m i c a in the sandstone, and if these are e x a m i n e d t h r o u g h a h a n d lens i t w i l l be n o t e d t h a t the t i n y grains of quartz sands are coated w i t h a r u s t y , p o w d e r - l i k e m i n e r a l . This is l i m o n i t e , and the cause of the rock's colour. L o o k i n g south f r o m here t o b e y o n d Stroud and N a i l s w o r t h , this same rock-bed forms the C o t s w o l d sub-edge w h e r e the under-edge or shelf is a f e w miles w i d e and the site of several village settlements. The g r o u n d hereabouts is s t r e w n w i t h great blocks of stone w h i c h have t u m b l e d d o w n f r o m the Marlstone rock-bed o n t o the grassy p l a t f o r m , so t h a t the w h o l e place has a k i n d of Easter Island atmosphere. M o s t of the rocks are rectangular, as t h a t is h o w the Marlstone has fractured, b u t there are also a n u m b e r of huge spherical boulders w h i c h w e r e f o r m e d by concretions on the sea f l o o r d u r i n g the M i d d l e Lias p e r i o d o r perhaps b y c o m p a c t i o n o f the rocks later d u r i n g processes of cementation. These 'doggers', as t h e y are called, erode o u t of the m a i n mass of r o c k and l o o k r a t h e r l i k e huge footballs.
T H E E V O L U T I O N OF A MINERAL

The most interesting feature of this r o c k , however, is its i r o n content, derived f r o m t w o minerals—siderite ( i r o n carbonate) a n d chamosite (hydrated i r o n a l u m i n i u m silicate). These minerals are n o t pure and it is believed t h a t the first to be f o r m e d was chamosite, w h i c h later altered t o siderite w h i c h , i n t u r n , became l i m o n i t e after w e a t h e r i n g . So, t o d a y , w h e n we l o o k at a russet-brown nodule o f l i m o n i t e w e are a c t u a l l y seeing t w o changes b r o u g h t about b y w e a t h e r i n g — n o t o n l y the w e a r i n g a w a y o f the r o c k b u t a n actual change i n its m i n e r a l content. W e are, i n fact, l o o k i n g a t t h e endp r o d u c t of a most c o m p l i c a t e d process in the e v o l u t i o n of a m i n e r a l . This s t i l l does n o t e x p l a i n h o w the siderite and the chamosite came t o b e i n these m a r i n e rocks i n the f i r s t place. W e d o n o t y e t k n o w f o r sure b u t it has r e c e n t l y been suggested t h a t t h e i r presence is due t o the existence o f ' i r o n fixing' bacteria i n those ancient seas. It is o n l y l a t e l y t h a t geologists have realised the geo-chemical i m p o r t a n c e of bacteria, and have been able to observe the results of

78

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

m i l l i o n s o f bacteria depositing i r o n ore i n the t r o p i c a l seas o f t o d a y . B o t h bacteria and algae m u s t have p l a y e d an enormous p a r t in the creation of chemical deposits b u t , other t h a n this instance, t h e y have left no trace of t h e i r existence.
' T H E AGE OF T H E AMMONITES'

The rocks o f Robin's W o o d H i l l w e r e l a i d d o w n d u r i n g the Jurassic p e r i o d , w h i c h is famous among geologists as 'the age of the ammonites'. A m m o n i t e s became e x t i n c t some 70,000,000 years ago b u t t h e y evolved so r a p i d l y d u r i n g the Jurassic period t h a t t h e various layers of the L o w e r and M i d d l e Jurassic rocks can be identified b y the t y p e o f a m m o n i t e f o u n d i n t h e m . Figures 43 and 44 shows various types of ammonites. N o t i c e h o w t h e y differ f r o m one another i n the t y p e o f c o i l and o r n a m e n t a t i o n . A m m o n i t e discoveries have been useful in ' z o n i n g ' the types of rocks o n Robin's W o o d H i l l b u t they have been more c o m m o n l y f o u n d i n the clays at the base o f the h i l l rather t h a n i n the sandy beds, w h e r e they t e n d to get dissolved by p e r c o l a t i n g w a t e r to such an e x t e n t t h a t o n l y the casts or moulds are left. The a m m o n i t e casts are of shells w h i c h covered the b o d y of an a n i m a l related to the present-day nautilus and w h i c h l o o k e d something l i k e an octopus w i t h a shell r o u n d i t . A m m o n i t e s are n o w difficult t o find o n Robin's W o o d H i l l b u t

e4 fECTEN ZEOU.tVAi.VIS

ROBIN'S WOOD H I L L

79

-Wr'ley %-fcK Worhs Ti/O skfetcb« wnlch explain tilt/ shape- of- 'Rocx'ns Wood Hill ~ft»e. MarlsUne- "Terrace- U well developed only on Hie. easte-fin, sicie-

one piece of geological evidence, s t i l l apparent despite the t h i c k pasture covering i t , is the Marlstone rock-bed w h i c h forms a f e w r e m a r k a b l y flat fields o n one side o f the h i l l . These are so level as to l o o k almost l i k e a man-made sports g r o u n d and are, of course, repeating the tabular shape of the C h u r c h d o w n o u t l i e r w h e r e the Marlstone occurs o n t h a t p a r t i c u l a r h i l l . The rest o f Robin's W o o d H i l l , b y contrast, is v e r y irregular i n shape, h a v i n g a p a r t i a l covering of U p p e r Lias clays and sands plus a small capping of I n f e r i o r Oolite, the same k i n d of limestone w h i c h caps most of the C o t s w o l d escarpment.

CHAPTER

10

Bredon

Hill

Bredon H i l l is the largest C o t s w o l d o u t l i e r , a whale-back o f a h i l l l y i n g a t h w a r t the southern M i d l a n d s i n Worcestershire b u t also r i g h t o n the n o r t h e r n Gloucestershire b o u n d a r y l i n e . I t i s about three and a h a l f miles l o n g by one and a h a l f w i d e and deflects the n o r t h / s o u t h traffic, w h i c h has t o g o t h r o u g h T e w k e s b u r y i n Gloucestershire or v i a Evesham in Worcestershire. Some 20,000 years ago, in an early glacial p e r i o d , it was a barrier to a different k i n d o f m o v e m e n t — a converging g r o u n d f o r ice masses c o i n i n g d o w n f r o m Wales and L i n c o l n s h i r e . T h e absence o f any m a i n r o a d over t h e h i l l , plus the f o r t u n a t e accident o f single o w n e r s h i p , makes i t possible t o d a y t o w a l k its entire l e n g t h t h r o u g h surroundings o f i n c r e d i b l y unspoilt beauty. F r o m its highest points there are p a n o r a m i c v i e w s w h i c h m u s t be some of the loveliest in E n g l a n d — p a r t i c u l a r l y those as one l o o k s west t o w a r d s the m o u n t a i n s o f Wales. B u t the geologist, w h e n he has looked his f i l l , w i l l e v e n t u a l l y r e m i n d h i m s e l f t h a t the v i e w s are just as m u c h the p r o d u c t of geological trends as the h i l l f r o m w h i c h he sees t h e m and w h i c h he is n o w s t u d y i n g . A c t u a l l y , he w i l l have begun his study o f Bredon H i l l before ever he sets f o o t on i t as its shape, seen f r o m a distance, at once betrays the secrets of its geology. P a r t i c u l a r l y good 'end o n ' views o f the h i l l can be obtained f r o m several places near Upton-on-Severn. Figure 46 is such a v i e w and shows h o w v e r y o b v i o u s l y the strata o f the h i l l d i p southwards.
FIG. 46 Summit of Sredo* Rill

in'

BREDON H I L L Sreat Cowberton

81

FIG. 47

•BlOCK -DIAGRAM SHOW'MCf THE STRUCTURE. OF SREDON HILL. Many powerful springe occur on tfje. .southern side, of 35ffed.cm Hill.

Figure 47 shows h o w the slope of the g r o u n d is c o n t r o l l e d by the structure o f the rocks o n Bredon H i l l . Figure 48 is a v i e w f r o m one o f the m a n y agreeable w a l k s f r o m the s u m m i t d o w n the d i p slope to O v e r b u r y . Figure 49 overleaf depicts the fine escarpment w h i c h can be seen o n the n o r t h e r n edge o f the h i l l . W i t h a d i p slope to the south, the geologist w o u l d expect to find just such a dramatic escarpment on the n o r t h e r n edge and here it is displayed t o perfection.
OOLITE LIMESTONE

This is limestone c o u n t r y , and Bredon H i l l is capped w i t h I n f e r i o r Oolite limestone, a M i d d l e Jurassic p e r i o d r o c k whose peculiar t e x t u r e distinguishes i t f r o m some other limestones l a i d d o w n i n a sea. NORTH
FIG. 48
SOUTH

dPovm ttio cUpslefe. to O v e r b u y . " V s is limestone, country witU Stout waits and. large, folds. Sowuu <y& as Ur$t. is IS averts. Toe \>tttk tree tl«wpi are uied. «r pdeasant covers,

3>\P SLOPE SCENERY ON SREDON HILL.. IcSposro-pny controlled by structure. F

82

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

T h o u g h t e c h n i c a l l y k n o w n as ' O o l i t e ' , m e a n i n g 'egg stone', q u a r r y m e n have a simpler and far better name f o r this r o c k . T h e y c a l l i t 'roe-stone', because i t resembles herring-roe. An o o l i t e is made up of numerous small spherical bodies called ' o o l i t h s ' , usually less t h a n a m i l l i m e t r e in diameter and cemented together by calcite. U n d e r a microscope, the o o l i t h s are seen to be made up of concentric layers a r o u n d a nucleus, w h i c h m a y consist of a shell fragment or a g r a i n of quartz. Oolites occur in m a n y limestones of different ages and t h e y can even f o r m under a r t i f i c i a l conditions i n a f a c t o r y b o i l e r i f the w a t e r i s h a r d , i.e. saturated w i t h c a l c i u m bicarbonate, and i f the w a t e r i s k e p t v i g o r o u s l y agitated. In the s h a l l o w coral seas between Florida and the Bahamas, in the Red Sea and Persian G u l f , ooliths are constantly being f o r m e d and i t f o l l o w s t h a t o o l i t i c limestones w i l l
FIG. 49

North4 "Breoon Hell

S

o

u

t

h

,

,

JKfeviw Ooicte. (JeiJ? loojft tk.-tty

S E C T I O N T O SHOW T H E S T R U C T U R E - OF BREDON H I L L .

A ^<uCc -f iU

jaalt Is a. cjuess I be f o r m e d i n seas saturated w i t h c a l c i u m carbonate and w h e r e t i n y grains on the sea floor are k e p t constantly in m o t i o n by currents. As the grains d r i f t backwards and f o r w a r d s t h e y become covered w i t h concentric layers o f c a l c i u m carbonate. Such a fine-textured limestone w i l l f o r m a good b u i l d i n g stone — p a r t i c u l a r l y i f a l l the fossils i n i t are b r o k e n u p i n t o t i n y fragments. Bath stone, w h i c h is called the Great O o l i t e , is a stone l i k e this and has been q u a r r i e d for b u i l d i n g f o r m a n y hundreds of years. U n d e r n e a t h Bath stone there is another k i n d of oolite, n o t so good f o r b u i l d i n g , f o r w h i c h W i l l i a m S m i t h suggested the simple name ' U n d e r O o l i t e ' , b u t whose official name is ' I n f e r i o r O o l i t e ' . A l t h o u g h this i s less t h a n t h i r t y feet t h i c k i n the B a t h region, i t becomes over 200 feet t h i c k w h e n traced to the N o r t h Cotswolds and f o r m s the m a i n b u i l d i n g stone i n t h a t region. The I n f e r i o r O o l i t e on the N o r t h Cotswolds is t h i c k e r because sedimentation covers a longer p e r i o d of t i m e w i t h a s l o w l y s i n k i n g sea floor.

BREDON H I L L

83

Recent research has also s h o w n t h a t some o o l i t i c limestones have been f o r m e d organically f r o m m y r i a d s of calcareous algae.
T H E S C E N E R Y O F BREDON H I L L

To make a detailed geological i n t e r p r e t a t i o n of the scenery of Bredon H i l l i t is best t o w a l k along the escarpment extending east and west of Bredon T o w e r , the small, r a t h e r rugged 'summer house' b u i l t r o u n d about the year 1800 on the highest p o i n t o f t h e h i l l , and then w a l k d o w n the l o n g d i p slope t o O v e r b u r y . D i l i g e n t readers of the one-inch-to-the-mile Ordnance Survey m a p o f this area w i l l notice t h a t i t does n o t give the height o f this highest p o i n t . Estimates w h i c h the w r i t e r has collected have v a r i e d f r o m ' o n l y a f e w feet short of 1,000 f t ' (this f r o m the estate manager and f r o m patrons of the i n n at O v e r b u r y ) and 977 ft (this being the estimate of L. E. Richardson, the famous geologist w h o has made special studies of b o t h the Severn Vale and the Cotswolds). D o w n the d i p slope w i l l be seen some o f the largest fields i n the Gloucestershire/Worcestershire area, one of these being 75 acres in extent. N o t i c e t h a t the soils derived f r o m I n f e r i o r O o l i t e are russet-brown in colour, and t h a t the fields are s t r e w n w i t h fragments of the limestone, some large enough to damage the p l o u g h —a constant hazard this of p l o u g h i n g on the O o l i t e . The russet colour of the soil is due to the limestones themselves being coloured b y the presence o f i r o n oxides. The i r o n i n the unweathered r o c k i s p r o b a b l y i n the f o r m o f i r o n carbonate, w h i c h is pale in colour. W h e n the r o c k weathers, the carbonate is decomposed and the i r o n is left in the soil as i r o n hydrates and oxides w h i c h , on complete o x i d a t i o n , are red and b r o w n . As the limestones are dissolved a w a y by r a i n f a l l and percolating w a t e r , o n l y h y d r a t e d i r o n salts ( m a i n l y l i m o n i t e ) r e m a i n . This is e x c e p t i o n a l l y w e l l seen in Mediterranean countries w h e r e vast areas of limestone rocks are covered w i t h a t h i n reddish soil called 'terra rossa'. N o t i c e t h a t barley is the m a i n crop here. C o t s w o l d farmers have discovered t h a t it stands up to d r o u g h t conditions far better t h a n wheat, and so makes a good crop f o r limestone c o u n t r y w h e r e there is r a r e l y any surface w a t e r , limestone being a r o c k t h r o u g h w h i c h w a t e r drains a w a y i n t o the fissures. There are m a n y p u b l i c footpaths leading d o w n the dip slope to the strings o f villages w h i c h fringe the southern side o f Bredon H i l l and these give ample o p p o r t u n i t y to observe h o w everywhere there

84
FIG. 50

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

Tne. M a r U f a n t - p l a t f V w i s Well Bveolon. H c t L j tV. Hie same- wfcy a s

da/do^&d- only o n Hflalns Wooct H i | ( .

the. ea.stc«-wv s u i c . c f

SREDON

HILL - EASTERN END

are m a r k e d correlations between the structure and t y p e of r o c k and w h a t i s being g r o w n . The limestone c o u n t r y rolls d o w n t o O v e r b u r y , its w a y m a r k e d b y d r y valleys, clumps o f beech trees and m a n y o l d quarries. C o m i n g to the southern edge o f the h i l l , a huge f a u l t can be seen t o have so displaced the rocks t h a t the I n f e r i o r O o l i t e has sunk to t h e level of the m u c h older L o w e r Lias clay, a soil p a r t i c u l a r l y attractive to e l m trees because of the secure anchorage it affords to thens h a l l o w roots. A glance back at Figures 47 a n d 49 w i l l show the exact relationship of these t o t a l l y different strata and a careful study of the c o u n t r y between W e s t m a n c o t e and A s h t o n - u n d e r - H i l l w i l l reveal on one side t h e r i c h lush grass of the clay and, adjoining i t , the r o l l i n g t o p o g r a p h y o f the limestone.

BREDON H I L L

85

SUCCESSION OF STRATA ON BREDON H I L L

The I n f e r i o r Oolite is about 100 feet t h i c k and begins to o u t c r o p at about 870 feet on the n o r t h scarp, whereas on the south it is brought d o w n by the f a u l t and dip to 400 feet. I m m e d i a t e l y b e l o w the limestones (the rather h u m m o c k y g r o u n d and slipped-down masses of oolite) are the surface indications of the U p p e r Lias c l a y . The Marlstone of the M i d d l e Lias outcrops at 600 feet near W o o l l a s H a l l , b u t is f o u n d at 400 feet near Bredon's N o r t o n , w h i c h means a drop of 200 feet due to the f a u l t . As on the eastern side of Robin's W o o d H i l l , there is also a v e r y well-developed Marlstone shelf on the eastern side of Bredon H i l l — y e t in other parts of the h i l l there are o n l y small r e m n a n t shelves o f Marlstone. The w r i t e r believes t h a t this differential erosion m a y be the result of Pleistocene (glacial and inter-glacial periods) erosion.
(

T H E KING AND QUEEN AND T H E BANBURY STONES

If a r e l a t i v e l y h a r d r o c k l i k e the Oolite rests on a w e a k f o u n d a t i o n r o c k (e.g. the U p p e r Lias clay), i t w i l l tend t o slide d o w n h i l l o n i t , and this happens v e r y often i n the Cotswolds. O n Bredon H i l l , i n particular, this tendency is greatly accentuated by the fact t h a t t h e limestones were o r i g i n a l l y h o r i z o n t a l b u t are n o w t i l t e d southwards and d o w n w a r d s t o w a r d s the f a u l t l i n e . This causes the v e r t i c a l j o i n t s , w h i c h are at r i g h t angles to the bedding planes, to open o u t u n t i l t h e y eventually become filled w i t h masses o f broken-up Oolite and the w h o l e l o t i s cemented together b y percolating w a t e r r i c h i n carbonate of l i m e . This p e t r i f y i n g a c t i o n produces a n a t u r a l concrete. The fissures thus filled up are called 'gulls' and w h i l e some fine examples—the B a n b u r y Stones—are to be seen on the s u m m i t at Bredon H i l l T o w e r , there is a far better group, k n o w n as The K i n g and Queen Stones, near an o l d q u a r r y j u s t above W e s t m a n c o t e . It seems probable t h a t , in these p a r t i c u l a r cases, the gulls have become harder t h a n t h e surrounding rocks, w h i c h have g r a d u a l l y been eroded a w a y , leaving the gulls standing as large u p r i g h t slabs. Some h i g h l y i m a g i n a t i v e stories have g r o w n up a r o u n d these stones, and local o p i n i o n strongly favours the Druids as h a v i n g been responsible f o r t h e i r erection. This is most improbable, b u t the B a n b u r y Stones are w i t h i n the 'precincts' of a v e r y fine I r o n Age

86

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

F I G . 51

Oolitic Limestone

Tne [iwiesWe is relatively a. strong rocK. Ttie underlying vocKs are we«.IC. Ttvis we«.U. foundation causes tb.e UniestonCJ above U> fracture- arvd Slide, dWnhilL. "Tfcere. is a. fcend-ericy for tfie beds to r dip towards Hie. \J&V.tus or plains. TVics (S called-

In 5omc o£ Hie •f'vucticres Oolitic debris Collects and becomes CCKented C°se&icr by percolating waier"j Saturated, witio carton ate. of lime. — |ron> Hie- Umestene5 aboVCIt i 5 Concrete- made by NATUPyt. "

ExpuANATrOK

OF GULLS.

GULLS AND THE KING A N D QUEEN ROCKS

F I G . 52

• '^s^H

wife * ^' Kinj and- Queen rocife »eo/ "WestirAOjncotfc

BREDON H I L L

87

e a r t h w o r k and i t m a y w e l l have been t h a t the inhabitants o f this f o r t used the slabs as convenient places f o r assembly. A f t e r s t u d y i n g the K i n g and Queen Stones, the o p p o r t u n i t y should be taken to examine the disused quarries nearby. Between five and ten feet d o w n f r o m the t o p of each q u a r r y can be seen curious c i r c u l a r patterns of r o c k fragments, p r o b a b l y caused by convect i o n a l r o t a r y movements o f r o c k d u r i n g the freeze-thaw conditions of the last Ice Age.

FIG. 53

Tntjc curious structures can, be Seen in many Cotsu/old <Juarfi.es , t^ualfy about S" trf 10 J^eetr doWn. Tliey m«y be cfwtte ConVtctional rotary vnovemlnts of rocK {roomenfs during freeze.- tb«w cortdifcms of tdeUstfce a j c fernops tney \may be 'due to ice lenses" V/W< -f^w- C tti« Subsoil r > Under imtensiye- frosts.

* ~

r

above. W e t t m « n c o t c , near ttie. K i n } ami. Queen rocKs.

Structures obs*f\/eeL in a, auaYry

SPRINGS AND V I L L A G E S ON BREDON H I L L

M u c h o f the r a i n f a l l o n the h i l l sinks t h r o u g h the fissures i n the limestone to reach the U p p e r Lias clay and, being unable to penetrate the clay, it t h e n travels southwards along its surface e v e n t u a l l y to be released at numerous springs along the southern edge of Bredon H i l l . O b v i o u s l y , the villages along there o w e their o r i g i n t o the existence of these never-failing w a t e r resources. A good place to see the springs in a c t i o n is in O v e r b u r y Park because here the U p p e r Lias c l a y floors the v a l l e y . M a n y springs also issue f r o m the M i d d l e Lias either just b e l o w the Marlstone rock-bed or at the j u n c t i o n w i t h the sandy beds of the M i d d l e Lias (here about 200 feet t h i c k ) and the U p p e r Lias clay. Such springs can be seen near E l m l e y Castle and at A s h t o n - u n d e r - H i l l .

CHAPTER

11

Leckhampton

Hill

Queen of the deserted quarries of the N o r t h Cotswolds is u n d o u b t e d l y t h a t a t L e c k h a m p t o n , t w o miles south o f Cheltenham and n o w o w n e d b y Cheltenham Borough C o u n c i l , w h o acquired L e c k h a m p t o n H i l l as a social a m e n i t y for the c i t y in 1928. Officially opened in 1793 and the source of m u c h of the stone used in the b u i l d i n g of Regency C h e l t e n h a m — i n 1810 blocks of dressed stone cost o n l y Id per t o n d e l i v e r e d ! — L e c k h a m p t o n Q u a r r y t o d a y attracts student geologists f r o m a l l over the c o u n t r y , m a n y of w h o m t r a v e l l o n g distances at week-ends to see the dramatic exposures it offers of w h a t m i g h t be described as 'the innards' of the Cotswolds. A p p r o a c h i n g L e c k h a m p t o n Q u a r r y f r o m Cheltenham, the first steep p a r t of the road is w h e r e the Marlstone shelf of the M i d d l e Lias begins. A large b u i l d i n g , H i l l House, is perched snugly o n this

Bl-OCK -PMURAK OF l_ec.KHAMPTOfl CJuARRY looKvwj West
#

LECKHAMPTON H I L L

89

shelf and the road takes advantage of a s m a l l gap in the rock-bed to c l i m b u p t o the Cotswolds. The official entrance to the q u a r r y is at the car p a r k in Daisy Bank Road and here the steep slopes on the l o w e r sandy beds of the U p p e r Lias are planted w i t h larch trees to stabilise the soil. Here, too, the g r o u n d is everywhere h u m m o c k y , the result of the s l i p p i n g d o w n h i l l of the U p p e r Lias sands and blocks of limestone over the U p p e r Lias clay w h i c h acts as a l u b r i c a t e d surface. F r o m this p o i n t the course of an o l d r a i l w a y line can be f o l l o w e d to the ruins of the o l d lime-kilns w h i c h w e r e in use as late as 1927 (see Figure 56). F r o m the k i l n s , the limestone cliffs rise to impressive heights, a t t a i n i n g 965 feet at their highest p o i n t . F r o m top to base there is a grading of colour f r o m cream to russet b r o w n , i n d i c a t i n g t h a t the rocks become m o r e ferruginous towards the base of the cliff.

•SpringBiaoUP

5KET0H rAfiP Of T H E CrECH-OGY OP LECKHAIAPTOM H I L L (ffjuret v% WjttS » ftdty

LECKHAMPTON H I L L

91

T H E PEA GRIT

Just b e h i n d the o l d k i l n s are the rather c r u m b l y cliffs made of Pea G r i t , a r o c k composed of o v o i d a l bodies about the size of a pea. This structure is k n o w n as ' p i s o l i t i c ' , and the pisoliths are s i m i l a r to the egg-shaped ooliths in the O o l i t i c limestone above b u t larger. T h e i r o r i g i n is n o t f u l l y understood, b u t one t h e o r y is t h a t t h e y have been f o r m e d by vigorous agitation of nuclei (small grains) in a sea w h i c h was a c t i v e l y p r e c i p i t a t i n g c a l c i u m carbonate. 'Cave pearls' are believed to have been f o r m e d in this w a y . An alternative t h e o r y is t h a t the pisoliths have been f o r m e d by calcareous algae a r o u n d a nucleus. The name Girvanella pisolitica has been applied to this t y p e of algae and recently it has been discovered t h a t if pisoliths are treated w i t h acid, the algal filaments can be seen s t i l l preserved.

S?AGSTON£S

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UPPER. FReEVTONE.

3oft \ OOUlTIC MARL. J 1 Jt 0
LOWER, FREESTONE

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FIG. 56

92

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

Fragments of crinoids, corals, echinoids and brachiopods can be f o u n d in this Pea G r i t , w h i c h is here about t h i r t y - t w o feet t h i c k and can b e traced a l l along the h i l l l o w d o w n , b e l o w the Devil's C h i m n e y and a w a y over t o C r i c k l e y H i l l . It is a limestone w h i c h has been f o r m e d in a sea in w h i c h c a l c i u m carbonate was being precipitated, a n d i r o n in the sea w a t e r was p r o b a b l y being precipitated by bacteria. B u t it is n o t a good b u i l d i n g stone—frost a c t i o n can m a k e it disintegrate, the pisoliths f a l l i n g apart f r o m each other.
THE FREESTONE

The limestone cliffs above the Pea G r i t belong to the I n f e r i o r O o l i t e d i v i s i o n of the M i d d l e Jurassic system. T h e i r most s t r i k i n g feature is the rather regular spacing of the h o r i z o n t a l bedding planes and the j o i n t s at r i g h t angles to t h e m , g i v i n g a general appearance o f man-made w a l l s . I n fact, this k i n d o f r o c k i s described b y some geologists as ' m u r a l j o i n t i n g ' . A bedding plane is produced by a pause in t h e process of sedimentation on a sea floor. It can also occur if there is a change i n the t y p e o f sediment b e i n g l a i d d o w n . W h e r e there i s a t h i c k mass of r o c k , sedimentation has o b v i o u s l y been continuous f o r a long time. W h e n the bedding planes are far apart the r o c k is called Freestone because n e a t l y rectangular slabs can be r e m o v e d 'freely' f r o m the q u a r r y face, and these m a k e a good b u i l d i n g stone f o r the t y p e of classical architecture f o u n d in Regency Cheltenham. A n o t h e r school o f t h o u g h t , however, holds t h a t the t e r m 'Freestone' derives f r o m the fact t h a t this p a r t i c u l a r stone is so devoid of large fossils and of such an even, fine-grained t e x t u r e t h a t it can be freely sawn i n t o blocks. If the bedding planes are close together, creating t h i n wedges of r o c k , t h e rocks are called Ragstones and these can be seen r i g h t at the t o p o f the q u a r r y . M o r e often, h o w e v e r , the Ragstones are bedded h a r d limestones (often ferruginous) w h i c h break up i r r e g u l a r l y and are w e l l stocked w i t h fossils. I n the past t h e y w e r e extensively quarried f o r l o c a l r o a d m e t a l and at the t o p of the q u a r r y there are m a n y h o l l o w s and banks i n d i c a t i n g w h e r e q u a r r y i n g t o o k place l o n g ago. Hundreds o f people come t o L e c k h a m p t o n Q u a r r y equipped w i t h hammers ready to k n o c k o u t fossils in the Freestone—and t h e y are

LECKHAMPTON FIG. 57 AWUVEJ/ CrEOLQGY OF I N F E R I O R OOLiTE

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d i s a p p o i n t e d ! A close l o o k at the r o c k w i l l reveal fossil remains b u t t h e y are m e r e l y t h i n bands o f m i n u t e fossil fragments w h i c h w e r e b r o k e n up by the sea floor currents at the t i m e of deposition. T h i s is another factor w h i c h makes the Freestone a good b u i l d i n g stone— the fossils are so f i n e l y c o m m i n u t e d t h a t there are no large fossil remains f o r frosts t o ease o u t and thereby p o c k m a r k a w a l l w i t h holes.
C U R R E N T BEDDING IN T H E F R E E S T O N E

A change i n the v e l o c i t y o f the currents i n a sea w i l l cause changes in the nature of deposition. This is called 'current' bedding, or 'cross' bedding, and it can be seen here and there in m a n y parts o f the q u a r r y , p a r t i c u l a r l y i n the Freestone. The occasional slab o f stone w h i c h is produced under such conditions is u n p o p u l a r w i t h

94

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

builders—they k n o w i t w i l l develop a ragged appearance as i t weathers and w i l l sometimes produce a d a m p spot o n a w a l l . W h e n limestones are first deposited t h e y are, of course, soft and d u r i n g the process of c o m p a c t i o n tensions are set up in the rocks as the rocks d r y o u t . In a d d i t i o n to this stress, the c a l c i u m carbonate often crystallises i n t o calcite, w h i c h causes the r o c k to expand. The stresses set up i n the rocks t e n d t o p u l l t h e m apart, so tension j o i n t s appear at r i g h t angles to the bedding planes. If the rocks are v e r y m u c h the same a l l over (i.e. 'homogeneous') then the j o i n t s are w e l l developed and regular, w h i c h makes it easy to get the r o c k o u t of the q u a r r y in convenient shapes ready f o r b u i l d i n g use. These rocks are also subjected to other stresses, e.g. compression, and this results in sheer j o i n t s w h i c h penetrate a l l the bedding planes at r i g h t angles. Some of the forces i n v o l v e d are intense and operate over w i d e areas, even to the e x t e n t of m o u n t a i n b u i l d i n g . Just near the bedding planes m a n y of the limestones are r i d d l e d w i t h small holes—especially a t the top o f cross-bedding structures. This p r o b a b l y means t h a t soon after the r o c k was f o r m e d w o r m s bored i n t o the r o c k , t h o u g h the borings c o u l d also have been caused by a b i v a l v e creature called Lithophagus. This mollusc, w h i c h l i v e d 150 m i l l i o n years ago, had an e x t e r i o r shell shaped l i k e a rasping file w h i c h enabled it to bore i n t o r o c k . It has also r e c e n t l y been discovered t h a t m a n y borings c o u l d have been done by a group of organisms k n o w n a s P h o r o n i d s — w o r m - l i k e animals w h i c h l i v e i n tubes.
T H E D E V I L ' S CHIMNEY

This is a c o l u m n of r o c k j u t t i n g o u t f r o m the face of L e c k h a m p t o n Q u a r r y . It was a famous l a n d m a r k even in the early nineteenth c e n t u r y , being first m e n t i o n e d by Ruff in his History of Cheltenham (1803), w h e n he w r o t e : ' B u i l t by the d e v i l , as say the vulgar. It w a s n o d o u b t b u i l t b y shepherds i n the f r o l i c o f a n idle hour.' As this p a r t of the q u a r r y was a c t i v e l y w o r k e d about 1780 it is more l i k e l y t h a t q u a r r y m e n removed the surrounding stone b u t left this p a r t i c u l a r c o l u m n of r o c k because it was n o t good enough to be used as b u i l d i n g stone. A smaller r e m n a n t of this type of abandoned q u a r r y i n g can be seen about 100 feet above the o l d lime-kilns. Cheltonians b r o u g h t up w i t h the C h i m n e y as a p r o m i n e n t landm a r k in t h e i r lives m a y be surprised to learn t h a t it is a c t u a l l y eroding a w a y quite r a p i d l y . Changes can be observed in it even over a l i m i t e d p e r i o d of a f e w years. It is eroding most r a p i d l y on the

96

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

western side and the effect of frost is g r a d u a l l y disintegrating t h e r o c k along a l l the j o i n t s .
ONION W E A T H E R I N G

A l l r o u n d the q u a r r y i t w i l l b e n o t i c e d h o w the r o c k flakes off, l i k e the s k i n of an o n i o n . This process is k n o w n as ' e x f o l i a t i o n ' a n d i t i s caused b y the action o f frost. Masons call i t 'spalling', o r ' o n i o n weathering'. The O o l i t i c limestone is a v e r y porous r o c k and often the w a t e r comes to the surface again (by c a p i l l a r i t y ) and then freezes. Frost t h e n splits off the egg-shaped ooliths i n t o layers. M a n y layers are peeled off by severe frosts in w i n t e r . Q u a r r y m e n used to say t h a t Freestones l i k e the Cheltenham Freestone should be cut i n t o the required shapes w h e n 'green', i.e. d a m p . T h e y w o u l d e x p l a i n t h a t w a t e r exuded f r o m the stone, and t h a t w h e n this evaporated a f i l m of carbonate of l i m e w o u l d be left on the faces of the stone. They said it was w r o n g to scrape the stone w h e n i t was i n place i n a b u i l d i n g i n order t o o b t a i n a u n i f o r m appearance because this removed the protective f i l m . T h e w h o l e process of o n i o n w e a t h e r i n g is accentuated in a t o w n . The sulphur d i o x i d e f r o m o i l fumes and coal fires combines w i t h o x y g e n and w a t e r t o f o r m sulphuric acid w h i c h , i n t u r n , attacks the c a l c i u m carbonate, setting free carbon d i o x i d e and f o r m i n g c a l c i u m sulphate. This peels off, leaving layers of soot b e h i n d , and is the reason w h y so m a n y Regency buildings in Cheltenham l o o k as weathered as a n y medieval b u i l d i n g although a c t u a l l y b u i l t in the late eighteenth and the early nineteenth centuries. I t w i l l also be noticed t h a t i n some parts o f the q u a r r y the rocks are black w i t h w h a t looks l i k e atmospheric p o l l u t i o n b u t i s a c t u a l l y a black lichen called Verrucaria mama. An orange-coloured l i c h e n called Xanthoria occurs in sunnier parts of the q u a r r y . Acids produced by b o t h these lichens accentuate the erosion of the r o c k .
T H E RAGSTONES

A close inspection o f the m a i n cliff-face w i l l reveal t h a t the rocks b e l o w are m u c h better-jointed Freestone t h a n those higher u p . L o w e r Freestone is the name of the l o w e r r o c k and the r o c k above is called the U p p e r Freestone and is about t h i r t y feet t h i c k . The L o w e r Freestone in this area attains a m a x i m u m thickness of 130

LECKHAMPTON H I L L

97

feet and forms the m a i n mass of the escarpment of the Cheltenham area. B o t h divisions can be identified by t h e i r fossil content. In between the Upper and L o w e r Freestone lies a band of r o c k w h i c h is n o t at a l l l i k e the proper oolite. It is about ten feet t h i c k and is called the O o l i t i c M a r l — a n d can be best seen in the q u a r r y face b e h i n d the Devil's C h i m n e y . It is a w h i t e c h a l k y r o c k w h i c h weathers i n t o r u b b l y masses because it is n o t j o i n t e d strongly. The d o m i n a n t fossil in this r o c k is a t y p e of shell called Terebratula fimbria, or, to give it its m o r e recently-acquired name, TIectothyris fimbria. A b o v e the U p p e r Freestone lie the Ragstones, closely-bedded limestones w i t h the bedding planes o n l y one or t w o feet apart. This makes it an excellent r o c k for the dry-stone w a l l i n g w h i c h is such a pleasant feature of the C o t s w o l d landscape. It is also v e r y h a n d y to get at—just d i g a hole in a field!

The stone w a l l e x t e n d i n g between the Devil's C h i m n e y a n d Salterley Grange Q u a r r y has several holes alongside i t . These resemble bomb-craters b u t are a c t u a l l y places w h e r e stone was d u g o u t f o r w a l l - m a k i n g d u r i n g the M i d d l e Ages. The Ragstones are v e r y shelly limestones to w h i c h the name ' g r i t ' has been g i v e n — a l t h o u g h t h e y are n o t grits according to the geological meaning of the w o r d . T h e y are v e r y fossiliferous and the different zones of g r i t have m a i n l y been n a m e d after the p r i n c i p a l t y p e of fossil f o u n d in each zone. T w o of these fossils are the bivalves Gryphaea sublobata and Trigonia. Gryphaea sublobata is a

98

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

large oyster t y p e of shell w h i c h is the most c o m m o n fossil in these rocks and v e r y conspicuous. It weathers w h i t e and so the stone of this zone makes excellent o r n a m e n t a l w a l l s and r o c k gardens. Ragstones w e r e v e r y p o p u l a r i n Cheltenham i n the m i d d l e and late nineteenth c e n t u r y as suitable stones f o r the Neo-Gothic b u i l d ings w h i c h w e r e the a r c h i t e c t u r a l fashion o f t h a t t i m e , and c e r t a i n l y the ragged nature of these stones does make such buildings l o o k t r u l y medieval—they are pseudo-Gothic b u t pleasantly and successf u l l y so and an agreeable contrast to the Greek Revival and Georgian buildings, w h e r e blocks of Freestone have been used. O n the t o p o f the cliff and b e h i n d the I r o n Age e a r t h w o r k camp are o l d quarries exposing the ' G r i t ' Ragstones to best advantage, w i t h the best fossil finds also, Trigonia casts being v e r y large and conspicuous.
S A L T E R L E Y GRANGE QUARRY

Over the h i l l and n o t far a w a y f r o m the Devil's C h i m n e y i s Salterley Grange Q u a r r y (see M a p 9)—small and n o t so w e l l - k n o w n as L e c k h a m p t o n Q u a r r y b u t nevertheless a geologist's paradise because the m a i n features of the rocks s h o w up so clearly and n e a t l y . This is h e a r t i l y recommended to a l l colour-photography

FIG. 60 6,it

C L I F F T O P A T LECKHANUTON Q U A R R Y ' sVloWirtf tta junction of tVic Freestone cund n?ag.st<mc5_

h&k bfttS we tie. fir^t -to co'emise- limestone- Sc/ e£
e

LECKHAMPTON

HILL

99

FIG. 61

KJcYiW OoliK p\*U<UC

Age EKW W ^ fi o e '
3fc»<Lj CU«n»ey

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present

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LOCATING-

S A I T E R L E Y G-RANGE

£C"-AI?RV

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k

enthusiasts because a photograph of this q u a r r y in afternoon sunshine w o u l d be one of clean, cream-coloured rocks s h o w i n g clearlydefined features of bedding planes, j o i n t s and fissures.
FIG. 6 2 CAN\3£fe

fissures hot so

downhill rriovemewt' Freestone gaping fissures

?Ca. S r i t

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and cloys.

100

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

The floor of this q u a r r y is the Pea G r i t and the cliff-face is of L o w e r Freestone. Crystals of calcite can be collected in the j o i n t s of the Freestone, w h i c h are often covered w i t h a deposit of c a l c i u m carbonate f r o m percolating w a t e r , this being a t y p i c a l cave deposit called T r a v e r t i n e , a f o r m a t i o n w h i c h is y e t another k i n d of r o c k w h i c h can be used f o r b u i l d i n g w h e n available in large masses. In some parts of I t a l y , T r a v e r t i n e has been deposited in such vast quantities t h a t this calcareous deposit f r o m springs, w h i c h hardens on exposure, has developed i n t o great masses of porous l i g h t y e l l o w r o c k m u c h used f o r b u i l d i n g . On the eastern side of the q u a r r y is displayed a good example of a ' f a u l t ' (a fracture in the rocks w i t h subsequent displacement of the rocks). This is made obvious by the fact t h a t the Pea G r i t appears on a shelf on one side and cannot be traced on the other. One i n t e r p r e t a t i o n of this is t h a t it is just a reversed f a u l t caused by compression; another is t h a t the f a u l t is due to camber, i.e. to r o c k masses slipping d o w n h i l l .
CHARLTON KINGS COMMON

This cliff-top w a l k is one of the finest in the area f o r i t s comm a n d i n g views across the Severn Vale and Cheltenham. There is a p u b l i c f o o t p a t h a l l along the cliff edge. The first t h i n g to notice is the large number of stone walls b u i l t

BlJOClt DIAGRAM aF CHARLTON KINGS COMMON — ioaKCnj c«.ft

FIG. 63

LECKHAMPTON HILL

101

by the farmers. Obviously the Ragstones must be near at hand, and t h e y do, in fact, f o r m the m a i n capping r o c k of the 900-foot plateau of the Cotswolds. These shelly limestones are quite h a r d , harder t h a n the Freestones, w h i c h is one of the reasons w h y the Cotswolds f o r m a h i g h , sloping plateau. Generally speaking, the harder the r o c k the higher the h i l l , more resistant rocks standing o u t as higher g r o u n d . If the Cotswolds were merely made of the softer Freestones, erosion w o u l d have been m u c h more r a p i d and a l o w e r plateau w o u l d have been the result. As it is, the Clypeus G r i t — n a m e d after the sea u r c h i n echinoderm, Clypeus ploti—forms an extensive cover to the h i g h C o t s w o l d plateau in this l o c a l i t y , whereas elsewhere other Ragstones f o r m a hard, resistant capping to the plateau. A t the top o f C h a r l t o n Kings C o m m o n there are numerous o l d quarries in the G r y p h i t e G r i t offering a good hunting-ground f o r the fossil oyster Gryphaea sublobata.
Char-How K i n g s

J^oiiirt+aiifiS K n o l l Wood, at tl\e Caste'vi end. ojCtiar-ltbio kings Common, is a "slipped, mass oj- Oolite . Notice, the. -false

dips dice ID Vnt rock masses resting on slippery c l o y .
Keen geologists w i l l observe that o n small promontories at each end the rocks begin to slip and t u m b l e . A l t h o u g h the limestones d i p south-eastwards about one degree t h e y appear to be h o r i z o n t a l — y e t at each end of the c o m m o n dips can be observed of as m u c h as s i x t y t o seventy degrees. This slipping d o w n the h i l l o f masses of limestone results in small faults and steep dips, processes k n o w n as 'slumping' and 'cambering'. Both can be seen in an i n c i p i ent stage along the p a t h at the eastern end of the c o m m o n , w h e r e

102

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

t h e beds are t u r n e d sharply u p w a r d s and M o u n t a i n K n o l l s W o o d is a slipped-down mass f o r m i n g a s m a l l o u t l i e r . A small k n o l l near Sandy Lane and above Southfields F a r m is a mass of Pea G r i t , a f e w h u n d r e d square yards of displaced r o c k . There are n o t v e r y m a n y springs in this area, b u t one good one supplies Black Hedge F a r m and another feeds Southfield B r o o k and Southfleld F a r m (see geological sketch M a p 10). This comparative dearth of springs is because the m a i n mass of the rocks dips to the south-east, a w a y f r o m the m a i n escarpment—and as the scarp is v e r y close to the drainage of the Thames, most of the u n d e r g r o u n d w a t e r travels d o w n t h e d i p t o the Thames. There is an I r o n Age c a m p on the t o p o f L e c k h a m p t o n H i l l , and there can be n o d o u b t t h a t the geology o f the h i l l determined this choice of site.

GEOLOGICAL

S K E T C H MAP

OF

CHARLTON KINGS

COMMOKJ

Scalt,

U" - 1 *;ie

LECKHAMPTON H I L L
TWfctlie.fi fvuctt ZCfebunt tribe

103

\

T a k i n g advantage o f the p r o m o n t o r y o f the h i l l t o p , the D o b u n i tribes w h i c h occupied this camp had o n l y one major defensive e a r t h w o r k to b u i l d to make the place safe to l i v e in and t h e y used the Ragstones t o f o r m the core o f the w a l l ( w h i c h i s n o w exposed in a f e w places). This site is also favourable f o r signalling to other camps (Bredon, O x e n t o n , D i x t o n , N o t t i n g h a m H i l l , Cleeve, B a t t l e d o w n , C r i c k l e y , B i r d l i p , Painswick, Coopers H i l l and C h u r c h d o w n camps) and is i n a direct line w i t h most of the ancient t r a c k w a y s south. The camp was excavated in 1925 b u t a l l t h a t can n o w be seen is an e a r t h w o r k r a m p a r t g u a r d i n g an enclosure. The w h o l e c a m p occupied an area of about eight acres and stood at a height of 965 feet. There was a f o r t i f i e d gateway and the excavations revealed t w o guard chambers. Outside the camp is a curious square t u m u l u s . These people k n e w h o w to c u l t i v a t e the soil, domesticate animals and make p o t t e r y , a q u a n t i t y of w h i c h was f o u n d on the floors of b o t h guard chambers. T h e y later saw the R o m a n soldiers f r o m the garrison at G l e v u m (Gloucester), traded w i t h the Romans and w o r k e d on t h e i r v i l l a estates. But, before the Romans came, t h e y l i v e d i n settlements somewhat l i k e the sketch above, w h i c h i s o f L e c k h a m p t o n H i l l as i t m i g h t have been i n 100 BC.

CHAPTER

12

Cleeve

Hill

The great mass o f Cleeve H i l l lies m i d w a y between W i n c h c o m b e and Cheltenham—and f o r b r a c i n g air, glorious v i e w s and a d r y w a l k i n the wettest w e a t h e r i t i s the best place i n the Cotswolds. This is the highest p a r t of the Cotswolds (the s u m m i t at the Ordnance Survey T r i g , p o i n t is at 1 , 0 8 3 feet), and m a n y people feel t h a t this is also the area w i t h the most spectacular scenery— secluded u p l a n d valleys, r a t h e r l i k e A l p i n e valleys in summer, as w e l l as b r e a t h t a k i n g v i e w s f r o m the escarpment.

FIG. 66

C L E e y e HILL. — scenery (ike parts of the TennLne-S

Cleeve H i l l is also the highest p o i n t o f the Jurassic strata w h i c h dip d o w n to the p l a i n of O x f o r d , and here the I n f e r i o r Oolite limestone of the M i d d l e Jurassic is at its thickest, t h i n n i n g o u t southwards t o w a r d s Bath, w h e r e the Greater Oolite is m u c h t h i c k e r and overlies i t . Figure 67 is a b l o c k diagram o f the m a i n mass o f Cleeve H i l l , a n d Figure 68 shows the u n d e r l y i n g structures in rather m o r e d e t a i l . N o t i c e t h a t there appears to be a break in the sequence and disposi-

t i o n between the U p p e r T r i g o n i a G r i t and the other limestones b e l o w . This ' u n c o n f o r m i t y ' tells a geologist that some of the l i m e stones of the L o w e r I n f e r i o r Oolite w e r e folded and s l i g h t l y eroded after deposition and c o m p a c t i o n , after w h i c h the U p p e r T r i g o n i a G r i t was l a i d d o w n o n t o p , horizontally. The first p a r t of the s t o r y dates back about 180 m i l l i o n years ago, w h e n a basin, or 'syncline', extended f r o m the M e n d i p axis r i g h t across t o the v a l l e y o f M o r e t o n . F r o m M i d d l e Lias times r i g h t
CLBCVE HIJLL

Simplified. d,io^rtjt\ zxpla&niwj why tfw. li«nes"tbnes of- Hit Xn^ertoy' Oolite reach tViei*" maximum thicKr)ess cm Cleeve Hill TTl* ft'cta. dip Soufii east at about I ' i r • jdi of 7 0 f t h / Mile >

106

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

up to w h e n the Ragstones w e r e l a i d d o w n , a great mass of rocks was deposited in the basin, to a t o t a l thickness of some 800 feet. The centre o f this syncline w a s i n the Cleeve H i l l area. The coastline d u r i n g this t i m e was somewhere on the W e l s h borderlands and i n the Cleeve H i l l area the sea was clear and w a r m , w i t h corals, crinoids, bivalves and brachiopods flourishing i n abundance. Thus, to look at the limestones in the numerous quarries a l l over Cleeve H i l l is r e a l l y t o l o o k at the debris o f calcareous seas and, in some places, c o r a l reefs. Sometimes the seas became sandy, a t others t h e y w e r e m u d d y — a n d each c o n d i t i o n b r o u g h t w i t h i t a different assemblage of m a r i n e organisms. W h e r e deposition was continuous over a l o n g p e r i o d the bedding planes are f u r t h e r apart and the limestones are far more massive. It should be remembered t h a t a l t h o u g h the Ragstones coyer the m a i n hill-mass, it is the N o t g r o v e Freestone of the M i d d l e I n f e r i o r Oolite, fifteen to t w e n t y - f i v e feet t h i c k , w h i c h covers a w i d e area in the N o r t h Cotswolds.
T H E POSTLIP V A L L E Y S

The e x p l a n a t i o n of w h y the scenery is so dramatic covers a p e r i o d m u c h later than the actual deposition of the rocks on Cleeve Hill. On a w a l k across the g o l f course to the Postlip valleys the landscape presents a w i d e expanse of d o w n l a n d w i t h deep valleys leading d o w n to Postlip. The w r i t e r believes t h a t these were f o r m e d under periglacial conditions, either w h e n the r a i n f a l l was m u c h higher or w h e n there was m u c h surface w a t e r because the sub-soil was frozen. W h e r e v e r a v a l l e y is deep enough to reach the present level of underground w a t e r a spring can be f o u n d , and at Postlip, above a small p o n d k n o w n as the W a s h p o o l , a most interesting spring occurs at the j u n c t i o n of the U p p e r Lias sands and the U p p e r Lias clay (Figure 69). A vast a m o u n t of w a t e r is l o c k e d up in the Cotswolds because the porous o o l i t e r o c k soaks it up l i k e a sponge. The average r a i n f a l l t o d a y f o r this area is about t h i r t y to t h i r t y - f i v e inches (the higher the g r o u n d the heavier the r a i n f a l l ) and one i n c h of r a i n is equival e n t to 101 y tons of w a t e r per acre. Even leaving o u t the loss due to evaporation, m u c h of this w a t e r reaches the U p p e r Lias sands t h r o u g h the numerous v e r t i c a l j o i n t s and fissures in the o o l i t e . B o t h
4

C L E E V E HILL
F I G . 69 Postlip

107

the sands and the limestones act as vast n a t u r a l reservoirs—always releasing the w a t e r w i t h constant f l o w . V e r y f e w o f the springs here dried up in the great d r o u g h t of 1921. O w i n g t o the structure o f the Cleeve H i l l mass, the m o r e copious springs are located on the south-eastern side, and at Syreford, near A n d o v e r s f o r d , there is one p a r t i c u l a r l y p o w e r f u l spring f r o m w h i c h a pumping-station delivers w a t e r to several nearby villages. M a n y farms in this p a r t of the Cotswolds are located at or near the spring-line j u n c t i o n between the U p p e r Lias clay and U p p e r Lias sands b u t , of course, it is far better to have the actual f a r m buildings on d r y land, i.e. on the sandy beds, w i t h the spring b e l o w . Such f a r m settlements use a h y d r a u l i c r a m to get the w a t e r up to the f a r m . An interesting occupation f o r ramblers is finding the locations of springs o n the Cotswolds and s t u d y i n g t h e i r relationship w i t h the strata. The one-inch-to-the-mile geological m a p of each area should be used, and i n the case o f Cleeve H i l l this is the Moreton-in-Marsh Geological Survey Sheet. M o s t o f the springs w i l l be f o u n d t o be p e t r i f y i n g i n some degree

dctf woodcci- valleys

find Wiiitiingiron

MAP 11

CLEEVE HILL AND NOTTINGHAM HILL

C L E E V E HILL

109

GEOLOGICAL

S K E T C H M A P OF T H E

C L E E V E Hiu.

AREA

Lowglcy Hill iS an outlier and, ~HaitCnc^ria.m Hi|/ fs mpictty becowunc; o n e . A sm<\lt "isttinn5 <^ irvjeriorOolite- joins it to The main pUjioxcj it provide* «. wscjul "coi'

and frequently t w i g s and leaves covered w i t h t u f a can be discovered, or even petrified moss and grass. The w a t e r is h a r d b u t v e r y clear and it was this c l a r i t y t h a t determined the establishment o f the small paper m i l l at Postlip. This makes a special k i n d o f filter paper and has been a going concern since the eighteenth c e n t u r y . This h i l l mass f o r m s rather a conspicuous p r o m o n t o r y w h e n v i e w e d f r o m the Cleeve H i l l golf course. Figure 70 shows h o w i t has almost become an outlier, f o r o n l y a t h i n neck of I n f e r i o r O o l i t e joins i t w i t h the C o t s w o l d plateau. N o r m a l erosion has c o m p l e t e l y separated Langley H i l l (Map 12) so this is t e c h n i c a l l y an outlier, a l t h o u g h j o i n e d on to t h e Cotswolds b y the s u r r o u n d i n g M i d d l e Lias. A g a i n , o n N o t t i n g h a m H i l l , I r o n Age tribes made use o f the strategic p o s i t i o n of a p r o m o n t o r y m e r e l y by m a k i n g one e a r t h w o r k

110

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

LowtV Fre estons
Catvcnt" JoeddCnJ

Pea. Srifc

along the 'isthmus'. The result here was a defensive site covering over 100 acres, one of the largest in the c o u n t y . Occasionally pieces of f l i n t scrapers have been f o u n d ( w i n t e r being the best t i m e f o r such discoveries as there is t h e n less vegetation covering the ground) b u t i t should b e remembered t h a t flints o r i g i n a l l y come f r o m c h a l k c o u n t r y . The r a m b l e r w h o finds t h e m on the Cotswolds does so because M a n b r o u g h t t h e m there.
C L E E V E CLOUD

South o f Cleeve H i l l Y o u t h Hostel, the r a m b l e r can f o l l o w the l i n e of o l d quarries along the f o o t of the cliffs t o w a r d s Huddlestone Table, a rectangular mass of dressed stone j u s t b e l o w the I r o n Age e a r t h w o r k on Cleeve C o m m o n . Parts of the L o w e r Freestone here are quite massive and p r o v i d e r e l a t i v e l y safe faces on w h i c h to practise r o c k - c l i m b i n g w i t h ropes. The Pea G r i t f o r m a t i o n here is just as massive as at C r i c k l e y H i l l , although i t i s n o t p i s o l i t h i c t h r o u g h o u t . Figure 71 shows parts of the Pea G r i t overlaid by a fine example o f c u r r e n t bedding i n the L o w e r Freestone. The w h o l e area of b o t h Cleeve C l o u d and Cleeve C o m m o n is r i d d l e d w i t h o l d quarries, medieval t r a c k w a y s and pre-Roman earthworks.

CHAPTER

13

Barrow

Wake,

Crickley

Hill

and

Birdlip

B a r r o w W a k e , just past B i r d l i p on the Cheltenham road, is u n d o u b t e d l y one of the most spectacular v i e w p o i n t s of the Cotsw o l d s . Even the snack-bars and the l i t t e r w h i c h bear m o u r n f u l witness to this cannot lessen the g l o r y of its panoramic v i e w s . There are, i n e v i t a b l y , geological reasons f o r this spectacular scenery, f o r this is the edge of the C o t s w o l d escarpment some 900 feet above sea level, and the v i e w stretches r i g h t across the Vale of the Severn to Wales and the M a l v e r n H i l l s . D i v e r s i t y is added to the scene b y the outliers o f Robin's W o o d H i l l and C h u r c h d o w n H i l l , w h i c h stand l i k e sentinels guarding the approaches to Cheltenham and Gloucester.

the trees.

112

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

The w i d e vistas are helped by the absence of woodlands in t h e immediate v i c i n i t y , the result o f extensive q u a r r y i n g , and, t o w a r d s the A i r Balloon I n n , the v i e w extends t o the p r o m o n t o r y o f C r i c k l e y H i l l w i t h its castle-like cliffs, o n one o f w h i c h a n I r o n Age earthw o r k stands o u t clearly. ' E a r t h w o r k ' , t h o u g h , is rather a misnomer f o r this t y p e of c o n s t r u c t i o n because, a l t h o u g h the surface is of earth, it has a c t u a l l y been b u i l t by p i l i n g up rocks, w h i c h can be seen m e r e l y by digging a f e w inches b e l o w the surface. Advantage o f the l o c a l r o c k was also taken i n the actual siting o f the f o r t and by using the escarpment itself as a barrier the r a m p a r t d i d n o t need t o extend r i g h t r o u n d the f o r t .
CRICKLEY HILL

The cliffs o n the west side o f the C r i c k l e y H i l l p r o m o n t o r y f o r m the finest exposure of the Pea G r i t f o r m a t i o n in B r i t a i n — a n o t h e r geologists' mecca! The e x t r a o r d i n a r y deep v a l l e y between C r i c k l e y H i l l and B a r r o w W a k e is p a r t l y due to a f a u l t , w h i c h can be verified ' i n the field' by
CWCKWEY HiLL SSQ }t " the SCRUBS "

BARROW W A K E , C R I C K L E Y H I L L AND BIRDLIP

113

CRICKL£X

HILL M , . p G i r formation The Vv'idely Sipaccd b«ddma, plants indicate, cQntin.uau.5 Grid rapid fe-dimentation,
A £ S V E

e a

r t

e x a m i n i n g the small quarries on either side of the road to B a r r o w W a k e . N o t i c e also the curious fact that, near the A i r Balloon, the U p p e r I n f e r i o r Oolite outcrops w i t h the exposures o f the various Ragstones, y e t higher up the h i l l the U p p e r Freestone outcrops. A small spring on the h i g h g r o u n d near Shab H i l l (see the b l o c k diagram at Figure 73) indicates the presence of a band of c l a y , k n o w n a s the Fuller's Earth, w h i c h forms h i g h spring levels i n m a n y places on the Cotswolds. Above this occur the limestones of the Great O o l i t e w h i c h w i l l be more f u l l y discussed i n the n e x t chapter. O n one p a r t o f C r i c k l e y H i l l , i m m e d i a t e l y across the i n t e r v e n i n g H

114

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

CRICKLEY

HILL.

Pea. 5 eft formation An t^Kviple af o-pplici geology. A bricX m\\ajr vnoXlL art

W.'dtly ioacii, btdotnj

Tlie ^urmer k l f feKe <ld\f nntii.Ce Hie. massive be<is

Ask foe
FIG. 75

valley, there is a cliff w a l k along magnificent masses o f the Pea G r i t (see Figure 74), the f o r m a t i o n here reaching its m a x i m u m thickness o f f o r t y feet. Figure 75 shows a h u m o r o u s example of the e x p l o i t a t i o n by m a n o f geological features i n this f o r m a t i o n . The h o r i z o n t a l bedding planes of the massive rocks f o r m the ceiling of an artificial cave, the ceiling of w h i c h is supported at the corner by a man-made pillar. A f t e r crossing the well-preserved e a r t h w o r k ramparts, t h e geologist w i l l notice t h a t the Pea G r i t cliffs at this p a r t i c u l a r p o i n t become v e r y fossiliferous, the rocks teeming w i t h fragments of sea urchins, p o l y z o a and various brachiopods. The final p o i n t of interest at the extreme end of the h i l l is the Devil's Table, a n a t u r a l l y - f o r m e d pedestal caused by erosion in the h o r i z o n t a l Pea G r i t f o r m a t i o n , and, conceivably, used f o r religious ceremonies by the inhabitants of the I r o n Age camp (Figure 76). The q u a r r y on the n o r t h side of the p r o m o n t o r y is m e r e l y e x t r a c t i n g stone to be crushed i n t o r o a d m e t a l b u t is w o r t h a v i s i t to see the v a r y i n g dips caused by cambering and the display of master j o i n t s w h i c h are major j o i n t s traversing the oolite across l o n g distances. C r i c k l e y H i l l is a good v i e w p o i n t f r o m w h i c h to see the bay-like

BARROW W A K E , C R I C K L E Y H I L L AND BIRDLIP

115

recesses w h i c h have been eroded i n t o the scarp edge. Some are large (e.g. W i n c h c o m b e ) and some s m a l l l i k e W i t c o m b e . They are usually floored w i t h L o w e r Lias c l a y w h i c h provides good pasture, the green o f w h i c h stands o u t i n contrast t o the w o o d e d slopes o f the oolite.
BIRDLIP

L i t t l e m e n t i o n has been made so far of the Ragstone divisions of the Upper I n f e r i o r O o l i t e , and to recognise these in the Cotswolds calls f o r a good deal of local field-work. Easiest to recognise are the Clypeus G r i t and the T r i g o n i a G r i t , each identifiable b y t h e i r respective fossils. At B i r d l i p , on the edge of the scarp and o n l y a f e w h u n d r e d yards d o w n h i l l f r o m The R o y a l George I n n , the U p p e r T r i g o n i a G r i t can be seen resting on U p p e r Freestone. This means t h a t m a n y of the other Ragstones are missing f r o m this crest of an u n d e r l y i n g structure k n o w n as the B i r d l i p anticline, w h i c h stood above the sea w h e n the Ragstones w e r e being deposited in the shallow w a t e r a r o u n d i t . It is l i k e l y t h a t the B i r d l i p anticline was u p l i f t e d at the end of M i d d l e I n f e r i o r Oolite times and t h a t the Ragstones w h i c h had been deposited everywhere w e r e then eroded f r o m i t .

116

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

T H E BIRDLIP A N T I C L I N E FIG. 77

Setcii. trees

Clypeas Grit i ^ i *

Upper Trijonia $Vit oyster covere4 Surface.

W-pper F r e e s t o n e

Section near the "Royal Seoree- Holel 31RDUP

^ ;

S.
c j

Tie Birdip anticline; Upper Inferior Oolile racstones ^Clypeus )'it U|v(itr Trioonia G r i t J rest on tins, erdded. Surfa.ce. of tke Upper Freestone.

3IRDLI p

LEKHAMPTON

THE B1ROLVP ANTICL1ME-

Pfcitlipsiawa *i Bourcelia Middle Infe-rior
Oolite

AH Wiese beds- erf Vacjitcmes
ctre missing at "BircHi'p

Ncrtcrove Freestone Srypdite 5rit 3ucKrriarii *5rit
Lower-Tn'gcmia. §rit

BARROW W A K E , C R I C K L E Y H I L L AND BIRDLIP

117

T H E V I E W FROM T H E PEAK

At this p o i n t on the scarp there is an excellent vantage p o i n t k n o w n as The Peak, f r o m w h i c h there are views across the Vale of W i t c o m b e to Gloucester and the outliers o f Robin's W o o d H i l l and C h u r c h d o w n H i l l . Beyond Gloucester is M a y H i l l , where the rocks are m u c h older than the Jurassic of the Cotswolds, going as far back as the Silurian p e r i o d . The l o w e r limestones f o r m the base of the I n f e r i o r Oolite o u t c r o p o n the side o f the Peak. The h i l l itself is capped b y Pea G r i t b u t , higher up, occur Freestones capped by U p p e r T r i g o n i a G r i t and Clypeus G r i t . Figure 77 shows a sketch o f this fine cliff w h i c h , topped b y beech trees, can be seen on the escarpment o n l y a f e w h u n d r e d yards f r o m The R o y a l George I n n at B i r d l i p . N o t i c e t h a t a l l the beds numbered f r o m one t o six are missing f r o m this cliff, y e t t h e y appear on Cleeve H i l l . E v i d e n t l y the beds w e r e here o r i g i n a l l y b u t w e r e eroded a w a y after they had been folded i n t o an anticline at B i r d l i p and a c y n c l i n e at Cleeve H i l l . A l l these structures have been most painstakingly analysed by the nineteenth-century geologist, B u c k m a n , and d u r i n g this c e n t u r y b y L . Richardson and D r D . V . Ager, b u t amateur geologists p a y i n g b r i e f visits to these sites should n o t be disappointed if they cannot always find w h a t is reported in the textbooks. The sites in this area are most complicated geologically and t o understand t h e m f u l l y i t is necessary to have a good knowledge of local quarries and r a i l w a y cuttings, as w e l l as a v e r y detailed knowledge of local fossils.

CHAPTER

14

The Combes

A 'combe', or 'coombe', is the general name f o r a short v a l l e y r u n n i n g i n t o a h i l l . A l o n g the C o t s w o l d escarpment there are m a n y such short valleys r u n n i n g i n t o the scarp edge, often w i d e and shaped rather l i k e p a r t o f a n amphitheatre. T h e y f o r m bay-like recesses in t h e scarp edge. The promontories w h i c h make up the sides of the combes often have a n alignment l y i n g W N W t o ESE, and i t i s apparent t h a t these p r o m o n t o r i e s m u s t have some relationship to the presence of faults i n the Cotswolds. A study of the one-inch-to-the-mile geological map reveals numerous faults i n the Cotswolds and i t i s possible t h a t m a n y extend r i g h t i n t o the Severn Vale. A l l these faults are divided i n t o t w o sets—one t r e n d i n g t o the w e s t / n o r t h - w e s t and the other m a i n l y north/south. The m a i n g r o u p o f faults i n the B i r d l i p / W i t c o m b e area and t h e i r
FIG. 78

Snot 0o!;f(

Inferior _ Oalitt-d

"BLOCK D I A G R A M
Of Hl&H SROTHERTOCTE

T H E COMBES

119

SKetch map to sfiov/ a. possible, velotionsricp of -Jaults to fifc" Way Cm wtitcAi Hit HSQay]>me.in{-r)o.s beer\ eroded. possible relationship to the w a y in w h i c h the escarpment has been eroded is s h o w n in M a p 13. A fault, as we have seen, is a fracture in the rocks along w h i c h some m o v e m e n t has taken place, and if a f a u l t should occur in the d i r e c t i o n o f d i p across the escarpment i t w i l l t h r o w the scarp f o r w a r d . In the case of some small projections of the scarp, it m a y be that the topographical feature has been f o r m e d by slipped masses o f o o l i t e rather t h a n n o r m a l f a u l t i n g . It is a paradox t h a t d o w n f a u l t i n g tends to stabilise the p r o m o n t o r y , as it brings the harder rocks d o w n to a l o w e r level. This effect can be seen i n the d o w n f a u l t e d blocks o f Bredon H i l l and Cleeve H i l l , the outliers covered i n previous chapters. A n o t h e r good example of a d o w n f a u l t e d mass w h i c h has stabilised the p r o m o n t o r y can be seen at H i g h Brotheridge (Map 14). This reveals a t y p i c a l W N W f a u l t b r i n g i n g the limestones o f the Great Oolite on to the h i g h g r o u n d . See also Figure 78, w h i c h is a b l o c k d i a g r a m o f H i g h Brotheridge.

120

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

Between the Great O o l i t e and the I n f e r i o r O o l i t e is the Fuller's Earth clay, w h i c h forms a spring line on the h i l l at a h i g h level, and these springs m a y w e l l have influenced the I r o n Age tribes in t h e i r selection of the site f o r a p r o m o n t o r y h i l l f o r t , one of the largest i n Gloucestershire. This rather stump-shaped p r o m o n t o r y f o r m s a tabular h i l l about 900 feet h i g h and occupies a c o m m a n d i n g p o s i t i o n j u t t i n g o u t i n t o the Severn Vale. It is n o w covered w i t h a large beech forest w h i c h , w i t h B u c k h o l t and C r a n h a m W o o d s , are a m o n g the f e w r e m n a n t forests of the Cotswolds.

W i t h i n the Vale o f W i t c o m b e the geology varies w i t h the height — t h e L o w e r Lias clay at 300 feet, the M i d d l e Lias at 450 feet, and the U p p e r Lias up to 650! feet, w h e r e the limestones begin to o u t c r o p (see Figure 79). The semi-amphitheatre f o r m o f the combe i s c o m m o n t o m a n y along the scarp and it has been suggested t h a t t h e y m i g h t have been f o r m e d as a n i v a t i o n h o l l o w d u r i n g the glacial period, each combe being a place w h e r e a snowfield collected. The axis o f the B i r d l i p anticline passes across t h e vale and this m a y have p r o v e d to be a line of weakness resulting in erosion, f o l l o w e d by erosion i n w a r d s alongside the p r o m o n t o r i e s . A l l r o u n d the combe i t i s often difficult t o decide w h i c h are the precise boundaries of L o w e r , M i d d l e and U p p e r Lias because the d o w n w a s h m a t e r i a l of o o l i t i c debris and gravels has concealed the

T H E COMBES

121

outcrops. This tendency is accelerated by the presence of the U p p e r Lias c l a y w h i c h f o r m s a l u b r i c a t e d surface on w h i c h rocks a n d detritus tend t o slip d o w n h i l l . D u r i n g the glacial periods ( w h i c h often lasted tens of thousands of years) the sub-soil remained frozen to great depths and the frostfractured rocks slid d o w n h i l l w h e n the upper layers t h a w e d o u t . Inter-glacial periods lasted f o r m a n y thousands of years w h e n the c l i m a t e was perhaps w a r m e r and w e t t e r t h a n n o w . This d o w n h i l l mass m o v e m e n t is called ' s o l i f l u x i o n ' a n d its associated unsorted gravels and sands are k n o w n as 'taele' gravels. W h e n such deposits cover the slopes the landscape has been f o r m e d under periglacial conditions (see Figure 80).

5OUFLUX\0N

S L O P E . - developed under pcrUjla ciol conditions

122

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

There are m a n y spurs on the combe slopes w h i c h w e r e p r o b a b l y eroded under post-glacial and inter-glacial periods of m u c h heavier r a i n f a l l t h a n at present. Some of the spurs are due to m i n o r faults or m e r e l y a slipping of the o o l i t e . The combes, in fact, demonstrate the w i d e e x t e n t o f slip i n the Cotswolds. The general o r i e n t a t i o n of the combes (opening o u t to the n o r t h west) has had a m a r k e d effect on settlements. Villages t e n d to be mid-combe and the h e a v i l y - w o o d e d slopes facing n o r t h are t h i n l y settled. There is a resemblance here to the shadow and s u n l i g h t sides of Swiss valleys.
WINCHCOMBE A L A R G E COMBE

Sketch M a p 15 shows h o w t h e vale at W i n c h c o m b e c o u l d possibly be due to erosion along a m a j o r l i n e of weakness, the axis of a s m a l l anticline. It is v e r y difficult to prove this suggestion b u t the combe has a n o r t h / s o u t h o r i e n t a t i o n and is n o t related to the system o f parallels f a u l t i n g t o the south. The R i v e r Isbourne flows n o r t h w a r d s t o j o i n the A v o n a t Evesham. I n the early Pleistocene p e r i o d the A v o n also f l o w e d n o r t h w a r d s to the T r e n t and was reversed to the Severn w h e n a m a r g i n a l glacial lake occupied the East M i d l a n d s . Thus the Isbourne represents a fossil drainage. M u c h of the i n f o r m a t i o n about W i t c o m b e applies to this area also b u t the landscape does s h o w evidence of m o r e p o w e r f u l and extensive erosion here. T h i s greater erosion was, perhaps, due to the vale opening o u t d i r e c t l y n o r t h w a r d s t o w a r d s the Ice F r o n t w h e n the ice-sheet l a y across the m i d - A v o n area. The R o m a n v i l l a of Spoonley is related to a good spring issuing f r o m the t o p o f the U p p e r Lias c l a y b u t the R o m a n v i l l a o f W a d f i e l d appears t o have n o nearby spring today, a l t h o u g h i n R o m a n times w a t e r w a s emerging at the surface. There is p l e n t y of evidence t h a t the level of u n d e r g r o u n d w a t e r has been f a l l i n g in the Cotswolds. Nevertheless there are s t i l l m a n y springs a r o u n d the combe, a l l of w h i c h feed i n t o the h u b o f the w h e e l between W i n c h c o m b e and Sudeley M a n o r , so m a k i n g the Isbourne quite a p o w e r f u l l i t t l e r i v e r . There i s a w a y o u t o f the combe southwards b y f o l l o w i n g u p the Beesmoor v a l l e y to C h a r l t o n Abbots, w h e r e the B r o o k rises f r o m a spring above the U p p e r Lias clay at nearly 600 feet. O n l y some 300 yards f u r t h e r on lies the source of the s o u t h w a r d - f l o w i n g C o i n in quite a s h a l l o w v a l l e y leading d o w n to B r o c k h a m p t o n , Seven-

T H E COMBES

123

GEOLOGICAL SKETCH SECTION ALONG AB ON MAP An anticlinal ftrcirture. if ?Kg^c:s1eX as a tint of WcaKness WnicU initiottrf tfee evasion of the v/ale »v covnhe

M A

P 15

h a m p t o n , Syreford and o n w a r d s t o the Thames. I n contrast, the Beesmoor v a l l e y is deep, almost ravine-like, and the question of r i v e r capture here is m u c h debated by geomorphologists. A glance at the geological sketch (Map 15) w i l l show t h a t this Beesmoor ( I s b o u r n e / A v o n drainage)—Coin v a l l e y system isolates t h e mass o f Inferior Oolite o f Cleeve H i l l , m a k i n g i t one great outlier.

CHAPTER

15

Springs and Villages in the Great Oolite Regions

A large area of the mid-Cotswolds is covered w i t h the o o l i t i c limestone called the Great Oolite, w h i c h r a r e l y exceeds a thickness o f 100 feet. The I n f e r i o r O o l i t e , l y i n g b e l o w b u t separated f r o m i t by a bed of Fuller's Earth clay, is also t h i n n e r here t h a n in the N o r t h Cotswolds. Figure 81 shows the usual order of succession in simplified f o r m , the younger beds being on t o p . To understand the scenery developed on these rocks it is again necessary first to understand the nature of the rocks themselves.
T H E GREAT OOLITE SERIES

T h e best sections are to be seen in the o l d r a i l w a y - c u t t i n g s at H a m p e n between A n d o v e r s f o r d and N o t g r o v e . A n d o v e r s f o r d t o Bourton-on-the-Water, and between W i t h i n g t o n and C h e d w o r t h , are p a r t i c u l a r l y good stretches and the Gloucestershire T r u s t f o r N a t u r e Conservation is h o p i n g to take t h e m over. The Great Oolite is t y p i c a l l y a hard, w h i t e , shelly limestone often s h o w i n g rather strongly-developed current-bedding. This stone, w h i c h was used by the Romans as w e l l as t h r o u g h o u t the M i d d l e Ages, can be c u t w i t h a saw w h e n n e w l y 'dug' b u t soon hardens on exposure t o air. One s t r a t u m in the series (again see Figure 81) is k n o w n as the T a y n t o n Stone, and occurs in the W i n d r u s h , B a r r i n g t o n and T a y n t o n areas. L o c a l l y , it was used for drinking-troughs and cottages b u t it has also been used f o r parts of i m p o r t a n t n a t i o n a l buildings, i n c l u d i n g St Paul's Cathedral, t h o u g h this is m a i n l y b u i l t of Portland stone f r o m Dorset. At the base of the Great Oolite there occurs a series of sandy limestones w h i c h are quite fissile, i.e. easily split along t h i n planes. T h i s is Stonesfield Slate and is discussed in the n e x t chapter.

SPRINGS AND V I L L A G E S

125

THE F U L L E R ' S EARTH CLAY SERIES

This is m a i n l y a c l a y f o r m a t i o n w h i c h occurs a l l over the M i d and South Cotswolds. In the n o r t h , it tends to disappear and is replaced b y the C h i p p i n g N o r t o n limestone f o r m i n g the plateau levels between Temple G u i t i n g and U p p e r Swell. The c l a y is about 100 to 150 feet t h i c k near Bath and some of it has the peculiar p r o p e r t y of c r u m b l i n g in w a t e r . A non-plastic clay, due t o the presence o f the m o n t m o r i l l o n i t e t y p e o f clay m i n e r a l , i t was w i d e l y used b y fullers i n the w o o l l e n i n d u s t r y f o r e x t r a c t i n g grease f r o m w o o l . But in the Cotswolds, t h i s is n o t a f u l l i n g clay. It is m e r e l y a

i—r ' i i
i

r~i

While Limestone

•3FJt.

Tricjonc a, impress, a,

a. biValve j-rom tne. Stoncsfielcl Slate

Marly

Beds ISMt Ostrea. a c u m i n a t a an oyste-r- type of bii/cJve. conmon cn tne Fullers' Eartn S e r i e s

TILT
I .1

Taynton Stone 30{t. The best building Stone

CoMeswold Slate. , of Stonesf UM Sl<*fe .Series Zttt S t o « t s f i « U Slate tea. F u U e v s ' Earth about- laf*. Ciypcu-S C.rit •fop Vc-dI n f e r i o r Oolite FIG. 81 Tha G - K E A T O O L I T E . S E R I E S as seen a t

lithoprio-flcu cr Litt-iadovnus a boring
J

cavities bored, tn limestbneby Libriociovn^^

He. 14-a.mpen

railway cuffinj befwexn T4o+jroVe and Andove.rs-forcl.

126

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

band o f c l a y v a r y i n g i n depth f r o m fifty t o seventy feet w h i c h acts as an impervious layer beneath the Great Oolite so t h a t springs are t h r o w n o u t at the base of the limestone. M a n y villages and f a r m settlements w e r e founded o n the powerf u l springs released at the j u n c t i o n of the Fuller's Earth c l a y a n d the Great Oolite, and even u p t o the Second W o r l d W a r villages w e r e s t i l l dependent o n the village spring f o r t h e i r w a t e r . U n f o r t u n a t e l y , however, the Great O o l i t e is often o n l y t h i r t y to f i f t y feet t h i c k , w h i c h means t h a t spring w a t e r can b e p o l l u t e d b y garden refuse and sewage because most of it m e r e l y runs t h r o u g h the j o i n t s and crevices in the rocks and is n o t effectively filtered by the r o c k itself.
FIG. 82 PLATEAU OP ?REAT C O l _ c r E

Kigh Village, - £oo-ft One village, however, C o m p t o n Abdale, s t i l l has a p a r t i c u l a r l y copious spring, p r o u d l y m a r k e d by the villagers w i t h a gaping crocodile m o u t h at the precise spot w h e r e the w a t e r gushes o u t .
THE 'LOST' VILLAGES

It is n o t generally k n o w n t h a t there are quite a n u m b e r of 'lost' villages in the Cotswolds, whose sites have o n l y c o m p a r a t i v e l y recently been discovered by means of aerial p h o t o g r a p h y . The outlines of buildings w h i c h have l o n g since disappeared can be seen w i t h u n c a n n y c l a r i t y f r o m the air, and the c o l o u r o f the vegetation g r o w i n g over the o l d foundations w i l l appear i n the photograph as a different shade f r o m that of the s u r r o u n d i n g vegetation, even t h o u g h there is no visible difference to an observer on the g r o u n d .

SPRINGS AND V I L L A G E S

127

COfAPTON

ABDALE.

It is generally believed t h a t m a n y of these 'lost' villages w e r e deserted in the M i d d l e Ages w h e n the w a t e r supply failed, and the inhabitants migrated d o w n to the k i n d l i e r valleys. A n o t h e r cause was the enclosure of l a n d by the owners, w h i c h began as a first phase in the M i d d l e Ages. Interesting examples of these l o s t ' villages are 'Manless T o w n ' near Brimpsfield, U p p e r Blockley and U p p e r Coberley. The correlation o f geology w i t h agriculture i s w e l l illustrated i n the u p l a n d valleys in the Great Oolite. The h i g h plateau, standing at over 800 feet, is good arable land planted w i t h the most suitable cereal (barley), and the freshly-ploughed lands reveal everywhere a ' c l i t t e r ' o f limestone fragments. D o w n the h i l l b u t h i g h u p along the v a l l e y slopes, the r i c h green pastures developed on the Fuller's Earth clay can easily be detected, plus the sites of the numerous springs t h r o w n out on the hillside. A n d , amateur geologists please note, a green band o f m o r e luscious grass r o u n d a h i l l shows the actual o u t c r o p of the Fuller's Earth clay. Below the base of the Fuller's Earth clay occurs the uppermost d i v i s i o n of the I n f e r i o r Oolite, the Clypeus G r i t . The t y p i c a l fossil of this s t r a t u m is the sea u r c h i n , Clypeus ploti, a great f a v o u r i t e w i t h c o u n t r y c h i l d r e n . M a n y specimens w e i g h j u s t about a p o u n d and i t was a n o l d custom o f the m a r k e t w o m e n a t Stow-on-the-Wold to use t h e m as b u t t e r weights, the stones being called 'pound stones'. A v e r y good section of the Clypeus G r i t can be seen in the o l d r a i l w a y c u t t i n g west o f N o t g r o v e Station.

128

GEOLOGY IN THE SEVERN VALE AND COTSWOLDS DRY VALLEYS

There are m a n y valleys i n the Cotswolds w h i c h are w i t h o u t rivers o r m e r e l y have a t i n y t r i c k l e o f w a t e r , and y e t m u c h f u r t h e r d o w n the v a l l e y there is a gushing stream issuing f r o m a spring. A d i v i s i o n in the v a l l e y is often f o u n d — a step d i v i d i n g the v a l l e y i n t o a higher upper one and a l o w e r one. There are several theories as to the o r i g i n of this phenomenon and a v e r y plausible e x p l a n a t i o n is that, at the close of t h e Ice Age, t h e ICE CAP OR SNCWnELP

A THEORY ON THE ORIGIN OF DRY VALLEYS

o- , r i * *i . / "Fossil" meanders , Ku/cr Coin ci.ur1.n5 SL- pe/i-od. • of fy v » - Coin foda of hujW iro.infa.lt At me end. ot the. ICeA^e. He-ox Withintjtbn ' "The ancieriT meoWe's «rs tf»e FIG- 84 !a«je oneSj when ttt rainfall k/ss heavier than it is Today.
t n e v

SPRINGS AND VILLAGES
part of ElKstone.
F I G . 85

129

ElKstone
820

EE. cUy

almost o. dry Valley
'ecuuse. floor of valley is of limestone B L K S T D N E . - .biocK diajra-m, ;
n

geology his exercised Some control into two Severnerits.

mc-Kincj the. v i l U s e

climate became v e r y w e t and the increased r a i n f a l l produced a m u c h higher water-table w h i c h has been f a l l i n g ever since—hence the 'lost' villages. Figure 84 shows h o w the River C o i n illustrates this t h e o r y b y its large m a i n 'fossil' meanders, along w h i c h the t i n y present-day meanders f l o w . The River C h u r n and other Thames tributaries show s i m i l a r features.

COTSWOLD VILLAGES
A l l the villages i n the Cotswolds o w e t h e i r o r i g i n t o the geological principles described in t h i s chapter. T h e i r siting and t h e i r construct i o n have been d i r e c t l y c o n t r o l l e d b y the nature and disposition o f the rocks beneath t h e m . No d o u b t t h a t is w h y t h e y are so b e a u t i f u l — t h e y are c o m p l e t e l y i n h a r m o n y w i t h the landscape f r o m w h i c h t h e y have sprung. Some o f t h e m take a l i t t l e f i n d i n g — w h i c h i s p r o b a b l y w h y t h e y have remained b e a u t i f u l ! The best approach is the A417 R o m a n r o a d k n o w n as the E r m i n e W a y , w h i c h runs dead straight across the somewhat m o n o t o n o u s plateau f o r m e d o f the Great Oolite, w i t h numerous quarries here and there just off the road. This plateau was nature's g i f t to the Romans f o r the site of a first-class m i l i t a r y road, the m i l i t a r y r o a d f r o m C o r i n i u m (Cirencester) t o G l e v u m (Gloucester). Occasionally the straight, r u l e r - l i k e road dips i n t o a h o l l o w w h e r e the lush green grass reveals the presence of the Fuller's E a r t h clay. J

130

G E O L O G Y I N T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND C O T S W O L D S

Great Oolfia

1%

ruUL£(?5' EARTH ^-eLAy--"^- ' • i

E LKSTSi-lE. . The Savons built tfieir villages above the s p r i n g line
Hfce. ""Ron-icns preftfitd {far V i l l a s beloW the S p r c n q s

FIG. 86

^

o r

the water to r a n through the baths

These h o l l o w s m a r k the heads of valleys w h i c h strike across the r o a d and the traveller w h o f o l l o w s a t y p i c a l one three miles east of B i r d l i p w i l l t u r n off t o the villages o f Syde, Caudle Green and Brimpsfield. These are a l l villages at h i g h levels (between 700 and 800 feet) and y e t the deep valleys are w i t h o u t villages. The d r a m a t i c depths of the valleys and the m e l l o w C o t s w o l d stone w a l l s of the cottages perched h i g h up on the plateau edge give the w h o l e scene almost a Mediterranean aspect in b r i g h t sunshine. Elkstone is another p r e t t y village w i t h a b e a u t i f u l N o r m a n c h u r c h sited o n the limestone b u t f r o m w h i c h one looks d o w n i n t o a c l a y h o l l o w , the head o f a v a l l e y d r a i n i n g d o w n t o the C h u r n and the Thames. There are excellent springs b e l o w the village, and w h e n the
FIG. 87

5»eat PoUte

NOTGKOVE hijl, vi-Ho-jc^Ooft the f u l l e r s Ea»*h Cloy fprincj line
Qn

Fullers E a r t h C lay outcrop r e v e a l e d / b y luxuriant"Qross ttv>i cow p a s T u r e land.

SPRINGS AND V I L L A G E S

131

air temperature was 18° F in January 1963, the spring b e l o w the c h u r c h steamed in the v e r y c o l d air and watercress c o u l d be p i c k e d at the spring-head. Further afield, there are the villages of H a w l i n g , N o t g r o v e and T u r k d e a n , a l l h i g h u p b u t again w i t h the unusual feature f o r such altitudes of cows grazing on r i c h meadows developed on clay. A b o v e the villages, on the h i g h plateau, there are large fields of cereals interspersed w i t h beech copses used f o r pheasant breeding, t h o u g h t h e i r m a i n purpose is to act as wind-breaks.

vctUe.y ojad Kill top. T u r k d e a n (see Figures 88 and 89) is a v e r y good example of t w o spring levels. The b l o c k diagram in Figure 88 shows h o w the v a l l e y has been eroded deep enough f o r the floor to reach the U p p e r Lias clay, thereby creating a second and l o w e r spring line. There are places in the Cotswolds—Elkstone is one example—

132

GEOLOGY IN THE SEVERN VALE AND COTSWOLDS

w h e r e the geological c o n t r o l is so m a r k e d t h a t it has led to the s p l i t t i n g o f the village i n t o t w o settlements. One can trace h o w the peasants of the M i d d l e Ages t r i e d to preserve the economic independence o f a village b y developing areas w i t h a v a r i e t y o f uses according to the nature of the geological outcrops. W h e t h e r a village is a nucleated village, a d u a l village or a linear p a t t e r n , it can usually be seen to coincide w i t h the s i t i n g of the geological outcrops. C h e d w o r t h is a good e x a m p l e of a linear village, w i t h the more p o w e r f u l springs o c c u r r i n g on one side of the v a l l e y — a n d an excellent place a t w h i c h t o study the relationship o f c l a y and limestone and the w a y i n w h i c h the village has g r o w n along the l i n e s ' o f the strata. It is also interesting to n o t e that, since the r a i l w a y line was closed, the C h e d w o r t h t u n n e l has h a d to be b l o c k e d up. It was d r i v e n t h r o u g h the r o c k almost at the j u n c t i o n of the Fuller's Earth clay and the Great O o l i t e and w h e n r a i l w a y maintenance w o r k e r s ceased to check its c o n d i t i o n , the seepage of w a t e r made it dangerous and it h a d to be sealed off. C h e d w o r t h ' s famous R o m a n v i l l a , extensive a n d o b v i o u s l y once v e r y prosperous, is sited at the spring-line j u n c t i o n — a good w a t e r supply w h i c h i s s t i l l w o r k i n g .

.7/) Some, areas H,c ttfi/ier Lias Sands art*- «fe>scit and- the- Oolite j u s re$ts on the U-jy{\T.r Lias Clay.

SPRINGS AND VILLAGES

133

S l o c k . dio^r-nm of

'RENOCOMBE

THE RENDCOMB AREA
The village of Rendcomb is in a superb p o s i t i o n perched h i g h up on the Great Oolite on the spur of a t r i b u t a r y v a l l e y to the C h u r n . Near the village is the progressive p u b l i c school, Rendcomb College, and there c o u l d h a r d l y be a finer place or m o r e b e a u t i f u l surroundings f o r a school. Centuries of the h i s t o r y of m a n are w r i t t e n i n the countryside a r o u n d i t , w h i l e its magnificent grounds afford o p p o r t u n i t y f o r nature study on a grand scale. The b l o c k diagram at Figure 90 shows w h a t must be one of the best c r i c k e t f i e l d s i n England, surrounded b y beautiful parklands leading d o w n to an artificial lake. R o u n d the lake Equisetum plants (horsetails) flourish—an excellent starting-off p o i n t f o r geological studies because these are descendants of the Giant Horsetails (Calamites) w h i c h dominated the coal forests over 280 m i l l i o n years ago. There is also a s w i m m i n g p o o l , w i t h w a t e r p r o v i d e d by a spring at the clay j u n c t i o n . F o l l o w i n g the Rendcomb v a l l e y t o Shawswell F a r m provides y e t another fine example of the correlation of l a n d u t i l i s a t i o n and geology. The b l o c k diagram at Figure 91 shows h o w the Fuller's Earth clay outcrops h i g h u p o n the valley slopes, outcrops w h i c h can be detected n o t o n l y by the change of l a n d use ( f r o m arable to pasture) b u t by t h e numerous small terraces caused by the clay s l i p p i n g d o w n the h i l l and dragging 'strings' o f grass w i t h i t . H i g h up on the plateau on one side of the v a l l e y there is an I r o n Age camp e a r t h w o r k and, on the other side, a medieval salt

134

GEOLOGY IN THE SEVERN VALE AND COTSWOLDS

r o u t e t o D r o i t w i c h f r o m Cirencester k n o w n a s the ' W h i t e W a y ' . In those days of non-metalled roads, m a i n routes deliberately avoided valleys because these became swamps in w i n t e r .

COTSWOLD SPRINGS
M a n y of the springs issuing f r o m the base of the oolite are h i g h l y calcareous, so l o o k o u t f o r the deposits of t u f a . Just outside the Seven Tuns I n n at C h e d w o r t h there is a copious spring, the w a t e r f r o m w h i c h is saturated w i t h carbonate of l i m e . Here one can see mosses and small plants in the process of being petrified, w h i l e underneath is the h o l l o w stone, or ' h o n e y c o m b ' r o c k , w h i c h is t y p i c a l tufa, a 'rock' w h i c h can be f o r m e d in a mere t w e n t y years o f geological t i m e ! Figure 84 showed valleys w h i c h are d r y at the t o p , b u t there are also valleys r o u n d a b o u t w h i c h are d r y at the b o t t o m even t h o u g h there are springs h i g h up on the v a l l e y sides and streams come charging d o w n the h i l l . The e x p l a n a t i o n is t h a t i n m a n y cases the floor of the v a l l e y has n o t y e t been eroded deep enough to reach the U p p e r Lias clay, or perhaps n o t l o w enough to reach the level o f u n d e r g r o u n d w a t e r i n the I n f e r i o r O o l i t e . The springs f r o m the c l a y h i g h u p have, i n fact, been d r u n k b y the oolites o f the I n f e r i o r Oolite. F i n a l l y , notice t h a t the Saxons preferred to site t h e i r settlements on d r y l a n d above the springs, w h i l e the Romans constructed t h e i r villas below so t h a t the w a t e r w o u l d r u n t h r o u g h t h e i r baths and wash-houses.

CHAPTER

16

Cotswold

Tiles

and

Building

Stones

The t y p i c a l C o t s w o l d r o o f is tiled w i t h local stone called the 'Stonesficld Slate', t h o u g h it is n o t slate in the geological sense. To a geologist, slate is a m e t a m o r p h i c r o c k , a shale altered by pressure or f o l d i n g i n t o rocks, l i k e W e l s h slate. The correct t e r m should be 'Tilestone', f o r it is, in fact, a sandy limestone w h i c h splits n i c e l y i n t o t h i n layers w h i c h are suitable f o r roofing. Thus an alternative name w o u l d be 'fissile limestone'.

"BE.LAS KNAP.

with, dry stone, walls 0.5 Stonesf ield Slate.. Tins is the. eadiest Known £xa»*pl<J a-j the. use. cC the 9'eat Oolite tilestone.. i

A Neolithic Long o c r c o w do-tmo ^rovn about 2.000 B.C. Tliis skows tine. ^oXse. entrance,

The earliest k n o w n example of its use is in the w a l l i n g of the false entrance to the famous long b a r r o w of Belas K n a p , near W i n c h c o m b e (Figure 92). This dry-stone w a l l i n g shows a remarkable degree of craftsmanship f o r the t i m e at w h i c h the b a r r o w was b u i l t — a b o u t 2,000 BC. True, it was repaired in 1880, b u t a M i n i s t r y of W o r k s plate near the false entrance assures us t h a t the o r i g i n a l pattern o f b u i l d i n g was s t r i c t l y adhered t o d u r i n g the repairs. The Romans used the stone f o r roofing t h e i r villas and t h r o u g h o u t the M i d d l e Ages large stone tiles w e r e s i m i l a r l y used. Easily dug o u t near the surface of the g r o u n d , t h e y w e r e nature's g i f t to builders and so these stone tiles came to be called 'presents'. C h i p p i n g Campden is one village in w h i c h the roofs of medieval buildings are p a r t i c u l a r l y w e l l preserved. N o t i c e the huge stone

V

136

GEOLOGY IN THE SEVERN VALE AND COTSWOLDS

tiles at the b o t t o m of the roofs. T h e y often w e i g h 50 lb or m o r e (a menace if fire breaks o u t ! ) , and in medieval times huge oak beams were used to h o l d up these v e r y w e i g h t y roofs. T h e i r w e i g h t , in fact, is one of the m a i n reasons f o r the decline of the stone t i l e i n d u s t r y , as f e w people today can afford the massive oak beams needed to support such a heavy load of tiles. THE SEVENHAMPTON SLATE QUARRIES The Great Oolite has a w i d e o u t c r o p to the south-east of t h e Cotswolds, and Figure 93 shows h o w , as the d i p is to the south-east, the higher or younger rocks of the Great Oolite o u t c r o p more. Sometimes f a u l t b l o c k structures have preserved areas of Great Oolite, and t h i s occurs in the o l d slate-quarrying area at Sevenh a m p t o n , east of Puckham W o o d s . See here Figure 94, a b l o c k diagram of Sevenhampton, and M a p 16 s h o w i n g the f a u l t b l o c k structure o f Sevenhampton C o m m o n . The Stonesfield Slate series of rocks f o r m passage-beds f r o m the Fuller's Earth clay to the Great Oolite limestones, and the slate can o n l y be quarried in certain areas because of the u n d e r l y i n g strucNortb w e s t Top c s c a f prne-rYtr <K>Ofl South east

C)reat Oolite.

Sevenha-wipton

Common,

FIG.

93 .

COTSWOLD T I L E S AND BUILDING STONES

137

BlocK. cd'c-jY-a.ivi explauninc tVie, Ofigivi o\ Hoe. Stonesfield SlaTe ejuarvies c t PucK^amn Scrubs , 5eve.v\ am.ptbr) Common.
v n

tures. For example, one great structure is the Vale of M o r e t o n a n t i c l i n e , w h e r e the slate series has p r o b a b l y been eroded off; whereas to the west, in the s y n c l i n a l structures, the Stonesfield Slate series has been preserved. Tilestones can be q u a r r i e d at t w o horizons, at the base of the Stonesfield Slate series a n d also in the C h i p p i n g N o r t o n limestone. T h e stone t i l e i n d u s t r y n o longer exists i n the Cotswolds, b u t i n its h e y d a y i t e m p l o y e d hundreds o f slatters w h o n a t u r a l l y preferred t o q u a r r y this sandy limestone f u l l o f t i n y pieces o f w h i t e m i c a w h i c h made i t fissile and s o easy t o s p l i t i n t o t h i n layers f o r t i l e making.
FOSSILS IN THE SLATES

The fossils in these sandy limestones indicate t h a t , a l t h o u g h the rocks w e r e l a i d d o w n i n the sea, the l a n d was n o t far a w a y . A t t h a t far distant t i m e i t was clothed i n the r i c h green vegetation o f t h e Cycads (the f l o w e r i n g plants had n o t y e t come i n t o the w o r l d ) , large reptiles d o m i n a t e d a l l l a n d l i f e , and the early m a m m a l s w e r e s t i l l o n l y rat-sized n o c t u r n a l m a m m a l s — p r o b a b l y marsupials. T u r n i n g over stone 'slates' one can find the teeth o f reptiles, casts of the fossil tree G i n k g o , and the vertebrae of reptiles such as Megalosaurus. Figure 95 shows a v e r y rare b u t i m p o r t a n t f i n d — t h e

138

GEOLOGY IN THE SEVERN VALE AND COTSWOLDS

t i n y j a w bone o f a m a m m a l . T w o features w h i c h authenticate i t a s a m a m m a l are its differentiated teeth and the c o n s t r u c t i o n of the j a w . M a m m a l s evolved f r o m a stem of reptiles w h i c h had differentiated teeth, and as l o n g ago as 1818 the French geologist, Cuvier, f o u n d near Paris the remains of the first m a m m a l in the Jurassic rocks in t h i s series. A p a r t f r o m vertebrates, bivalves and brachiopods abound i n the limestones. M o s t c o m m o n are Trigonia impressa, Ostrea acuminata and various types of Rhynchonellid. O l d , deserted quarries near N a u n t o n , on the far side of Huntsman's Q u a r r y , are the best places f o r fossil-collecting. I n the field, i t i s sometimes i m p o r t a n t t o determine w h i c h i s t h e t o p and w h i c h is the b o t t o m side of a r o c k . This is easy enough in

MAP 16

Se.oloqico.1 sKelch trio-p (jme indn to one mile) to shoi^/ tne fault blotlC Structure erf .5eveo(iampton Common This ti/pe oj- structure Witk W.HtV. -— E . S . E faults is Very Common in Ike Mov-th and M i d - Cotswolds. Middle ^ Upper L i a s fryil Inferior Oolite, | 1 Fullers Eartt, Cjreat Oolite

COTSWOLD T I L E S AND BUILDING STONES

139

incisor'

SiVikjo teat ca.it from rte. Tayntorj Stone,
f?eptile. tootk -f-rtm. Stoncsfielct Slate, series,

JaW

of"a.

Mammal

frcm Hit Stonesf>el<i

'Slate, sfibwmc, differentiated, teeth

"Reptiles cpw'new teeth IWu^houT lire.
F O S S I L S FROM THE S T O N E S F I E L D S L A T E S E R I E S .
FIG. 95

embryonic tooth. «

-Diis wouli be a nun fossil.

the q u a r r y cliff-face, as the rocks are n o t m u c h disturbed f r o m the w a y i n w h i c h t h e y w e r e l a i d d o w n , b u t w h e n r o c k slabs are l y i n g about on a q u a r r y floor the first t h i n g to do is to f i n d evidence of fossil r i p p l e marks. M a n y of the r o c k surfaces show trace-fossils, i.e. marks made by organisms as t h e y w a l k e d over the sand flats, or 'goblets' of sand w h e r e organisms b u r r o w e d o r spewed i t o u t . Figure 9 6 shows h o w fossils f o u n d i n rocks can p r o v i d e clues a s t o w h i c h w a y u p the beds of r o c k are. Once this is k n o w n , other remains of plants and vertebrates can usually be f o u n d . T H E TECHNIQUE OF SLATE-MAKING T h e various tools of the slate-making trade are s h o w n in Figure

& c

A ' Bivalve sinKs to sea. floor' Valves come a.po-r£ Cccr-rents turn the shell ove-V fbs5i Is can often show the top of the bed

Diagram explaining one of the methods used in determining the •fop Si.urfo.ce erf a, beotiinc- plane, on a slab of r o c K .

F 1 Q

96

140

GEOLOGY IN THE SEVERN VALE AND COTSWOLDS

97, and a l l are i n great demand b y f o l k museums n o w t h a t the i n d u s t r y is dead. N o t i c e also the t w o types of slate—'presents' d u g o u t near the surface and 'pendle', w h i c h was o n l y sought w h e n the s u p p l y of 'presents' became exhausted because it had to be m i n e d far b e l o w the surface. For pendle, slabs of r o c k (up to a f o o t in thickness) were b r o u g h t u p 'green', i.e. w e t w i t h u n d e r g r o u n d w a t e r , and had t o b e covered t o keep t h e m green u n t i l the first h a r d frosts a r r i v e d . T h e y w e r e t h e n placed o u t i n the fields w h e r e the frost soon split t h e m i n t o t h i n tiles. I f the w i n t e r was m i l d , m u c h o f the w o r k i n v o l v e d i n g e t t i n g the pendle w o u l d be wasted, and f o r some C o t s w o l d villages frosts assumed such i m p o r t a n c e t h a t the c h u r c h bells w o u l d be r u n g t o s u m m o n a l l the m e n o f the village t o the f i e l d s w h e n i t was k n o w n t h a t a frost was o n the w a y . Quite a specialised v o c a b u l a r y g r e w up r o u n d the t i l e i n d u s t r y . The 'slatter' was the m a n w h o made the slates and the 'getter' was the m a n w h o got t h e m o u t o f the g r o u n d . The slates were c u t i n t o

Trasenf & . "5 late." sfene -du.<j out" nsar tWe. -Surface oj the ground

'

1

'~ J

* slate* sfone rhat has to be lined.
;

TresentS and Ten die.
Tainted. picK for m«.fcmg holts in tiles

Ash handle

COTSWOLD TILES AND BUILDING STONES

141

S p e x i a l ridge. sf"one=, n d g e stones usually °j the Taunton Si one

Cocks orTantf

Batcnelors ^ | Long I t inches)

Cussems 2 f t wide. V I P' ' ' 'he
acfcc olfl

ThioK- oak beams to Support the very heavfy load, ojl Wtsfdnes. Valleys with lead sheet under tfiefiles. Volleys ware difficult fij do. iMed. moss under the tiles Kept" the snou/out
COTS WOLD S L A T E . "ROOFS FIG. 98

v a r y i n g sizes, each w i t h a different name, the small ones being placed at the t o p of a r o o f , w h i l e the large ones, called 'cussems', w e n t on the eaves. Tilestones f r o m R o m a n villas have been f o u n d w i t h i r o n nails s t i l l i n t h e m b u t oak pegs w e r e used i n the M i d d l e Ages and, later, deal. The special p i c k used f o r m a k i n g the holes takes advantage of the micaceous nature of the r o c k , s p l i t t i n g off t i n y layers first before the hole is pierced. I n c i d e n t a l l y , w h i l e m a n y tourists stop to admire a moss-covered C o t s w o l d roof, any slatter s t i l l alive c o u l d t e l l the o w n e r t h a t he was lessening its life b y a l l o w i n g the moss t o r e m a i n o n i t . W i t h o u t moss, a C o t s w o l d r o o f w i l l last hundreds o f years, whereas t h e h u m i c acid created by decaying moss steadily weakens and destroys slates.
BUILDING STONES

A n y C o t s w o l d village w i l l provide examples o f the use o f Cotsw o l d stone i n b u i l d i n g b u t f o r the greatest v a r i e t y i n types o f

142

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

b u i l d i n g and f o r the best state of preservation, C h i p p i n g Campden is u n d o u b t e d l y queen of a l l the pleasant places of the Cotswolds. T h e r a w materials of these buildings can be seen everywhere in the exposures of the dozens of deserted quarries w h i c h n o w r i d d l e the Cotswolds. Labour no longer being cheap, and other b u i l d i n g materials being readily available, o n l y a f e w quarries are s t i l l being w o r k e d f o r b u i l d i n g stone and the one most w o r t h a v i s i t is Coscombe Q u a r r y , between Cutsdean and Stanway. It is l i k e a vast amphitheatre surrounded by b e a u t i f u l stone shelves f o r m e d as t h e q u a r r y m e n get the stone o u t f r o m the regular bedding planes. The stone is k n o w n as t h e Y e l l o w G u i t i n g stone, and is m u c h seen i n the C h i p p i n g Campden area and i n buildings i n O x f o r d . T h e greater the depth at w h i c h the stone is quarried, the deeper t h e y e l l o w , b u t a s the stone dries o u t i t t u r n s t o l i g h t y e l l o w i s h b r o w n .

C-OSCO/VV13E. QUARRY _

jjooct building j.forye. in tbe
lower ln{e.<roO\r O o l i t e

COTSWOLD T I L E S AND BUILDING STONES

143

It is believed to be the same rock w h i c h , w h e n traced southwards to L e c k h a m p t o n , becomes the Pea G r i t . Figure 99, a sketch of Coscombe Q u a r r y , shows it to be ideally sited at a p o i n t w h e r e n a t u r a l processes have deposited suitable m a t e r i a l and, b y bedding and j o i n t i n g , have c u t i t i n t o convenient blocks f o r the q u a r r y m e n to handle and to market. Figure 100 shows h o w the r o c k is split i n t o five-ton blocks by the 'wedge and feather' m e t h o d , w h i c h is cheaper and m o r e convenient t h a n the use of an expensive saw w h e n o n l y roughly-shaped blocks are required. In W e s t i n g t o n and F a r m i n g t o n Quarries, h o w ever, the stone is cut i n t o blocks by saws studded w i t h i n d u s t r i a l diamonds and costing over £ 3 0 0 apiece. This is necessary because W e s t i n g t o n Q u a r r y produces stone fireplaces and other o r n a m e n t a l masonry calling f o r m u c h greater precision in the c u t t i n g .
WORKING COTSWOLD STONE

If one watches q u a r r y m e n e x t r a c t i n g stone and masons a c t u a l l y w o r k i n g o n i t , i t w i l l b e n o t i c e d t h a t , most o f the t i m e , t h e i r methods are geared to the j o i n t s in the rocks. V i s i t i n g geologists are often asked about the probable structure of stone about to be w o r k e d , and analysis of the j o i n t s in some types of r o c k structures

144

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

The. o l d dovecote o > N A U H T c H

is p a r t of some current research being carried o u t at N o t t i n g h a m University. T h e o r i e n t a t i o n o f the sets o f j o i n t s i n the I n f e r i o r Oolite w o u l d seem to be related to the u p l i f t of the Jurassic rocks to f o r m the C o t s w o l d escarpment d u r i n g the T e r t i a r y period, some 20 m i l l i o n years ago—the same p e r i o d as t h a t of A l p i n e orogeny. C o t s w o l d stone, i n c i d e n t a l l y , i s n o t a t a l l the strong m a t e r i a l i t is p o p u l a r l y supposed to be, and correct q u a r r y i n g and proper bedding d u r i n g c o n s t r u c t i o n are essential to ensure t h a t the m o s t suitable face is exposed on c o m p l e t i o n . Careful selection is also necessary, and the irregular w e a t h e r i n g on m a n y exposed quarryfaces is p r o o f of the w i d e range of changes w h i c h can take place w i t h i n even v e r y s m a l l n a t u r a l surface areas. N a t u r a l fractures a n d bedding planes are also sources of deterioration unless t h e y are dealt w i t h i n a h i g h l y skilled manner. F i n a l l y , the o o l i t i c s t r u c t u r e of C o t s w o l d stone means t h a t , although it is capable of c a r r y i n g b u i l d i n g loads, i t w i l l n o t w i t h s t a n d great pressures o r b l o w s .

CHAPTER

17

The

Painswick

Area

Every weekend, b o t h s u m m e r and w i n t e r , hordes o f m o t o r i s t s invade the Painswick area to gaze at a t t r a c t i v e vistas and fine panoramas. A t the s u m m i t o f every headland o f the escarpment there are sweeping v i e w s of w i d e areas of the Severn V a l l e y stretching r i g h t over t o the Forest o f Dean b e y o n d .
GEOLOGICAL ORIGINS

The Great O o l i t e is m o r e developed here t h a n in any other p a r t of this p a r t i c u l a r area and, h i g h up on the plateau, it forms a second step above the Fuller's Earth c l a y series, w h i c h is here about seventy feet t h i c k . The I n f e r i o r O o l i t e is n o t so t h i c k as at L e c k h a m p t o n (reaching about 150 feet) and p a r t of the L o w e r series, the Pea G r i t , attenuates f r o m a depth of f o r t y feet at C r i c k l e y to o n l y a f e w feet near Painswick. There is, however, a m a r k e d increase in thickness of t h e U p p e r Lias sands, w h i c h reach about 100 feet and o u t c r o p h i g h in the valleys, affording splendid d r y sites f o r the h i l l - t o p settlements. The U p p e r Lias clay is here about seventy feet t h i c k and is, of course, the factor in ensuring the spring line at intermediate heights.
PLATFORM TERRACES

South f r o m Stroud and Painswick, the Marlstone rock-bed f o r m i n g the t o p of the M i d d l e Lias is an i m p o r t a n t y e t secondary t o p o g r a p h i c a l feature n o t o n l y o f the escarpment b u t also o f the i n t e r i o r v a l l e y s — i n w h i c h i t f o r m s p l a t f o r m terraces suitable f o r f a r m sites and hamlets. South of Stroud, the Marlstone f o r m i n g the subedge to the Cotswolds is about a m i l e w i d e and has villages s t r u n g along i t . T h e M i d d l e Lias clays and shales b e l o w are about f i f t y feet t h i c k . I t w i l l be recalled t h a t geomorphology is one aspect o f 'recent'
K

146

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

geology, and is concerned w i t h the effect of geologically 'recent' t i m e and geologically 'recent' climate o n the rocks l a i d d o w n m a n y m i l l i o n s of years p r e v i o u s l y . W h y are the Painswick valleys so deep? W h y are there s o m a n y b e a u t i f u l combes i n this area? G e o m o r p h o l o g y provides us w i t h the answer.

THE PAINSWICK AREA

147

The valleys d r a i n i n g to the Thames are shallow, w h i l e those d r a i n i n g to the Severn are deeper. Obviously, then, the latter have a m u c h s w i f t e r descent f o r a short distance than the streams d r a i n i n g to the east and they have therefore c u t deeper valleys. But if we examine these valleys today we find t h a t the actual streams are quite small (although they have provided w a t e r p o w e r ) in relation to the valleys they occupy, and the inference is that they were most p r o b a b l y eroded by the m u c h heavier r a i n f a l l w h i c h occurred d u r i n g the Ice Age. In support of this theory, gravels brought d o w n b y the ancient rivers are n o w f o u n d some fifty feet above the present valley floors. The main escarpment is b r o k e n at Stonehouse by the River Frome w h i c h , w i t h its numerous tributaries, has carved o u t a l l these deep valleys. These valleys tend to be at r i g h t angles to the m a i n valley and, upstream, terminate in deep coombcs w h i c h are themselves at r i g h t angles to the valleys. There is no doubt t h a t , o r i g i n a l l y , rivers w o r k e d their w a y along weaknesses in rocks (e.g. valleys tend to be eroded in clays). In this area there are n o r t h / s o u t h faults and lateral faults, and these have apparently i n i t i a t e d the

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GEOLOGY IN THE SEVERN VALE AND COTSWOLDS

drainage system. The faults o f t e n cause displacements in the strata, so the Marlstone on one side of the v a l l e y is at a different level f r o m the other side, w h i c h also accounts f o r the v a r y i n g depths o f the valleys.

THE MAIN BEAUTY SPOTS
The sketch of Painswick does n o t do justice to the beauty of t h e site o f this d e l i g h t f u l l i t t l e C o t s w o l d t o w n . N o p i c t u r e taken f r o m a n y angle c o u l d do t h a t , f o r Painswick is sited h i g h and d r y on a p r o m o n t o r y between t w o deep valleys. I n e v i t a b l y , the attractiveness of the t o w n and its superb site have b r o u g h t traffic problems, especially d u r i n g the h o l i d a y season, f o r the t o w n has o n l y been able t o g r o w along the spur o n w h i c h i t stands and there is,

THE PAINSWICK AREA

149

therefore, o n l y one r o u t e t h r o u g h i t . The Slad v a l l e y (Figure 103), o n l y a f e w miles f r o m Painswick, achieved i n t e r n a t i o n a l fame t h r o u g h Laurie Lee's account of his b o y h o o d in the village of Slad, and n o w Cider with Rosie is even a set 'Eng. L i t . ' t e x t b o o k in the U n i t e d States! The sketch shows the great depth of the valley, w h i c h ends in the usual coombe, an erosion feature perhaps n o t e n t i r e l y due to past climates in this instance b u t also associated w i t h camber and slip in the rocks.

"The

PA1MSWICK

valley

Tne welt clev/eftopea'.
,e<:,

Venracc

MILL

caused- by the, Marlstone RocK-t - " e a r R O C K M I U _ M a n y o f the o l d m i l l s i n this and nearby valleys are n o w p r i v a t e houses and the most interesting f r o m the geological angle is R o c k M i l l . Here the stream has cascaded over the Marlstone, w h i c h can be seen o u t c r o p p i n g just over the M i l l House. Haresfield Beacon is one of Gloucestershire's most popular beauty spots at a l l times of the year. It is also a vantage p o i n t f r o m w h i c h one can clearly see the r o o t cause of the Severn Bore—the w i d e meanders o f the r i v e r w h i c h f o r m the 'funnel' and the l o n g 'stem' w h i c h leads to Gloucester. F r o m here, t o o , can be seen in the far distance the graceful span of the n e w Severn Bridge. But, above a l l , Haresfield Beacon is a geologist's dream spot! Slip, camber and other fractures and distortions obscure the t r u e relationships of the strata a l l over the Cotswolds b u t on Haresfield Beacon there is a geologist's classic exposure s h o w i n g the exact j u n c t i o n of the I n f e r i o r Oolite and the U p p e r Lias sands (see Figure 106). Every amateur geologist should m a k e a p o i n t of finding this

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GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

T H E PAINSWICK AREA

151

exposure w h i c h is j u s t b e l o w the Ordnance Survey T r i g , p o i n t pedestal, b u t easy to miss on a casual w a l k . The villages of W e s t r i p , R a n d w i c k , Ruscombe and Selsey are a l l situated on the U p p e r Lias sands and the alignment of the houses is contoured r o u n d the coombes. A t n i g h t , the lights i n the houses c o n v e n i e n t l y sketch o u t the contours of the landscape f o r the v i e w e r ! As Stroud expands, housing tends to retreat a r o u n d t h e valley contours. There is l i t t l e need here f o r t o w n p l a n n i n g , as geology determines w h a t can and cannot be done.

Painswick Beacon (Figure 107) is another favourite beauty spot in this area. At a height of 931 feet, it has c o m m a n d i n g views r i g h t across the Severn V a l l e y to Robin's W o o d and M a y H i l l s and beyond. This also is the site of a f o r m e r I r o n Age h i l l - f o r t , being c o n v e n i e n t l y situated on a l o n g , n a r r o w ridge of limestone, and because the ridge is so n a r r o w there is m u c h cambering on b o t h sides. The best v i e w of this can be obtained f r o m the Beacon s u m m i t l o o k i n g south to Catsbrain Q u a r r y on the left and the Beacon q u a r r y o n the r i g h t , each w i t h dips towards the v a l l e y . L o o k i n g a t this, the beginner i n geology w o u l d p r o b a b l y i m m e d i a t e l y e x c l a i m , ' A nice a n t i c l i n a l s t r u c t u r e ! ' I t i s n o t , o f course, and the diagram and sketch in Figure 107 s h o w the complete camber as seen in one v i e w .

CHAPTER

18

The

Northern Malverns

The M a l v e r n H i l l s f o r m a n o r t h / s o u t h range about seven-and-ah a l f miles long, rising l i k e a w a l l f r o m the south-western approaches t o the M i d l a n d s . The h i l l s are h i g h because the rocks are h a r d and crystalline a n d have resisted erosion, and also because t h e y have been heaved v i o l e n t l y upwards f r o m the depths o f the earth's crust. T h e y f o r m a m a r k e d b o u n d a r y between t w o d i s t i n c t regions. On the east, there are the p o p u l a t e d plains of the Midlands w i t h vast stretches o f arable l a n d b u t w i t h n e w industries and n e w t o w n s springing up e v e r y w h e r e . On the west, it is a region of w o o d e d scarps and vales, w i t h r a t h e r a sparse p o p u l a t i o n , the W e l s h borderlands of Herefordshire. On the east, the rocks are the flat Triassic rocks l a i d d o w n in desert conditions some 250,000,000 years ago. On the west, there are m u c h older rocks w h i c h are also folded so t h a t the resultant scenery is far more picturesque. V i e w e d f r o m the Midlands side at about ten miles distance, the M a l v e r n range can be seen to be m u c h higher in the n o r t h t h a n in the south, and the generally accepted e x p l a n a t i o n of its present-day appearance is t h a t this u p t h r u s t b l o c k of ancient rocks has been pushed u p w i t h a greater t h r u s t i n the n o r t h t h a n the south. Figure 108 shows the sudden rise of t h e N o r t h e r n Malverns by N o r t h H i l l , w h i l e Figure 109 shows that, at Chase End H i l l i n the e x t r e m e south, the rise f r o m the p l a i n is n o t so i m p o s i n g . The rocks of the Malverns are p a r t i c u l a r l y interesting because t h e y are among the most ancient i n B r i t a i n , and k n o w n t o geologists as the Pre-Cambrian rocks. Some recent research by Dr D. C. Rex o f the D e p a r t m e n t o f Geology and M i n e r a l o g y a t the U n i v e r s i t y o f O x f o r d has established t h a t the p e r i o d o f t h e i r crystallisation f r o m sedimentaries i n t o rocks occurred between 580 and 600 m i l l i o n years ago. Previously, about 1,000 m i l l i o n years ago, t h e y m a y have been v e r y ancient shales or sandstones. The m e t h o d used by

T H E NORTHERN M A L V E R N S
F I G . 108

153

~Ttu hcH-them Cndof the MoJvem range near V/esf-Malvern. North Hill behind is (,30Qft Dr R e x — k n o w n as the isotopic age d e t e r m i n a t i o n of rocks—is based o n the decay rate o f the r a d i o a c t i v i t y i n certain minerals f o u n d i n crystalline rocks. In this instance, hornblende, b i o t i t e and muscovite w e r e the three minerals selected and s u b m i t t e d to the potassiumargon technique.

F I G . 109

TV Southern

end »f the. M a W n s .

Chose E n d Hill 625" ffr %i$ s l w s

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T H E ROCKS O F T H E M A L V E R N S

The Malverns are clues to the nature of the deepest parts of the earth's c r u s t — c o n v e n i e n t l y t h r u s t u p i n this p a r t i c u l a r area f o r the geologist to l o o k at. It w o u l d seem t h a t the earth's crust is intensely folded at its greatest depths a n d the rocks there are harder because o f t h e i r crystalline t e x t u r e . There are numerous quarries r o u n d N o r t h H i l l i n a l l o f w h i c h the rocks are crystalline and the observer does n o t need to be a specialist i n m i n e r a l o g y t o recognise the more c o m m o n minerals, a l l silicon compounds of various kinds. As a b r i e f guide to t h e i r i d e n t i f i c a t i o n : Feldspar minerals are usually w h i t e or p i n k — p i n k feldspar gives the rocks a reddish tinge. The harder vitreous or glass-like m i n e r a l is quartz. D a r k green to black m i n e r a l is hornblende. The m i c a minerals can be of t w o kinds, a clear m i c a called muscovite and a d a r k i r o n m i c a called b i o t i t e . B i o t i t e and hornblende are easily confused. T h e f o r m e r is black, s h i n y and flaking b u t the hornblende does n o t flake, a l t h o u g h often of the same colour. Rocks can be identified by t e x t u r e and structure as w e l l as by colour. Stand back and survey each quarry-face as a w h o l e to get an idea o f structure. I n some quarry-faces i t w i l l be seen t h a t w h a t at first appear to be gigantic bedding planes are n o t bedding planes at a l l b u t lozenge-shaped masses of r o c k d o v e t a i l i n g i n t o one another. Such a t y p i c a l cliff-face is s h o w n in Figure 110 and is k n o w n as a 'schist', w h i c h means a c r y s t a l l i n e m e t a m o r p h i c r o c k t h a t foliates. It often breaks in a w a v y uneven surface and this p r o p e r t y is called 'schistosity'. Schists are n a m e d after t h e i r characteristic m i n e r a l , w h i c h is hornblende in the Malverns, so this r o c k is a hornblende schist. Schists are produced under intense pressure and, l o o k i n g at the quarries in the Malverns, even a l a y m a n can sense t h a t some enormous lateral force m u s t have pushed the rocks i n t o those i r r e g u l a r layers. D y n a m i c pressure has, in fact, changed rocks w h i c h w e r e form e r l y sedimentary rocks i n t o schists, and w h e n this change has been b r o u g h t about b y pressure, o r b y heat f r o m injected m o l t e n r o c k , or by b o t h phenomena, the resultant rocks are k n o w n as 'metamorphic'.

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155
FIG. 110

Clifify of- j r a h i / e . liKe rocK. near the, "Single «u.«.rry. These ace <rcot beofamq planes but plentfj ^ o( F O U A T I O H \A ScVustosi.'ty. The rocK 15, something between, a ^ r a n i f e a n d 0- schist", ?erh«.ps tKt? Was once. mbr'an. fediwientary rocK.

This k i n d of rock, w h i c h breaks i n t o irregular layers and lumps, is r e a l l y o n l y suitable for road metal, and the quarries s t i l l busily w o r k i n g in the Malverns are m a i n l y s u p p l y i n g material for the n e w m o t o r w a y s . It is excellent material f o r this purpose because the rock is so hard that tungsten carbide steel tools have to be used f o r d r i l l i n g holes i n t o the r o c k before blasting. Some o l d houses in the area have been b u i l t f r o m M a l v e r n r o c k b u t are merely further p r o o f that this is n o t a good b u i l d i n g stone because so m u c h cement has been needed to bond the irregular rocks. Probably the real a t t r a c t i o n in each instance has been the o r n a m e n t a l character of the stone and the fascination of its m a n y changes of colour. Particularly attractive are the great w h i t e veins of some injected m a t e r i a l in these rocks. Closer inspection of these beautiful streaks of m i n e r a l in the quarries reveals that they are feldspar and quartz, thus m a k i n g a puzzle w i t h i n a puzzle f o r the geologist. The o r i g i n a l sedimentary rocks were apparently metamorphosed

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b y pressure and t h e n f u r t h e r metamorphosed b y the i n j e c t i o n o f m o l t e n m a t e r i a l . O r d i d i t happen the other w a y r o u n d ? Even t o d a y geologists argue endlessly about t h e M a l v e r n s ! There is no general agreement about the exact sequence o f events i n the e v o l u t i o n o f these most ancient rocks to t h e i r present state. Rocks w h i c h were once m o l t e n and have n o w crystallised o u t are called igneous rocks, and can generally be recognised by the absence o f well-defined bedding planes and b y their p a r t i c u l a r t e x t u r e rather t h a n b y t h e i r colour.

G R E E N V A L L E Y AND I V Y SCAR

A f t e r the quarries o f N o r t h H i l l come the slopes o f Worcestershire Beacon and p r o b a b l y the most spectacular scenery of a l l t h e M a l v e r n range—Green V a l l e y by St Ann's W e l l . There is no d o u b t t h a t this scenery, w h i c h is so l i k e D a r t m o o r , i s related t o the granite-like t y p e o f r o c k w h i c h p r o b a b l y forms the m a i n mass of the N o r t h e r n Malverns. In places, it is classified as a q u a r t z d i o r i t e or granodiorite and this w h a l e b a c k t y p e of r e l i e f is u s u a l l y associated w i t h the w e a t h e r i n g o f granite h i l l s . Green V a l l e y is l i k e a coombe and m a n y s i m i l a r features can be f o u n d on the eastern and north-eastern sides of the range. These coombes m a y have been eroded by small glaciers d u r i n g the last glacial period.

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This represents an intrusion of molten rocK. Notice the flow structures in. the lower ptfrt of the- cli^p. A well-defined p u b l i c f o o t p a t h leads o u t of Green V a l l e y to the famous I v y Scar rocks w h i c h t o w e r over M a l v e r n T o w n , whose majestic P r i o r y C h u r c h is almost l i k e a h u m a n echo of the d a r k rocks e r u p t i n g o u t o f the s m o o t h granite h i l l s . This dark, heavy r o c k is classified as a m i c r o - d i o r i t e , a k i n d of dolerite w h i c h is r e a l l y an igneous i n t r u s i o n i n t o the older granite schists—and the gneisses w h i c h also occur in the Malverns. Gneiss is difficult to define or describe because it is so v a r i e d b u t i n general i t i s a coarse-textured m e t a m o r p h i c r o c k w i t h the minerals i n parallel streaks b u t l a c k i n g the characteristic p r o p e r t y of schists to break in a w a v y , uneven surface. The reason geologists believe t h a t the I v y Scar rocks are a later i n t r u s i o n of m o l t e n r o c k is t h a t t h e y are so 'fresh' l o o k i n g , i.e. there

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is n o t m u c h alteration of the constituent minerals. There is also the fact t h a t f r o m one v i e w p o i n t can be seen the various f l o w patterns and bedded structures of the m o l t e n r o c k as it w a s squeezed in or injected f r o m the depths of the earth. F r o m this p o i n t there is a c l i m b of over 1,000 feet over Sugar Loaf H i l l and then t h e p a t h leads t o the Dingle i n W e s t M a l v e r n w h e r e there is a spectacular v i e w across to the w o o d e d limestone scars o f the Silurian rocks w h i c h w i l l be discussed later i n t h i s chapter. D i n g l e O l d Q u a r r y is w e l l w o r t h a v i s i t f o r here is f u r t h e r evidence of later intrusions of m o l t e n r o c k . On the n o r t h side of the q u a r r y can be seen the actual zone of contact of a later injected r o c k , n e w r o c k injected i n t o the older quartz and feldspar r o c k . It looks as if it was injected along one of the great t h r u s t planes w h i c h are so c o m m o n in the Malverns and, according to some opinions, these t h r u s t planes are i n v o l v e d in the emplacement of the h i l l s themselves. A l s o w o r t h a v i s i t are the o l d deserted quarries close to U p p e r W y c h e , p a r t i c u l a r l y the large one k n o w n as Earnslaw Q u a r r y , as these give a valuable insight i n t o the real n a t u r e of the M a l v e r n rocks. Here can be seen the immense cleavage planes stretching up t o the t o p o f the c l i f f and even the direction f r o m w h i c h the pressure came to give these rocks 'the great squeeze'. Great ribs of granite-like intrusions stand o u t l i k e p i n k i s h - w h i t e dykes. This suggests t h a t these feldspar quartz intrusions m a y have had something t o d o w i t h the conversion o f the o r i g i n a l metamorphosed rocks i n t o granites and grano-diorites.
MINERAL CHANGES

E x a m i n i n g the rocks i n a l l these quarries, the most s t r i k i n g feature w h i c h w i l l be n o t i c e d is the v a r i e t y o f colours, p a r t i c u l a r l y greenish minerals. Remember t h a t rocks are m e r e l y aggregates of minerals and t h a t in v e r y ancient rocks the minerals decompose and change i n t o other minerals—especially w h e n t h e y are subjected to heat and pressure or saturated by underground fluids. A c o m m o n green decomposition p r o d u c t seen in M a l v e r n rocks is c h l o r i t e and another is epidote. The black, s h i n y i r o n m i c a called b i o t i t e often occurs i n t h i c k veins and this m i n e r a l , together w i t h the other k i n d o f mica, w h i t e m i c a called muscovite, has been f o r m e d by the so-called 'granitisa-

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t i o n ' of the Pre-Cambrian rocks. G r a n i t i s a t i o n is a process in w h i c h some f o r m of igneous m a t e r i a l or another invades sedimentary or m e t a m o r p h i c r o c k , p r o d u c i n g m i x t u r e s w h i c h eventually alter the r o c k s o t h a t i n t e x t u r e and c o m p o s i t i o n i t becomes granite. Epidote is a c o m p l e x silicate of c a l c i u m and a l u m i n i u m w i t h w a t e r w h i c h forms i n most m e t a m o r p h i c rocks, f o l l o w i n g cracks and seams, b u t i n m a n y M a l v e r n quarries i t has f o r m e d t h i n green crusts. Some l u m p s of r o c k are d a r k and heavy because t h e y consist almost e n t i r e l y of a mass of hornblende crystals, hornblende being a c o m p l e x h y d r o u s silicate c o n t a i n i n g c a l c i u m , magnesium and i r o n . I n m a n y types o f r o c k the hornblende has changed i n t o b i o t i t e and in so d o i n g given rise to the secondary minerals, c h l o r i t e a n d epidote. F i n a l l y , some of the rocks show an i r r e g u l a r layered arrangement i n w h i c h the minerals are i n parallel streaks o r bands b u t d o n o t show cleavage, i.e. schistosity. This t y p e of r o c k c o u l d have o r i g i n ated either f r o m a granite w h i c h has been subjected to enormous pressures or f r o m an o r i g i n a l sedimentary r o c k w h i c h has been metamorphosed i n t o a schist and t h e n later changed i n t o a k i n d of granite gneiss by igneous permeations. Confusion b u i l t u p o n conf u s i o n ! — w h i c h is w h a t the great M a l v e r n debate w i l l be f o r m a n y years to come.
T H E SPRINGS

Seeing so m a n y great fissures, it is n a t u r a l f o r the observer to assume t h a t the surface r a i n f a l l fills t h e m up w i t h w a t e r underg r o u n d . C e r t a i n l y there are m a n y springs i n the h i l l s b u t most f r e q u e n t l y t h e y occur w h e r e the crystalline rocks come close to the j u n c t i o n o f sedimentary rocks. T h e c l a i m is made t h a t this w a t e r is absolutely p u r e and the w e l l - k n o w n M a l v e r n w a t e r obtained f r o m H o l y W e l l near M a l v e r n W e l l s is even b o t t l e d and sold to the p u b l i c as M a l v e r n W a t e r , c l a i m i n g n o special p r o p e r t y other t h a n this p u r i t y , a n i r o n i c c o m m e n t o n the state o f mains w a t e r i n o u r o v e r c r o w d e d i s l a n d !
T H E SILURIAN ROCKS

On the western side of the Malverns, f o r a distance of over five miles, a series of rocks outcrops, f o r m i n g ridges of sandstone or limestone or valleys in the softer r o c k called shale. This series is

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GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

HEWaWUWHIHt

MALVERN RAN&c

WQRCESTERSHl RE

k n o w n as the Silurian system as these sedimentary rocks w e r e l a i d d o w n i n the Silurian sea about 440 m i l l i o n years ago w h e n the Malverns ( w h i c h w e r e t h e n a much-eroded ancient m o u n t a i n chain) were submerged beneath t h e sea. Figure 113 shows the great contrast between the flat Mesozoic rocks (the Triassic system) on the east and the folded Silurian rocks o n the west. L o o k i n g d o w n on these w o o d e d limestone scarps and the open field of the v a l l e y floors, the observer is p r o v i d e d w i t h a ' t e x t book' example of h o w to recognise limestones and shales f o r m i n g escarpments and valleys respectively. To l o o k at this M a l v e r n scenery is n o t o n l y a lesson in geology b u t also a p r a c t i c a l lesson in geography affording a real understandi n g of some f u n d a m e n t a l principles of a l l scenery and never to be

T B E WOODED LIMESTONE SCARPS IN WEST tAALVERN

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f o r g o t t e n because it was something a c t u a l l y seen. There are even s m a l l gaps in the scarps f o r m e d by the A y m e s t r y limestone so t h a t an afternoon spent on this p a r t of the Malverns w i l l give any geography student the k e y t o an understanding o f t h e physical b u i l d of m u c h of south-eastern England and even the Paris Basin in France. Between B r i t i s h Camp and the W y c h e r a i l w a y t u n n e l the observer can f o l l o w a l i n e o f w o o d e d scarps represented b y the t w o d o m i n a n t limestones of the Silurian system, the W e n l o c k and A y m e s t r y limestones. I t i s obvious f r o m the b l o c k d i a g r a m i n Figure 114 t h a t the y o u n g e r rocks o u t c r o p t o w a r d s the west.

There is an abstract beauty in the patterns of the crystalline rocks of the Pre-Cambrian series b u t the Silurian rocks offer f o r most visitors to the Malverns a l i v e l i e r interest because t h e y are so r i c h in fossils. Corals, brachiopods and t r i l o b i t e s are to be f o u n d , the best places f o r the h u n t being between B r o c k h i l l Coppice and C o l w a l l Coppice i n the o l d limestone quarries. F r o m above C o l w a l l there can be seen i n the h i l l i m m e d i a t e l y above Gardener's C o m m o n a clue to the presence of faults because there is a sudden change in d i r e c t i o n of the limestone scarps. In fact, nature here supplies a neat geological map by covering the limestone outcrops w i t h w o o d s ! I n this h i l l a f a u l t has caused the W e n l o c k limestone t o shift its p o s i t i o n i n r e l a t i o n t o its distance f r o m the M a l v e r n range.
L

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159

t i o n ' of the Pre-Cambrian rocks. G r a n i t i s a t i o n is a process in w h i c h some f o r m o f igneous m a t e r i a l o r another invades sedimentary o r m e t a m o r p h i c r o c k , p r o d u c i n g m i x t u r e s w h i c h eventually alter the r o c k s o t h a t i n t e x t u r e and c o m p o s i t i o n i t becomes granite. Epidote is a c o m p l e x silicate of c a l c i u m and a l u m i n i u m w i t h w a t e r w h i c h forms i n most m e t a m o r p h i c rocks, f o l l o w i n g cracks and seams, b u t i n m a n y M a l v e r n quarries i t has f o r m e d t h i n green crusts. Some l u m p s of r o c k are d a r k and heavy because t h e y consist almost e n t i r e l y of a mass of hornblende crystals, hornblende being a c o m p l e x h y d r o u s silicate c o n t a i n i n g c a l c i u m , magnesium a n d i r o n . I n m a n y types o f r o c k the hornblende has changed i n t o b i o t i t e and in so d o i n g given rise to the secondary minerals, c h l o r i t e and epidote. F i n a l l y , some of the rocks s h o w an i r r e g u l a r layered arrangement i n w h i c h the minerals are i n parallel streaks o r bands b u t d o n o t s h o w cleavage, i.e. schistosity. This t y p e of r o c k c o u l d have o r i g i n ated either f r o m a granite w h i c h has been subjected to enormous pressures or f r o m an o r i g i n a l sedimentary r o c k w h i c h has been metamorphosed i n t o a schist and then later changed i n t o a k i n d of granite gneiss by igneous permeations. Confusion b u i l t u p o n confusion ! — w h i c h is w h a t the great M a l v e r n debate w i l l be f o r m a n y years to come.
T H E SPRINGS

Seeing so m a n y great fissures, it is n a t u r a l f o r the observer to assume t h a t the surface r a i n f a l l fills t h e m u p w i t h w a t e r underg r o u n d . C e r t a i n l y there are m a n y springs i n t h e hills b u t most f r e q u e n t l y t h e y occur w h e r e the crystalline rocks come close to the j u n c t i o n o f sedimentary rocks. The c l a i m is made t h a t this w a t e r is absolutely pure and the w e l l - k n o w n M a l v e r n w a t e r obtained f r o m H o l y W e l l near M a l v e r n W e l l s is even b o t t l e d and sold to the p u b l i c as M a l v e r n W a t e r , c l a i m i n g n o special p r o p e r t y other t h a n this p u r i t y , a n i r o n i c c o m m e n t o n the state o f mains w a t e r i n o u r o v e r c r o w d e d i s l a n d !
T H E SILURIAN ROCKS

On the western side of the Malverns, f o r a distance of over five miles, a series of rocks outcrops, f o r m i n g ridges of sandstone or limestone or valleys in t h e softer r o c k called shale. This series is

160

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

MALVERN HEREFORDSHIRE.
"RANGE
WORCESTERSHIRE

TRAASSIC

'RoctcS

k n o w n as the Silurian system as these sedimentary rocks w e r e l a i d d o w n in the Silurian sea about 440 m i l l i o n years ago w h e n t h e M a l v e m s ( w h i c h were t h e n a much-eroded ancient m o u n t a i n chain) w e r e submerged beneath t h e sea. Figure 113 shows t h e great contrast between t h e flat Mesozoic rocks (the Triassic system) on the east and the folded Silurian rocks! o n the west. L o o k i n g d o w n on these w o o d e d limestone scarps and the open field of t h e v a l l e y floors, the observer is p r o v i d e d w i t h a ' t e x t b o o k ' example o f h o w t o recognise limestones and shales f o r m i n g escarpments a n d valleys respectively. To l o o k at this M a l v e r n scenery is n o t o n l y a lesson in geology b u t also a p r a c t i c a l lesson in geography affording a real understandi n g of some f u n d a m e n t a l principles of a l l scenery and never to be
1

FIG. 114

Malverns

T H E WOODED LIMESTONE SCARPS IN WEST NSALVERN

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GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

Fhe Malvern Range UcjKina Soutt-> by ftt railway tunnel- Upper Wyche ft shows ln»w Herefordshire. Beacon is out of aiignmertt-. A lateral We has pushed it In a tj a. mile, to the. west" The n e x t outstanding feature is Herefordshire Beacon, b u t before going on to study this the r a m b l e r should pause to notice the f o l l o w i n g — t h a t l o o k i n g n o r t h here the great alignment o f the Pre-Cambrian hills shows up v e r y clearly (see Figure 115) and looki n g south f r o m the v i e w p o i n t s h o w n in Figure 116 it can be seen t h a t Herefordshire Beacon is o u t of alignment. Some great force has pushed it half-a-mile to the west.
HEREFORDSHIRE BEACON

A l t h o u g h n o t the highest h i l l i n the range, Herefordshire Beacon is rather d o m i n a n t because of i t s peculiar offset p o s i t i o n and no d o u b t this is the reason I r o n Age tribes chose it f o r a h i l l - t o p f o r t . The great e a r t h w o r k s accentuate the flat-topped nature o f this h i l l w h i c h is r e a l l y h i g h enough to be called a m o u n t a i n . This m o u n t a i n is made of a t o u g h crystalline r o c k — h o r n b l e n d e gneiss—and one m a y m a r v e l a t the p r i m i t i v e I r o n Age tribes w h o managed t o excavate immense ramparts i n such h a r d r o c k w h e n t h e i r tools w e r e m e r e l y stone axes and bone shovels. The answer, of course, is glaciation. W i t h i n the last m i l l i o n years the ice advanced f r o m Wales i n t o Worcestershire and intensive frosts lasting thousands of years heaved up rocks and, by a freezet h a w a c t i o n , split t h e m i n t o smaller jagged fragments. This sub-soil is f o u n d a l l over the h i l l s , except w h e r e the r o c k has been scoured clean to reveal the marks left on t h e i r surface by the t r a n s p o r t i n g

T H E NORTHERN M A L V E R N S

163

ice. There is also the fact that, even w i t h stone tools, it is possible to h e w o u t slabs of h a r d r o c k where cleavage planes occur. Figure 117 shows w h a t are believed to be the m a i n structures of the Beacon. The m a i n M a l v e r n range has a ridge-cum-saddleback shape b u t Herefordshire Beacon has a flat-topped appearance w i t h a v e r y steep side to the west. T h e group of h i l l s to the east k n o w n as Broad D o w n and T i n k e r s H i l l are composed o f Pre-Cambrian rocks and are, o f course, p a r t o f the Malverns, b u t these p a r t i c u l a r rocks are different f r o m the o t h e r Pre-Cambrian outcrops. T h e y consist of v e r y ancient volcanic rocks (rhyolites and spilites) w h i c h are v e r y m u c h altered and resemble the Pre-Cambrian rocks of Shropshire, called U r i c o n i a n rocks. T h e Pre-Cambrian p e r i o d m a y cover a p e r i o d of 2,500 m i l l i o n years b u t it is impossible to classify Pre-Cambrian rocks by fossil content because there are o n l y a f e w traces. Classification is therefore done by l i t h o l o g y , the science of rocks as m i n e r a l masses, e.g. (a) Sedimentary, e.g. L o n g m y n d r o c k of Shropshire. (b) Metamorphic—schists, gneisses. (c) V o l c a n i c — a series best seen at Caer Caradoc in Shropshire. T h e rocks o f Broad D o w n and Tinkers H i l l are Pre-Cambrian v o l c a n i c rocks and resemble the U r i c o n i a n volcanics of Herefordshire Beacon
1,11^4 Iron Age EavttiwcwKs

FIG. 117

THE

G R E A T T H R U S T THAT

HAS

HALF A

MILE

TO THE

WEST.

PUSHED H£REF0PDSmRE BEACON! B- occurred before the. f r i a s s i c roc-Ks Were laid down. ( « W t 2qc?million y « r r

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GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

Shropshire. The geological survey calls the M a l v e r n volcanics the W a r r e n House series. U r i c o n i a n rocks are p r o b a b l y y o u n g e r t h a n the m a i n mass of M a l v e r n i a n rocks. Figure 117 is based on the assumption t h a t t h e Herefordshire Beacon H i l l mass has been t h r u s t half-a-mile t o the west to reveal this mass of U r i c o n i a n rocks. T a k i n g advantage of the h a r d i m p e r v i o u s nature of these rocks, a small reservoir has been constructed at the f o o t of Broad D o w n . T h i s adds to the beauty of the scenery and the locals c a l l this the Lake d i s t r i c t of the M a l v e r n s .
CLUTTERS CAVE

A short distance south f r o m the B r i t i s h Camp t h e f o o t p a t h passes by a medieval shepherd's cave called Clutters Cave and this is one o f the best places a t w h i c h t o study i n detail t h e various f l o w structures i n the U r i c o n i a n v o l c a n i c rocks. Every week-end crowds of tourists are attracted to Herefordshire Beacon by its outstanding v i e w s , and here again nature has d r a w n f o r the observer a neat geological m a p .

T H E NORTHERN M A L V E R N S

10',

Spread o u t on the west is a remarkable w o o d e d r i d g e w a y c u r v i n g r o u n d f r o m the f o o t h i l l s i n t o the distant landscape. This r i d g e w a y is the W e n l o c k limestone and the vale to the west of this is the o u t c r o p of the softer W e n l o c k shale. A repeated scarp to the east denotes the presence of the A y m e s t r y limestone (see Figure 119). A l l students of geography and geology in schools, colleges and universities should spend at least half-an-hour on the western side of Herefordshire Beacon reading the b o o k so neatly set o u t by nature.

CHAPTER

19

The

Southern

Malverns

The m i d p o i n t on the M a l v e r n range is o n the h i l l n o r t h o f Herefordshire Beacon and just opposite L i t t l e M a l v e r n , b u t f o r the purpose of this chapter the region covered is south of the Beacon, where n o t o n l y are the h i l l s l o w e r b u t the scenery o n the w e s t e r n side begins to change. F o l l o w the usual ramblers' summit-of-the-ridge f o o t p a t h . This a l w a y s seems to f o l l o w the Red Earl's D i t c h , a medieval b o u n d a r y e a r t h w o r k separating the counties of Worcestershire and Herefordshire. The f r e q u e n t l y - o u t c r o p p i n g h a r d crystalline rocks of t h e Pre-Cambrian show the usual variations f r o m quartz feldspar r o c k to gneiss and schist. The d o m i n a t i n g man-made feature w h i c h looms up is the Obelisk, erected i n 1 8 1 2 t o L o r d Somers, Baron o f Evesham, and t o the Cocks f a m i l y . I t w o u l d b e impossible t o b u i l d such a m o n u m e n t i n Pre-Cambrian rocks, so o o l i t i c limestone was dragged a l l the w a y f r o m the Cotswolds to b u i l d this obelisk. Geology students are sometimes puzzled w h e n t h e y find fragments of Jurassic oolite in the nearby g u l l y , n o t realising t h a t the w o r k e r s o f 1 8 1 2 dropped pieces o f oolite on the w a y u p the h i l l !
Ml near- SronS"'

Obelisk 700{t

loNybus •Scmdstone FIG. 120

CawibW^o Shales with
.t'aneous

Maykill <=>ojnd stone. Silurian intrusions

View' looKincj south+o the. v/es+"<*f .Midsumwter Hill. Here.,die- Cambrian rocKs dip ojj the /Meji/efns. «n*y consi.lt of based conglomerate, ^ Hollybush Sandstone and shales.

"ft

T H E SOUTHERN M A L V E R N S

167

"THE" 6VULLE.T Q U A R R Y The Obelisk stands on a h i g h , sloping plateau f o r m i n g a m a r k e d topographical feature on the western side of the Southern Malverns. This plateau is the M a y H i l l sandstone, a Silurian sandstone estimated to be 1,100 feet t h i c k . These arenaceous rocks are often referred to as the L l a n d o v e r y series. Figure 120 gives an e x p l a n a t i o n of the scenery b u t scientific purists should note that the geological section has been 'wangled' v e r y s l i g h t l y j u s t to show h o w Cambrian shales f o r m valleys f u r t h e r s o u t h !
T H E SILURIAN PASS

Between Hangman's H i l l a n d S w i n y a r d H i l l is a pass f r o m Pink Cottage to St M a l m ' s W e l l — n o t a v e r y l o w pass, m e r e l y a c o l . This is an i m p o r t a n t area of study f o r geologists because faults have let d o w n masses o f Silurian M a y h i l l sandstone i n t o the Pre-Cambrian rocks and the crystalline rocks have been covered. Some geologists believe t h a t this is evidence t h a t the M a l v e r n range was once submerged in the Silurian sea.

168

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

T H E G U L L E T QUARRY

This place is a 'must' f o r a l l visitors. L o o k i n g up at the q u a r r y face it is tremendously impressive to see the enormous planes of schistosity stretching r i g h t u p t o the cliff-top. The forces w h i c h t h r u s t these h a r d rocks i n t o one great squeeze m o v e m e n t must have been o v e r w h e l m i n g l y p o w e r f u l . Y e t i t m u s t n o t b e supposed t h a t this was an explosive and catastrophic m o v e m e n t . The forces w e r e acting s l o w l y , a l t h o u g h w i t h irresistible p o w e r . Figure 121 shows the great t h r u s t planes and j u s t as i m p o r t a n t is the great u n c o n f o r m i t y . T h i s is s h o w n in greater detail in Figure 122. This good section was revealed by the q u a r r y c o m p a n y in 1965 and it shows sedimentary rocks of Silurian age d i p p i n g steeply a w a y f r o m the Pre-Cambrian schists. T h e y are of t h e L l a n d o v e r y series and consist of fine-grained sandstones and siltstones w i t h m a n y fossils of the coral and b r a c h i o p o d t y p e . C u r i o u s l y enough, there are no shells to be seen, m e r e l y casts, b u t this is because percolating w a t e r has decalcified t h e m , i.e. dissolved o u t the h a r d parts leaving o n l y casts of the fossils.

corals and- bracWiopod.s

iPct-CWbriari boulders)

Trie. £ x m c u S u n c o n f o r m i t y in t h e g U U X T Q.UARRY in \j(o5

T H E SOUTHERN M A L V E R N S

169

"Raqqeci Stone, Hill goo
JJ

Cno.Se El :nd Hill Gil/

J

R i g h t at the j u n c t i o n w i t h the Pre-Cambrian rocks is a conglomerate w h i c h consists of large boulders a n d pebbles of PreC a m b r i a n rocks, an actual beach by the Silurian sea some 440 m i l l i o n years ago. The w r i t e r has made a p p l i c a t i o n t o the M a l v e r n Conservators f o r the possible w i r i n g i n o f this e x c i t i n g r o c k section so t h a t it can be preserved f o r a l l t i m e as a c o n t r i b u t i o n to scientific understanding.
MIDSUMMER HILL

This is another t y p i c a l high-ridge t y p e o f h i l l o f gneisses and schists w i t h m a n y w h i t e outcrops o f h a r d , m i l k y , q u a r t z r o c k s . I t i s also the site of an I r o n Age e a r t h w o r k camp. F o l l o w i n g t h e Red Earl's D y k e again, t h e r a m b l e r looks across to Ragged Stone H i l l a n d i t is surprising t o see a w o o d e d coombe t u c k e d r i g h t i n t o the h i l l . Here there is evidence i n s m a l l outcrops a n d quarries t h a t sandstone rocks have been let d o w n by f a u l t i n g i n t o the Pre-Cambrian. This sandstone is of C a m b r i a n age a n d is k n o w n here as the H o l l y b u s h sandstone. M a n y visitors w h o g o t o the Malverns 'do' the entire range b y w a l k i n g the w h o l e l e n g t h o f seven-and-a-half miles ( a c t u a l l y about ten miles w i t h t h e ups and d o w n s ! ) . T h e p a t h t o t h e s o u t h gets l o w e r and l o w e r a n d Chase End H i l l is t h e final goal at 626 feet. T h e 'start' at N o r t h H i l l is 1,100 feet h i g h .

"*T" The- Malvern ran^e
1.102,

North. Hill 1102, ft Cjreat Malvern
[ Worcester--sUire T3eo_c»n

before the big lateral push from. Hie S o u t h e a s t , called by some geologists "The. Cheltenham Drive''

\
F I G . 124

\
!,I77'

"the v/ar^naj he.ic.Wts shown or, the leit arc w h a t

Upper Wyche Malvern Wells

they are today. The Malvern. Ttange Was p ro Wbly muclv bigger 2.00 million ^/ears o-go, perkaps

Colwall

ct SOOOftnigh.

\

Herefordshire "Beacori
1.114. 4t

LittU Malvern
Broad- S o w n
Hang mans VI; l| rVe-Catmbrl an Uriconian. rock's. C astlemorton

Silurian r
Toss,"

T H E CHELTENHAM DRIVE"
920' "^Kis great l a t e r a l Cg,.^ o£ mourxtain isutldi.no occurred- a.t the end. of the Carboniferous period about HO million years aga I t c a u s e d more, aislocation. in- t h e S o u t h e r n N\ah/e.ris.

Co*r> rrvon The 5u|let qwarn Hidsummer Hill Holly .bush
Quarry Hill „ IfcJ Cambrian "Pa*S.
1

"Rdcqed. stone

Area coloured- blacfc' or cross hatching denotes Tre-Cavr>trian rooKs. "Tfie Maiv/ervis before the bio saueete

Chase E n d Hill

The^MaJye/ns after the squeeze,

T H E SOUTHERN M A L V E R N S

171

Figure 123 shows h o w Chase End H i l l has been offset f r o m the general n o r t h / s o u t h a l i g n m e n t b u t the t h r u s t i n g has n o t been as pronounced as at Herefordshire Beacon. Compare this w i t h the plans in Figure 124. F r o m the s u m m i t o f Chase End H i l l ( m a i n l y consisting o f h o r n blende gneiss) i t i s w o r t h n o t i c i n g t h a t the m a i n alignment o f t h e M a l v e r n range disappears, and then reappears near the Forest of Dean i n the s u m m i t o f M a y H i l l , w h i c h is a resurgence o f the 'thrust'.
CAMBRIAN ROCKS OF T H E SOUTH M A L V E R N S

On the western side of the Malverns f o r about five miles the Silurian rocks o u t c r o p b u t b y the G u l l e t Q u a r r y and southwards the Cambrian series of rocks come to t h e surface. The basal conglomerate is a v e r y h a r d r o c k c o n t a i n i n g pebbles of the Pre-Cambrian and it can be seen in the t r a c k leading to t h e Obelisk f r o m the G u l l e t Q u a r r y . This is one of the proofs t h a t M a l v e r n i a n rocks are Pre-Cambrian because this conglomerate represents the beach in the Cambrian sea w h i c h washed a r o u n d the range o f mountains w h i c h , even a t t h a t t i m e , was v e r y ancient. N e x t comes the H o l l y b u s h sandstone, rather greenish w i t h the c o l o u r i n g of the m i n e r a l glauconite, and this can be seen in a s m a l l q u a r r y by W h i t e Leaved Oak w h e r e there is a gap between Ragged Stone H i l l and Chase End H i l l . As this gap has the H o l l y b u s h sandstone o u t c r o p p i n g , it c o u l d be called the C a m b r i a n Gap to parallel w i t h the Silurian gap further n o r t h . The oblique strips of Silurian sandstone o c c u p y i n g t h e Silurian gap and those o c c u p y i n g the C a m b r i a n gap are related to the set of oblique N W / S E faults w h i c h affected the M a l v e r n range at a m u c h later t i m e t h a n the 'great squeeze'.
T H E BRONSIL S H A L E S

On the western side of the Malverns, by Bronsil Castle, is an area , of Cambrian shales w h i c h , being softer rocks, f o r m valleys. These shales are d i v i d e d i n t o the W h i t e Leaved Oak shales ( w h i c h are black) and the Bronsil shales ( w h i c h are grey). Figure 124 shows the o u t c r o p of the C a m b r i a n rocks and, as the H o l l y b u s h sandstone o n l y outcrops over a small area, it can be taken f o r granted t h a t most of the area m a r k e d C a m b r i a n r o c k means t h e presence of shales.

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GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

Figures 126 and 127 show t h a t the shales are d i p p i n g v e r y steeply and t h a t magma ( m o l t e n r o c k ) has been i n t r u d e d i n t o t h e m . These igneous intrusions f o r m h a r d outcrops so t h e y can easily be recognised as s m a l l knolls c r o w n e d w i t h trees. Here again, nature has d r a w n a convenient geological m a p . L o o k i n g across the W h i t e Leaved Oak v a l l e y in the shales at least half-a-dozen of these k n o l l s can be seen, some about t w e n t y acres in e x t e n t and others m e r e l y a f e w acres. Figure 128 shows a small igneous o u t c r o p standing o u t l i k e a castle in t h e Bronsil area (and previously the site of a medieval castle). The ruins of the castle are n o w occupied by a prosperous f r u i t f a r m , the farmer h a v i n g the advantage o f r i c h soils derived b o t h f r o m the shales and the igneous rocks—the latter, being m o s t l y basic rocks, are r i c h in i r o n . Figure 128 also shows h o w the d o m i n a n t t o p o g r a p h i c a l feature

T H E SOUTHERN M A L V E R N S

173

"UetWee-n. CKo.se, E n d H i l l and. High \Jood.. A Woode-d Knoll o£ igneou* r o c K overshadowing the v a l l e y is the plateau f o r m e d of the massive M a y H i l l sandstone o f the Silurian. I n the Bronsil Castle area the plateau slopes d o w n t o Eastnor Park, t o b e f o l l o w e d f u r t h e r westwards b y the scarps of the W e n l o c k limestone and A y m e s t r y limestone. I s i t possible t o t e l l w h a t k i n d o f rocks are u n d e r g r o u n d w i t h o u t going t h r o u g h the v e r y expensive process o f b o r i n g d o w n i n t o

An igneous intrusion in the t o n s i l Shales. Clipper Cambrian) A prosperous fruit furvn with abundant Water supply is Sift-d on the •"Brans!! Shales, at Sronsii C a t i e . . '
S

174

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

them? The answer is—yes. Structures can be revealed and it is possible to decide w h e t h e r rocks are l i g h t or heavy by w h a t is k n o w n as a ' g r a v i t y survey'. G r a v i t y i s a force w h i c h varies w i t h differences i n l a t i t u d e and variations i n t o p o g r a p h y and the densities o f the rocks under the surface. If allowances are made f o r a l l these factors t h e n the last one, i.e. the densities of the rocks, can r e a d i l y be deduced. A g r a v i t y survey of the M a l v e r n s area was carried o u t in 1954. Before it began, careful l a b o r a t o r y checks w e r e made on t h e densities of the t y p i c a l rocks of the region and the subsequent field w o r k o f the survey covered the plains o f Worcestershire and extended on the east as far as the Cotswolds and on the west as far as W a l e s . The f o l l o w i n g w e r e some o f t h e conclusions reached d u r i n g the survey: 1. The Triassic rocks in the Worcestershire basin are about 5,000 feet t h i c k . 2. There is a pronounced 'step' going d o w n steeply at 4 5 ° t o w a r d s t h e p l a i n o f the Trias. 3. A f t e r the gravity-meter observations w e r e p l o t t e d on a m a p t h e y revealed the great scale of the M a l v e r n upheaval. 4. The l i g h t rocks lie on the heavier ones and it can be assumed t h a t the 'floor' of the Worcestershire basin u n d e r l y i n g the Trias consists of Palaeozoic r o c k s — b u t w h e t h e r these are Silurian or C a m b r i a n i t i s n o t possible t o decide. Figure 129 shows t w o aspects of the results of the g r a v i t y survey — t h e tremendous thickness of the deposits of Trias close to the Malverns and the Pre-Cambrian r o c k rising l i k e a w a l l f r o m t h e plains o f the Trias, latter-day evidence o f t h a t v i o l e n t upheaval w h i c h o c c u r r e d s o m a n y m i l l i o n s o f years ago.
T H E ORIGINS O F T H E M A L V E R N S

Ideas about the Malverns are c o n s t a n t l y changing as n e w exposures reveal n e w clues about t h e i r o r i g i n . Sometimes these clues are quite d r a m a t i c — l i k e those b r o u g h t t o l i g h t i n the nineteenth c e n t u r y w h e n the r a i l w a y t u n n e l was constructed a t the W y c h e and the c u t t i n g revealed n e w structures. The most recent c o n t r i b u t i o n t o the great M a l v e r n debate i s the e x c i t i n g n e w exposure o f the S i l u r i a n rocks d i p p i n g off t h e Pre-Cambrian rocks i n the G u l l e t Quarry.

T H E SOUTHERN M A L V E R N S

175

The sequence of diagrams in Figure 130 shows t h a t the ancient M a l v e r n range sank beneath the S i l u r i a n sea and the general assumption is t h a t the Silurian rocks once covered the Malverns. Some geologists have f o u n d fragments ('clitter') of M a y h i l l sandstone (Silurian) on t o p of Herefordshire Beacon and there is other evidence w h i c h supports the v i e w p u t f o r w a r d i n Figure 130. A f t e r the submersion of the Malverns in the Silurian sea there Worcestershire Beacon
1,384- ft FiC. 129

l^OOO -to

Coo million years old.
LIKE A WALL

TRiAS'ltc ROCKS
Zoo vmltian years o l d FROM THE MIDLANDS

THE MALVERNS RISE

came the 'great squeeze' f r o m the south-east, an upheaval of the rocks w h i c h must have occurred even before the l a y i n g d o w n o f the Triassic rocks because these are n o t i n v o l v e d in the folds. The Palaeozoic rocks are folded, however, so the folds m u s t have o c c u r r e d at some t i m e t o w a r d s the end of the Carboniferous p e r i o d . In adjacent areas, the later Carboniferous rocks are folded and this is s u p p o r t i n g evidence. It is believed t h a t the 'great squeeze' produced a single m o n o c l i n a l f o l d w i t h a steep l i m b t o the west and a flat l i m b t o the east (see Figure 130[b]). D u r i n g the squeeze, the mass of Pre-Cambrian rocks f o r m i n g Herefordshire Beacon w a s pushed over on to the t o p of the Silurian strata. D u r i n g the b o r i n g o f a w e l l near the B r i t i s h Camp H o t e l

176

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

p r o o f was f o u n d t h a t Silurian rocks are underneath the Beacon H i l l mass, and along the western edge it has been f o u n d t h a t t h e Silurian rocks close to the Malverns are overturned. A f t e r the f o l d i n g effect of the great squeeze, the Pre-Cambrian rocks fractured and w e r e u p t h r u s t i n t o blocks along a general n o r t h / s o u t h l i n e o f dislocation w i t h oblique faults (the cause o f the present-day gaps) setting in later. Figure 130(d) shows h o w t h e M a l v e r n range stood o u t as an island m o u n t a i n (inselberg) in the vast Triassic desert.
FIG. 130 Covered the

The "Silurian Sea

ancient MalvernRange (based £o«glomeraie formed )

, -

Joroe folded- tti£ rocKs"into ou Vnonoc-Unestraetare TVie- Cheltenham0>we"

A <ytai \dcfa)

Uplift and •fracturing.
Situ.fiart T'Ctii -pom Hid Wjh ^cumj.

Erosion °f

TRIASSIC "DESERT PLAIN! The MoWws viour a. mountain chain in q, Triassic. deserf. 0)
"DIAGRAMS SHOWWCT

*4^

r

{'Rocks thrown dowvi LooOft.)

O N E T H E O R Y A S T O T H E ORIGIK O F THE

<«{ter (4, Butcher)

MAIVERKS..

THE SOUTHERN FIG. 131

MAI.VKRNS

IT/

MALVERN R/HNGE 4,

Is there any evidence t h a t the Pre-Cambrian rocks w e r e i n v o l v e d in this folding? This is v e r y d i m c u l t to prove f o r these rocks t h e m selves were folded m o r e t h a n 600 m i l l i o n years ago and w e r e a c t u a l l y p a r t of an ancient Pre-Cambrian range. A summing-up of c u r r e n t M a l v e r n i a n theories w o u l d b e : "The Malverns are part of a large n o r t h / s o u t h m o n o c l i n a l f o l d i n v o l v i n g the Pre-Cambrian and the Palaeozoic rocks and the core of this f o l d is the Pre-Cambrian r o c k mass.' I n fact, any geologist c o m i n g t o B r i t a i n f o r the first t i m e w o u l d be w e l l advised to m a k e a visit to the Malverns his v e r y first objective because there is to be seen p a r t of the m a j o r structures w h i c h f o r m the f r a m e w o r k o f B r i t a i n . Figure 131, above, depicts the last great phase in the e v o l u t i o n of the Malverns, and is a bird's eye v i e w of t h e scene, as it was some
M

178

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

100,000 years ago d u r i n g the last b u t one glacial p e r i o d of the last Ice Age. The Severn V a l l e y or M i d l a n d ice sheet was fed by ice f r o m the I r i s h Sea and East A n g l i a . At the stage s h o w n in Figure 131 the ice was perhaps 300 feet t h i c k . A tongue of ice pushed t h r o u g h the gap b y H o l l y b u s h H i l l and j o i n e d u p w i t h the W e l s h ice sheet. The blockage caused a lake to f o r m on the W e s t e r n Malverns. Sands and gravels deposited in the lake can be seen in o l d sandipts at South End, M a t h o n . The s o u t h w a r d drainage became reversed w h e n 'Lake M a t h o n ' was drained. T o d a y w e have the Cradley B r o o k f l o w i n g n o r t h t o j o i n the Severn and G l y n c h B r o o k f l o w i n g south, thus f o r m i n g a t h r o u g h v a l l e y . W h e t h e r the Malverns w e r e covered b y an ice sheet is still a p o i n t o f controversy.
ROCK SPECIMENS

In t a k i n g a w a y t y p i c a l specimens of the rocks of the area, the geologist w o u l d select the f o l l o w i n g : 1. A schist. 2. A granite r o c k , e.g. a quartz feldspar r o c k f r o m a pegmatite v e i n (pegmatite is v e r y coarsely crystallised granite as f o u n d in veins). 3. A basic i n t r u s i o n , e.g. f r o m the I v y Scar Rock. 4. A piece of massive hornblendic r o c k . 5. Some of the Palaeozoic rocks as f o l l o w s : a. A piece o f M a y H i l l sandstone s h o w i n g decalcified fossils o f brachiopods and corals. b. A piece of C a m b r i a n shale. c. A piece of W e n l o c k limestone r i c h in corals and crinoids. The geologist m i g h t also scare one or t w o of the l o c a l inhabitants by e n q u i r i n g w h e n the last earthquake t o o k place! The area is the earthquake zone of the S o u t h W e s t M i d l a n d s , a fact w h i c h is b r o u g h t t o the a t t e n t i o n o f the inhabitants once o r t w i c e d u r i n g each c e n t u r y w h e n the East M a l v e r n f a u l t decides to settle d o w n just a l i t t l e more, so causing an earthquake. There has already been one m i n o r earthquake d u r i n g the early p a r t of this c e n t u r y .

CHAPTER

20

May

Hill

This isolated h i l l dominates the Severn Vale f r o m T e w k e s b u r y to Newnham-on-Severn. It is an outstanding topographical feature w h i c h has been made even m o r e conspicuous in recent years by the p l a n t i n g of pine trees. Rising to a height of 971 feet, it is n o w a N a t i o n a l T r u s t area w i t h a resident w a r d e n , and commands such panoramic views t h a t it has become one of Gloucestershire's bestk n o w n beauty spots.
GEOLOGICAL BACKGROUND O F MAY H I L L

A l t h o u g h M a y H i l l i s seemingly c u t off f r o m the Malverns i t i s a c t u a l l y p a r t o f the M a l v e r n t r e n d and there are three sets o f f o l d lines i n t h e Palaeozoic rocks—the M a l v e r n t r e n d w h i c h i s n o r t h /
FIG. 132 Vest Malvern 15o it
N o

, t h Hill

Moo ft

WEST \ A A L V E R . | V |

The S j W i a n May Hill S a n d s t o n e p s a. Wijh 1e«race on -Ac West Maii/em*, t u t only i the north. '
fm n

M-8. The sandstones dip vertically cml in places are o v e r t u r n e d .

180

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

south, the Caledonian t r e n d w h i c h runs north-east to south-west, a n d t h e A r m o r i c a n t r e n d w h i c h runs east-west. These lines m a r k general directions of the folds in the rocks and t h r o u g h o u t the l o n g h i s t o r y of the Earth (going back over 600 m i l l i o n years) deep-seated earth movements have been o c c u r r i n g along t h e m . The folds are n o t a l l e x a c t l y p a r a l l e l — i n the area between the Malverns and the Forest of Dean t h e y occur in echelon and often t r e n d t o the n o r t h / n o r t h - w e s t o r t o the n o r t h / n o r t h - e a s t . These are the creases and deformities w h i c h have come w i t h t h e passage of t i m e and have given the face of the c o u n t r y in its o l d age the f o r m w e n o w recognise and love. The Malverns and M a y H i l l are some o f its most s t r i k i n g features and M a y H i l l belongs t o one of the folds w h i c h forms a dome-shaped structure called a pericline. B u t as the folds are r e a l l y lop-sided or a s y m m e t r i c a l , the l i m b of the w e s t e r n folds is m u c h steeper (often overturned) t h a n the eastern fold. The Silurian rocks w h i c h f o r m the M a y H i l l 'inlier' were at first l a i d d o w n h o r i z o n t a l l y , t h e n folded i n t o the dome structure, eroded off t o reveal p a r t o f the i n n e r core and f i n a l l y faulted d o w n o n b o t h sides. M a y H i l l is an 'inlier' because i t is a mass o f older r o c k l y i n g i n a m o n g newer r o c k . This i n l i e r occupies an area of about seven square miles in W e s t FIG. 133 <nijr

\JiiW of M«y HiU from

near Long, hope.

Hie parallel arrangevnevit of; Wooded limestone ScaVps appears on rUt right.

MAY H I L L

181

3>ip of strata exaggerated,, „ » e.5. WenlocK str&fe. d.p at ibout 10-IS T h e Silurian. r o c K s <*f ^he M a y Mill p e r i c / m e - . The Second b|ecK diagram is a Southern continuation o£ f « t

first" one.

Gloucestershire and South-East Herefordshire. A l t h o u g h t h e m a i n v i e w o f the h i l l (see Figure 133) shows i t t o be m e r e l y a r o u n d e d whaleback-like shape s w e l l i n g f r o m the s u r r o u n d i n g regions, there are a c t u a l l y v e r y interesting m i n o r variations o f relief caused b y the great v a r i e t y of the series of Silurian rocks w h i c h o u t c r o p . The oldest rocks of the Silurian are the L l a n d o v e r y series f o r m i n g massive sandstones at least 1,100 feet t h i c k , the same k i n d of r o c k w h i c h is f o u n d on the western flanks of the Malverns by the Obelisk w h e r e i t is called the M a y H i l l sandstone.

182

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

SANDSTONES AND L I M E S T O N E S

O n M a y H i l l itself the sandstones v a r y f r o m conglomerates t h r o u g h coarse-textured rocks r i g h t d o w n t o fine-textured r o c k . N e x t occurs the W o o l h o p e limestone, about s i x t y t o 200 feet t h i c k , b u t a s i t m o s t l y consists o f t h i c k argillaceous bands w i t h t h i n bands of limestones this is n o t such a d i s t i n c t scarp-forming feature as the W e n l o c k limestone. The W e n l o c k shales are n e x t in succession. Because these are softer t h e y f o r m the valleys—rather w i d e valleys because t h e y are between 700 and 800 feet t h i c k . A f t e r the shales occurs the W e n l o c k limestone, 100 to 350 feet t h i c k , and this forms a d i s t i n c t scarp, especially in the south of M a y H i l l , where i t is k n o w n as Blaisdon Edge. These limestones are w e l l exposed in a series of quarries on the eastern side of the Edge k n o w n as Hobbs' Quarries, excellent collecting-grounds f o r corals, crinoids and brachiopods. L a s t l y come the L u d l o w beds w h i c h , being even softer, f o r m the lower ground. T w o b l o c k diagrams i n Figure 134 s h o w the relationship between these various r o c k types and the t o p o g r a p h y o f M a y H i l l .
T H E V I E W FROM MAY H I L L

T h e v i e w t o the west f r o m M a y H i l l comprises a large area o f the Forest of Dean w h e r e the Carboniferous rocks f o r m i n g the plateau are surrounded by r e d rocks of the Devonian series k n o w n as the O l d Red Sandstone. The scarps rise l i k e a succession of ramparts, and to the north-west the v e r y edge of the coalfield can be seen. This is a superb v i e w f o r geography teachers w i s h i n g to describe to their pupils different regions o f B r i t a i n . F r o m this h i l l the f o l l o w i n g variations of scenery can be observed: 1. The M a l v e r n range—showing it p l u n g i n g beneath the younger rocks south o f Chase H i l l . 2. The Forest of Dean coalfield. 3. The Vale of the L o w e r Severn. The great sweeping bends of the r i v e r meanders between Gloucester and A u s t can be clearly p i c k e d o u t — g l i n t i n g ribbons o f l i g h t o n the landscape. 4. The scarp line of the Cotswolds. 5. The plateau of the W e l s h m o u n t a i n s w i t h the Brecon Beacons.

MAY H I L L

183

S u r r o u n d i n g the h i l l on the north-east side are v e r y extensive forests of pine, spruce and l a r c h m a i n l y developed on sandstone rocks, b u t there are m a n y farms and orchards on the west side w h e r e numerous springs occur because the L l a n d o v e r y sandstones w h i c h f o r m the m a i n mass o f the h i l l are so porous. There remains one p u z z l e — w h a t is the nature of the core of M a y H i l l ? Is i t l i k e the Malverns b u t w i t h the Pre-Cambrian rocks l y i n g b u r i e d deep d o w n ?
F O R E S T o r DEAN COALFIELD FIQ_
1 3 5

(jl Snifc/ostents - 3ooo ft • J St M < U U J W S q/oap % Soft mads.

tfucK

Vie*/ wesWards -fVow May Will

Figure 135 shows the most spectacular v i e w f r o m M a y H i l l , w h i c h is to the west and includes a good p a r t of the Forest of Dean plateau. It was a c t u a l l y f o r m e d in a basin of O l d Red Sandstone and t h e n u p l i f t e d t o f o r m the present plateau. The basin has t w o r i m s f o r m e d b y t w o massive bands o f the D e v o n i a n Sandstone s h o w n i n the sketch. The steeply-dipping beds give the appearance of a corrugated r i m t o the plateau.
WILDERNESS QUARRY

Near M i t c h e l d e a n there is a q u a r r y in the O l d Red Sandstone w h i c h is w e l l w o r t h a v i s i t (see Figure 136). A l t h o u g h this q u a r r y is n o t fossiliferous, it shows the red rocks

184

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

Wilderness

Quaff/ m

Oid.

'Red Sandstone-, ' ^ " i .

of

Mitdielolean

"THc UrovingtoritS ", Lower G.R.S. of ancient deserts in a manner w h i c h has a drama of its o w n . M a n y of the slabs of r o c k s t i l l s h o w sun cracks made 450 m i l l i o n years ago! 'The seas of the Silurian p e r i o d w h i c h are seen in the rocks of the M a y H i l l area w e r e f o l l o w e d b y the great deserts and a r i d lands w h i c h ushered i n the D e v o n i a n p e r i o d . To the geologist, of course, there is no p a r t of the Malverns or M a y H i l l w h i c h lacks d r a m a — f o r there before h i m are the v e r y first pages of the b o o k of the h i s t o r y of the Earth.

Glossary

B E L E M N I T E — t h e h a r d p a r t of an a n i m a l l i k e a sea squid. Belemnites are n o w e x t i n c t and i n fossil f o r m are represented by a h a r d , b u l l e t - l i k e piece of r a d i a l calcite called the guard. B I O T I T E — a dark-coloured mica, b r o w n o r black, sometimes green; it is abundant in some granites and is also c o m m o n in schists and gneiss. B R A C H I O P O D S — t h e s e are s m a l l m a r i n e invertebrates; there are about 200 species of l i v i n g brachiopods and about 30,000 fossil forms, brachiopods being a m o n g the most abundant Palaeozoic fossils. C A M B R I A N P E R I O D — p e r i o d o f r o c k f o r m a t i o n , 600 m i l l i o n years ago, first p e r i o d of the Palaeozoic era, named after W a l e s ( L a t i n , Cambria), w h e r e rocks of this age w e r e first studied. C H L O R I T E — t h i s i s one, t w o , three o r m o r e minerals depending o n h o w carefully the constituents are separated; i t often f o r m s as an alteration of rocks and can also f o r m in cavities of basic igneous rocks, f o r m i n g in masses, crusts, fibres or bladed crystals; if considered a single m i n e r a l , c h l o r i t e is a m i x t u r e of magnesium and i r o n - a l u m i n i u m silicates, w i t h w a t e r . C L E A V A G E — t h i s i s the w a y some minerals split along planes related to the molecular structure of the m i n e r a l and parallel to possible c r y s t a l faces. C R I N O I D S — s e a l i l i e s ' (but a c t u a l l y m a r i n e animals) w h i c h g r o w in colonies on the sea floor. Some fossil forms w e r e free s w i m m i n g b u t most w e r e fixed by a stem. D I O R I T E — a basic igneous r o c k r i c h i n minerals, usually grey o r d u l l green i n colour; granites grade i n t o diorites t h r o u g h intermediate forms, the granodiorites. D I P S L O P E — i f strata are t i l t e d , the m a x i m u m slope is t e r m e d the d i p slope, at r i g h t angles to the strike of the rocks. E C H I N O I D S — s e a urchins. E P I B O T E — t h i s is one of a group of c o m p l e x silicates of c a l c i u m and a l u m i n i u m w i t h w a t e r ; i t forms i n nearly every t y p e o f m e t a m o r p h i c r o c k , in cracks and seams, as crystals or as t h i n green crusts; it is a t y p i c a l m i n e r a l w h e r e igneous rocks have

186

GEOLOGY IN T H E S E V E R N V A L E AND COTSWOLDS

come i n t o contact w i t h limestones. F E L D S P A R S — m i n e r a l s f o u n d i n n e a r l y a l l igneous rocks and i n rocks f o r m e d f r o m t h e m ; a l l are a l u m i n i u m silicates combined w i t h one o r t w o m o r e metals. F E R R U G I N O U S — i r o n - b e a r i n g ; ferruginous rocks are those cont a i n i n g i r o n minerals. G N E I S S — a coarsely-banded m e t a m o r p h i c r o c k ; i t can b e s i m p l y metamorphosed granite o r a far m o r e c o m p l e x r o c k w i t h possibly f o u r or five different origins, either igneous or sedim e n t a r y ; i t m a y also i n c l u d e m e t a m o r p h i c rocks w h i c h are invaded by igneous materials so t h a t the r o c k becomes a c o m p l e x m i x t u r e ; gneiss is h a r d to define or describe because it is so varied. H O R N B L E N D E — a c o m p l e x h y d r o u s silicate c o n t a i n i n g c a l c i u m , magnesium and i r o n and a l u m i n i u m , w h i c h i s f o u n d i n basic igneous rocks b u t i s m o r e often o f secondary o r i g i n i n metamorphosed (i.e. changed) rocks. I G N E O U S R O C K S — r o c k s w h i c h have been m o l t e n a t some t i m e i n their h i s t o r y , i.e. rocks w h i c h a l l come f r o m magmas, m o l t e n m i x t u r e s of minerals f o u n d deep b e l o w the surface of the earth. M E T A M O R P H I C R O C K S — t h e s e are rocks w h i c h have been changed; a l l kinds of r o c k can be metamorphosed (sedimentary, igneous and other m e t a m o r p h i c rocks); m e t a m o r p h i s m results f r o m heat, pressure or p e r m e a t i o n by other substances. M I C A S — m i n e r a l s unusual because of the perfect basal cleavage by w h i c h t h i n flexible sheets can be cleaved off; a l l include oxides o f a l u m i n i u m and s i l i c o n w i t h other metals, singly o r i n combination. M I G M A T I T E — r o c k s f o r m e d b y a c o m p l e x m i x t u r e o f metamorp h i c rocks subsequently invaded by igneous rocks. P A L A E O Z O I C E R A — t h e geological era w h i c h covers the f o l l o w i n g geological periods: Permian, U p p e r Carboniferous, L o w e r Carboniferous, D e v o n i a n , Silurian, O r d o v i c i a n , C a m b r i a n , i n t h a t order of t i m e , the C a m b r i a n rocks being the oldest. P E C T I N I D S — a f a m i l y o f b i v a l v e shells, e.g. the c o m m o n scallop shell. P R E - C A M B R I A N P E R I O D — t h e vast period o f earth h i s t o r y w h i c h elapsed before the deposition of the C a m b r i a n fossil-bearing rocks; it covers a p e r i o d of about 4,000,000,000 years, i.e. a p p r o x i m a t e l y 9/10ths of the t o t a l age of the earth; this great p e r i o d of t i m e witnessed the development of the earth, seas and

GLOSSARY

187

atmosphere, the o r i g i n o f l i f e , and the early development o f l i v i n g things b u t Pre-Cambrian a n i m a l fossils are rare ( i t seems l i k e l y t h a t Pre-Cambrian animals w e r e soft-bodied and therefore p o o r l y preserved as fossils). Q U A R T Z — o n e o f the most c o m m o n minerals i n the earth's crust (Silicon d i o x i d e , S i 0 ) , an i m p o r t a n t p a r t of most acid igneous rocks. S C H I S T S — f i n e l y - l a y e r e d m e t a m o r p h i c rocks w h i c h split easily; t h e y break in a w a v y , uneven surface (this p r o p e r t y is called schistosity) and t h e y are named after t h e i r most characteristic m i n e r a l (e.g. m i c a schist, hornblende schist, c h l o r i t e schist, quartz schist). S E D I M E N T A R Y R O C K S — r o c k s f o r m e d b y the a c c u m u l a t i o n o f sediment derived f r o m the b r e a k d o w n of earlier rocks (e.g. b r o k e n d o w n b y the a c t i o n o f w a t e r o r w i n d ) , b y chemical p r e c i p i t a t i o n or by organic a c t i v i t y ; these rocks cover about three-quarters of t h e earth's surface. S I L U R I A N P E R I O D — t h i s period o f r o c k f o r m a t i o n lasted f r o m 440 to 400 m i l l i o n years ago; it is named after Silures, an ancient tribe of the W e l s h borderland, an area w h e r e these rocks occur. S O L I F L U X I O N — t o p - s o i l i n t u n d r a climates t h a t moves d o w n h i l l w h i l e the sub-soil is s t i l l frozen. T A B L E G R A V E L S — g r a v e l s n o t sorted b y w a t e r action; unstratified gravels f o r m e d in glacial periods. T R I A S S I C P E R I O D — r o c k s l a i d d o w n 230 t o 180 m i l l i o n years ago, so named f r o m a three-fold d i v i s i o n of its rocks. T R I L O B I T E S — e x t i n c t m a r i n e arthropods o f great d i v e r s i t y and i m p o r t a n c e as Palaeozoic guide fossils. T U F A — r e d e p o s i t e d limestone; a calcareous spring w i l l deposit l i m e over plants on the g r o u n d , so f o r m i n g a petrified mass.
2

Bibliography

Mesozoic Fossils (British M u s e u m of N a t u r a l H i s t o r y ) : 12s 6d Talaeozoic Fossils (British Museum of N a t u r a l H i s t o r y ) : 12s 6d Fossils: A little guide in colour (Paul H a m l y n ) : 5s Minerals: A little guide in colour (Paul H a m l y n ) : 5s Introducing Geology, D. V. Ager (Faber & Faber): 30s Geology of the Scenery of England and Wales, T r u e m a n (Pelican Books): 5s Minerals and Rocks, K i r k a l d y (Blandford Press): 5s Bores, Breakers, Waves and Wakes, R. A. R. T r i c k e r ( M i l l s & Boon)

APPENDIX: Era Cenozoic Period Millions years ago 1 to V/
2

Generalised

Table

of

Strata

mentioned in Strata

this Book

Duration 1 m.y.

Quaternary Pleistocene

Glacial Sands and Gravels, Cheltenham Sands

Pa Bones

Mam Mesozoic Jurassic Middle Jurassic Duration 45 m.y. The whole Jurassic period began 180 million years ago and ended 135 m.y. ago Great Oolite series Great Oolite limestone Taynton Stone Fuller's Earth clay Clypeus Grit Trigonia Grit Notgrove Freestone Gryphite Grit Inferior Oolite series Upper Freestone Oolitic Marl Lower Freestone Pea Grit Lower Limestones Cotswold Sands Upper Lias Sands Upper Lias Clay Middle Lias Marlstone rockbed Middle Lias Clays and Sands Lower Lias Clay Began 225 m.y. ago Duration 45 m.y. Rhaetic White Lias Cotham Beds Westbury Shales Bone Bed Keuper Tea Green Marl Red Marls

Fishes,

Ammon

Crin

Lower Jurassic

Jurass

Triassic

Reptiles

A

Palaeozoic

No Permian rocks in this area Carboniferous Devonian No Ordovician rocks present in this area Silurian Ended 270 m.y. ago Began 350 m.y. ago Ended 350 m.y. ago Began 405 m.y. ago Coal Measure Shales Sandstones Limestone Red Sandstones and Marls

Plan Co

Began 425 m.y. ago Ended 405 m.y. ago

Duration 20 m.y.

Upper Ludlow Shales Aymestry Limestone Lower Ludlow Shales Wenlock Limestone Wenlock Shale Woolhope Limestone Woolhope Shales May Hill Sandstone Bronsil Shales White Leaved Oak Shales Hollybush Sandstone Malvern Quartzite

First r

Brach

Cambrian

Began 600 m.y. ago Ended 500 m.y. ago

Duration 100 m.y.

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