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STUDIES IN FLUVIATILE SEDIMENTATlON:

SIX CYCLOTHEMS FROM THE LOWER OLD RED SANDSTONE, ANGLO-


WELSH BASIN

J . R . L. A L L E N

Sedimentology Research Laboratory, Geology Department, University of Reading, Reading (Great


Britain )

(Received June 28, 1963)

SUMMARY

Lithologies present in the Lower Old Red Sandstone (Lower Devonian), Anglo-Welsh
Basin, are cyclical through considerable vertical thicknesses. The standard cyclo-
them shows a scoured surface followed by sandstones grading up into siltstones. From
a knowledge of modern sediments, a fluviatile origin is demonstrated for six cyclo-
thems studied in detail. The scoured surface beneath each cyclothem seems to have
been eroded by a wandering river. The sandstones, often with large scale cross-strati-
fication, appear to be channel deposits accumulated through lateral and (or) vertical
accretion. The siltstones are often interbedded with thin, relatively fine-grained
sandstones overlying suncracked surfaces. They are probably floodplain top-stratum
deposits representing levee, backswamp and crevasse-splay environments. The
cyclicity has at least three possible explanations: ( I ) simple wandering of rivers,
(2) varying base level in the Devonian sea, and (3) varying tectonic activity in the
sediment source.

INTRODUCTJON

The Lower Old Red Sandstone in the Anglo-Welsh Basin, a province including South
Wales, the English Midlands, and southeast England, is a thick continental deposit of
Lower Devonian age. Divided into Downtonian, Dittonian, and Breconian stages on
the basis of ostracoderms (WHITE,1950; ALLENand TARLO,1963), the formation
varies in total thickness from about 3,500 ft. in Shropshire to about 7,000 ft. in South
Wales. It accumulated as a molasse facies in a subsiding basin on the northwest
margin of the Hercynian proto-geosyncline in the interval between the two principal
local tectonic episodes of the Caledonian orogeny, which folded the Lower Palaeo-
zoic flysch and volcanics of the Welsh and companion geosynclines (JONES, 1956;
ALLEN,1962a).
Sedimentology, 3 (1964) 163-198
164 J. R. L. ALLEN

The Lower Old Red Sandstone has variously been thought to be lacustrine (GEICKIE,
1879), marine (KING, 1925, 1934; WHITE,1946, 1950), and fluviatile-deltaic (WILLS,
1951; DINELEY, 1951; DENISON, 1956; BALLet al., 1961). However, ALLEN(1962~)and
ALLENand TARLO (1963), using modern sediments and processes as a basis for inter-
pretation, emphasised that rivers played a major role in depositing the formation.
Vertically repeated cyclothems normally several metres thick, first recognised in the
Lower Old Red Sandstone by DIXON(1921, p.32) but not interpreted by him, are now
known to be a characteristic feature of that formation in many parts of the Anglo-
Welsh Basin (ALLEN,1962b, 1962c, 1963a; ALLENand TARLO,1963; METRE,1963).
Each cyclothem has three essential elements: a scoured surface cut on siltstone, a
sandstone facies resting on the scoured surface, and a siltstone facies grading up from
the sandstones. It was proposed that the scoured surface recorded the erosive wander-
ing of a river channel, the sandstones the deposits formed in the channel, and the
siltstones the deposits from floods spreading over the floodplain surface. Similar
cyclical deposits, from the molasse of Switzerland and France (BERSIER, 1958a, 1958b;
CROUZEL, 1957) and the Old Red Sandstone of Spitsbergen (FRIEND,1961), have also
been interpreted as fluviatile, but without close reference to modern sediment studies.
Hitherto, the cyclothems from the Lower Old Red Sandstone were interpreted in
general terms. The present paper is written to describe and interpret in detail six
selected cyclothems from different horizons and localities in that formation (Fig. l),

OUTLINE GEOLOGY:

WELSH BORDERLAND

&$@ Post Lower Old Red Sandstone

Lower Old Red sandstone

4 - 10 miles

Fig.1. Outline geology of Welsh Borderland showing study localities.


Sedimentology, 3 (1964) 163-198
SIX CYCLOTHEMS FROM THE LOWER OLD RED SANDSTONE 165

Fig.2. General view looking east ofcyclothem at Ludlow (SO 512755). Note sharp sandstone base and
upward grading into siltstone.

Fig.3. General view hoking northwest of cyclothem at Lydney (SO 653018). Units 1-22 are exposed
amongst the boulders on the beach. The cliff sequence begins with unit 23 and extends up into silt-
stones of the next cyclothem.
Sedimentolugy,3 (1 964) 163-198
166 J. R. L. ALLEN

in order to better an understanding of the role played by rivers. With one exception,
the exposures mapped are accessible laterally over tens or hundreds of metres (Fig.2,
3), and the new data assembled in this paper is entirely consistent with a fluviatile
origin for the cyclothems of the Lower Old Red Sandstone. Unfortunately, the three-
dimensional form of the cyclothems is incompletely known, and this seriously limits
discussion about the causes of the cyclicity.

CHARACTERISTICS OF FLOODPLAIN DEPOSITS

The following interpretations necessitate an understanding of river sedimentation and


a knowledge of the characteristics of alluvium. It is therefore useful to review these
fields briefly, since it is only recently that the several factors determining floodplain
construction have been studied in any detail. It is hoped to treat these problems in
more detail at a later date.
It has long been understood in a general way that a river flowing through alluvium
deposits under two distinct circumstances: within the confines of the channel at
ordinary river stages, and on the floodplain top-stratum, in addition to within the
channel, at high or flood stages (WOLMAN and LEOPOLD, 1957). The deposited stream
load then becomes differentiated texturally. The relatively coarse materials carried on
or close to the bed - the gravels and coarser sands - remain within the channel, while
the relatively fine materials maintained in suspension by the turbulent motion of the
water - the finer sands and silts and clays - are deposited beyond the channel banks
on the floodplain top-stratum.
The work of HJULSTROM (1935), INMAN (1949), and SUNDBORG (1956) shows how
this is explained by the way grain size determines the mode of transportation of the
stream load. A grain diameter of roughly 0.2 mm effectively divides sediments trans-
ported largely as bed-load (> 0.2 mm), and thus deposited within the channel, from
those carried chiefly as a suspended load (< 0.2 mm), and so carried on to the top-
stratum during floods.
Knowledge of the sedimentary characteristics of alluvium is largely due to the work
of WOLMAN and LEOPOLD(1957); of SYKES(1937) and MCKEE(1938, 1939) on the
Colorado River and delta floodplain; of the U S . ARMYCORPSOF ENGINEERS (1935),
FISK(1944, 1947, 1951), and FRAZIER and OSANIK (1961) on the Mississippi alluvial
valley; of GROVER and MAINLAND (1938), HAPPet al. (1940), JAHNS(1947), LORENS
and THRONSON (1955), HARMS et al. (1962), and BERNARDand MAJOR(1963) on other
North American floodplains; and of SHANTZER (1951), KRUIT(1955), SUNDBORG
(1956), NEDECO (1959), ANDERSON (1961), and DOEGLAS (1962).
Alluvial sediments may be classified amongst five genetic types (HAPPet al., 1940,
p.22): ( I ) vertical accretion deposits (levee and backswamp); (2) channel-fill deposits;
(3) crevasse-splay deposits; ( 4 ) lateral accretion deposits (point-bar and channel bar);
(5) channel lag deposits.
Table I gives the characteristics of these types as recorded in the papers mentioned
Sedimentology, 3 (1964) 163-198
SIX CYCLOTHEMS FROM THE LOWER OLD RED SANDSTONE 167

TABLE I
SUMMARY OF CHARACTERISTICS OF MODERN ALLUVIAL SEDIMENT+

CHANNEL LATERAL REVASSE .HANNEL- VERTICAL ACCRETION


LAG tCCRETION SPLAY FILL LEVEE 1
~EACKSWAMP UNDIVIDEC

:reshwater molluscs, ostracods


X
norms.

4uthochthanous roots
X
md rootlets.

)rifted twigs and leaves. X X


XR

Drifted branches and trunks. X X


XR

Clay

Silt
~-
Very fine sand

Fine sand
-
Medium sand

Coarse to very coarse sand

Gravel to gravelly sand

Suncracks X
~- ~-
Lamination 2 X

Ripple-bedding and/or small


X
scale assymmetrical ripples XR
~ _ _ _ _ _ ~ _
Large scale cross-stratification
and/or large-scale
XR
asymmetrical ripples

- ~

Flat- bedding

Irregular layers"
~~

l x
Erosional surfaces
between sedimentation units.

Unrfarm fine deposit X


~ .- ~~ ~~

Layered coarse and


X
fine deposit XR
~

Uniform coarse deposit X X

Thick Thick Thin


Elongate
sinuous narrow
GEOMETRY
iens elongate curved lens
prism prism sheet

In almost a11 modern floodplains, the verficol sequence is from coarse


sediments resting on an erosion surface upword into fine deposits

Sedimentology, 3 (1964) 163-191


168 J. R. L. ALLEN

CREVASSE-SPLAY CHANNEL-FILL

CHANNEL LAG
DEPOSIT DEPOSIT

-_ .- .- -. _. - .- .- _. _. -. - ._ ._ .- _. -. _. _. _. _. - . - .- - -~ - _ _ _ __-_
_ _ __ _ _ ,

Fig.4. Block diagram illustrating relationship between genetic types of floodplain deposit in idealised
floodplain with meandering river.

and Fig.4 shows the relations of the deposits in a floodplain sequence. The most im-
portant inference to be drawn from this compilation is that, in a vertical section
through a floodplain, fine grained sediments will overlie coarse grained ones resting on
an erosional surface.
Vertical accretion deposits form on the floodplain top-stratum through overbank
flooding, generally consisting of the finer material in transport. Levee deposits close
to the river bank are typically coarser than deposits in the backswamps distant from
the channel. Signs of exposure and groundwater movement after flood recession, such
as suncracks and soil pans, are common in vertical accretion deposits. Other character-
istic features are interlayered coarse and fine sediments and authochthonous plants.
Channel-filldeposits form as the result of the vertical aggradation of a rapidly aban-
doned channel, such as a cut-off meander loop, or through the gradual shoaling of a

WENTWORTH'S (1922) size classes have been used as far as possible; R = character rarely observed.
The term lamination is here used for a rapid alternation of layers of sediment of contrasted grade on
a scale of millimetres or centimetres.
The term flat-bedding is here used to denote sandstones with essentiaily horizontal even layers, a
flaggy parting, and with primary current lineation on the parting planes.

sediment grades developed chiefly in sands and gravels.


Gross bedding refers to whether the deposit is a uniform coarse one (particles mostly > 0.2 mm), a
iinifornzjne one (particles mostly < 0.2 mm), or a mixed or interlayered coarse andfine deposit.
This refers to the vertical succession of sediment grades in a floodplain or river terrace deposit.
Sedimentology, 3 (1964) 163-198
SIX CYCLOTHEMS FROM THE LOWER OLD RED SANDSTONE 169

channel slowly abandoned. In channels isolated by meander neck cut-off the bulk of
the fill is introduced by overbank floods and consequently is relatively fine grained.
The fill of a channel undergoing gradual abandonment represents a net accumulation
from alternate scouring during flood stages and deposition during falling stages. The
channel remains active almost until the completion of filling. Consequently the fill is
relatively coarse grained and texturally close to the normal bed-load of the stream.
Crevasse-splay deposits accumulate where flood-waters break out of the main
channel through low places in the natural levees. Deep channels are quickly incised
into the levees and may reach low enough to tap bed-load in the river or earlier lateral
accretion deposits. The crevasses shoal away from the river and fan out into aggrading
distributaries erosively spreading tongues of relatively coarse sediment into the back-
swamps. Crevasse-splay sediments, on average, are generally coarser than associated
levee deposits.
Lateral accretion deposits arise through the growth of point-bars in a meandering
stream, or in a braided river or reach through the downcurrent and lateral spreading
of channel bars by foreset addition. The deposits consist mostly of the stream bed-
load, and therefore of either sand or gravel or a mixture, lacking evidence of exposure
except in the highest layers. Large and small scale cross-stratification due to ripple
migration (ALLEN, 1963b, 1963c) and flat-bedding with primary current lineation due
to aggradation on plane beds (ALLEN, 1964a), as well as scoured surfaces and scour-and-
fill, are all sedimentation structures found in lateral accretion deposits. Following
experimental and field studies by civil engineers ( SIMONSand RICHARDSON, 1960,1961,
1962; SIMONS et al., 1961), ALLEN(1963d) has shown that several of these structures
are valuable keys to hydrodynamic environment (Table 11). All the structures men-
tioned imply transport on or close to the stream bed.
Channel lag deposits represent the coarsest material available to the river, being
shifted only during high stages when the current is strongest. Through winnowing,
they have been sorted from the more readily transported finer debris. Generally con-

TABLE I1
SEDIMENTATION S T R U C T U R E S O F W E L L - W A S H E D S A N D S A N D SANDSTONES I N RELATION
TO FLOW CONDITION S

Bed suyface
Internal structure roughnessform Flow conditions

Small scale --f Small scale --f Low intensity


cross-stratification ripples lower flow regime
fJ.
Large scale ~ Large scale --f High intensity
cross-stratification ripples or dunes lower flow regime
(sets assembled in cosets)
fJ.
Flat-bedding Plane beds with
with primary current -+ sediment + Upper flow regime
lineation movement

Sedimentology, 3 (1964) 163-198


170 J. R. L. ALLEN

sisting of gravels, the lag deposits represent two sources of material: rocks in the
source area of the river, and cohesive sediments (e.g., levee sandy silts or backswamp
silty clays) of the alluvial plain itself. These lag deposits usually occur at the bottom of
the floodplain sequence, underlying and interfingering with lateral accretion deposits.
Except for the work of ARNBORG (1958) and DOEGLAS (1962), little is known of
erosional forms produced at the channel floor.

DOWNTONIAN CYCLOTHEM AT LUDLOW

Main facts

This cyclothem is seen over an outcrop of more than 100 m in the Fishmore Brick-pit
(SO 512755)l at Ludlow, Shropshire (Fig.1). It is of mid-Downtonian age and lies
probably 500-600 ft. above the Ludlow Bone Bed, belonging stratigraphically within
the Holdgate Sandstones Group (ALLENand TARLO,1963). Only (?) Kallostrakon
scales were found, and no trace of shells or plants. Although the uppermost beds are
not seen, the cyclothem is typical of those developed elsewhere in the group but with
a less satisfactory exposure. It is simple in character with three principal elements
(Fig.2, 5): a basal scoured surface, a sandstone member of numerous sedimentation
units, and finally a thick siltstone. The total thickness is not less than 6.5 m.
In the main part of the pit the cyclothem rests on 2.1 m of largely red coarse silt-
stone, with a 30 cm bed of ripple-drift bedded (SORBY,1908, p.181) very fine sandstone
a little below the middle. Branching invertebrate burrows 1.5-12 mm across crowd
the sandstone and siltstone (Fig.6K) and there are also knobby calcium carbonate
concretions (race).
The scoured surface at the cyclothem base persists laterally with the sandstone
exposure. It is essentially flat but in detail shows irregularities with a maximum relief
of 15 cm. These irregularities, generally non-directional, are interlaced hollows with
mounds or ridges between. Locally they are elongated to suggest currents from the
northeast or southwest.
Embedded in sandstones following this surface lie pebbles, cobbles, and even a few
boulders of siltstone and very fine grained cohesive sandstone. The smaller clasts are
generally smooth and well rounded, but the larger ones, reaching 45 cm in length, are
often strongly fluted or etched differentially along laminae of contrasted grain size
like miniature yardangs.
The sandstone member is uniformly thick at 3.6-3.7 m and varies from reddish
white to purple. The lowest unit is medium grained at the base passing up into fine
grained (unit 1). Trough cross-stratification (MCKEEand WEIR, 1953, fig.2) is present
throughout (Fig.6E), the troughs varying in maximum thickness from 10-90 cm, being
in general thickest close to the sandstone base. Judging from exposures at the quarry

British National Grid reference number.


Sedirneiztology, 3 (1964) 163-198
SIX CYCLOTHEMS FROM THE LOWER OLD RED SANDSTONE 171

MAIN FACTS INTERPRETATION

Red, coarse siltstone devoid of bedding. Vertical accretion deposit from averbank
Sparse calcium carbonate concretions. floods. Prabably depasited in backswamp
Invertebrate burrows in lower part. area, perhops a more or less permanent
Suncracks absent. lake.

Variable Ihicknes; of red, ripple-drift Vertical accretion deposit from averbank


bedded, very fine sandstone Grades up floods Possibly a levee deposit or a
into siltstone Invertebrate burrows point-bar swole filling

White to purple, fine to medium. well Channel deposit probobly formed by


sorted sandstones Siltstone clasts concen- lateral accretion an a point-bar. Sand trans-
trated at base and scattered throughout ported as bed-load over river bed formed
Trough crass-stratified, units 10-90cm into lunate "dunei'. Strong. variable currents
thick. Contorted cross-strata near base Siltstone clasts f w m lag concentrate where
and middle. channel was deepest

Cut an siltstone. Maximum relief 15cm Erosion at deepest part of wandering


Few directional scour structures. river channel.

GENERAL LEGEND

U
Scoured surface
Ripple-bedded fine to
medium sandstone

Ripple-bedded very
El Rippled bedding plane

fine sandstone

Cross-stratified coarse to Flat-bedded fine to


Carbonate concretions
very caarse sandstone medium sandstone

Cros-strotif ied fine to Flat-bedded very


Convolute lamination
medium sandstone fine sandstone

Trough cross-stratifled fine Massive medium sandstone Contorted cross-strata


t o medium sandstone

Ripple-bedded coarse sandstone Massive very fine sandstone invertebrate burrows

Fig.5. Generalised succession and interpretation of cyclothem at Ludlow (SO 51 2755).

Sedimentology, 3 (1964) 163-198


172 J. R. L. ALLEN

cm

Sedimentology, 3 (1 964) 163-1 98


SIX CYCLOTHEMS FROM THE LOWER OLD RED SANDSTONE 173

entrance, the cross-stratification is similar in three-dimensional form to that from the


Jacobsville formation (HAMBLIN, 1958, fig. 16, 17). Cross-stratification azimuths indi-
cate currents flowing northeastward (Fig.7A). Warped or convoluted foresets (cf.
FRAZIER and OSANIK,1961, fig.10; JONES, 1962; HARMS et al., 1962) are prominent in
troughs near the sandstone base and middle. The troughs appear to form an unbroken
upward series. While impersistent smooth partings sloping northwest can be seen,
there is no flat widespread, pebble-strewn surface to suggest a major change in sedi-
mentation conditions. Sandstone sorting is good except in the floors of some troughs
where quartz grains and mica flakes form a felt. Well rounded siltstone clasts lie
scattered on many foreset planes and trough floors (cf. FRAZIER and OSANIK,1961).
Following unit I fairly sharply is a 10-30 cm layer of obscurely ripple-bedded very
fine sandstone and sandy coarse siltstone (unit 2). Unit 3 is a coarse red siltstone at
least 3 m thick devoid of bedding and fracturing in a blocky manner. The burrows
present persist upward for about 1 m. Race is rare.

Interpretation

In general character, the cyclothem is comparable to a modern floodplain sequence.


Thus coarse deposits pass upward into finer grained ones, although not all the bedding
types of modern floodplains are to be found.
The scoured surface at the cyclothem base was probably eroded amongst the scour
pools at the bottom of a river channel. Erosional form present on this surface have
much in common with those from the bottom of the river Angermanalven (ARNBORG,
1958) where it flows over cohesive fjiord sediments. The siltstones and sandstones
below the scoured surface resemble lithologically some overbank floodplain sediments
(WOLMAN and LEOPOLD,1957, p.98), but also compare with some marine mud-flat
deposits. Whatever origin is agreed, they probably gave the siltstone clasts strewing
the scoured surface, through bank caving and channel floor erosion (FISK,1947,fig. 10;
LUGN,1927). These clasts, particularly the larger fluted ones, suggest a channel floor
lag deposit stationary on the bottom while swept by the current. They are the coarsest
materials present in the cyclothem and, as HAPPet al., (1940, p.25) and SUNDBORG
(1956, p.274) point out, a lag deposit in a stream is generally composed of the coarser
debris in transport.

Fig.6. Typical sedimentation structures from Lower Old Red Sandstone cyclothems. A. Round-
bottomed channels, Lydney (SO 653018). B. Flat-bottomed channel with terraced sides and floor,
Mitcheldean (SO 672185). C. Transverse section of round-bottomed channel showing discordant fill
of ripple-bedded sandstone, Tugford (SO 566873). D. Load casts in plant-bearing sandstone and
siltstone, Abergavenny (SO 31 1156). E. Trough cross-stratified sandstones, Ludlow (SO 512755).
F. Planar cross-stratified sandstones in section parallel to current, Lydney (SO 653018). G. Contorted
cross-stratified sandstone, Lydney (SO 653018). H. Scour-and-fill, Tugford (SO 566873). 5. Suncracks
o n sandstone base (loose block apparently from cyclothem studied), Mitcheldean (SO 672185).
K. Burrows on bedding plane of ripple-bedded sandstone, Ludlow (SO 512755). L. Vertical branching
burrows, Mitcheldean (SO 672185). M. Bedding plane burrows, Mitcheldean (SO 672185).
Sedimentology, 3 (1964) 163-198
174 J. R. L. ALLEN

.UDLOW LYDNEY
A
Units 1-22

hits%
2 Units 23$b<i Units 23-264p, ;P Units

N+
Unit I0 U+
niO u n i t s 2 i

PBER GAVENNY MITCHELDEAN

\ t Q t R S

Units 1-5 1 ssc Unit 6 1 RB Unit 5

U
BROWN CLEE HILL
t
~ - -

Units 2-6 I CS

Fig.7. Palaeocurrents mapped in Lower Old Red cyclothems. Notation for structures used: CS =
cross-stratification;RM = ripple marks; RB = ripple-bedding; SSC = small scale channels; SFA =
scour-and-fill axes; PL = primary current lineation.

Sedimentology, 3 (1964) 163-198


SIX CYCLOTHEMS FROM THE LOWER OLD RED SANDSTONE 175

Aggradation followed. Apparently this took place by the lateral migration of a


point-bar over the surface swept out in the deepest parts of the channel. The sandsto-
nes of unit I marking this phase resemble point-bar sands in being trough cross-strati-
fied and in showing pebble-strewn foresets (cf. FRAZIER and OSANIK, 1961, fig.2, 5-10;
HARMS et al., 1962). Their grain size points to bed-load transport (SUNDBORG, 1956,
p.218), and it seems clear that the bar surface was a complex of mounds and hollows
shifting with the current. In appearence the bar probably resembled the sand banks
covered by dunes of lunate type with re-entrant crests of the present Mississippi River
(CAREYand KELLER,1957; FRAZIER and OSANIK,1961, p.135), since it is through the
agency of such dunes that trough cross-stratification can be generated (ALLEN,1963b,
p.219). It is significant, too, that trough thickness diminishes upwards in unit 1, which
thus agrees with modern point-bar sands (MCDOWELL, 1960; HARMSet al., 1962).
Gradual shoaling over the bar is indicated (cf. ALLEN,1963b, p.212), although a high
intensity lower flow regime was always maintained (Table 11). There is no evidence in
terms of deposits that the upper flow regime was ever entered.
Deposition on the point-bar was rapid at times. The foresets of dunes consist of
loosely packed, gravity sheared sand (SIMONS et al., 1961, p.45), and the contorted
cross-strata in the troughs probably means that at times the deposit from one dune
was so soon overridden by the next that natural compaction was eliminated (cf.
MCKEEet al., 1962). Thus the stage of the river seems to have varied. The upward
persistence of siltstone clasts in unit 1 suggests that the corrasion of local banks ( ?
outer bank of meander) occurred simultaneously with bar growth.
Bar growth at Fishmore seems to have been followed by a prolonged period when
suspended fines settled out from floods to form top-stratum deposits. The very fine
sandstones and siltstones of units 2 and 3 both lie in SUNDBORGS (1956, fig.23) sus-
pended load field, with the lower unit yielding evidence of deposition from a lower flow
regime of relatively low flow intensity. Conditions were much calmer than when the
bar was formed. In lithology and in relation to the sandstone below the upper unit
compares well with the backswamp silty clays on bar sands of the Mississippi valley
(FISK,1944, p.19, fig.l7B, 20B). The somewhat coarser unit 2 may therefore represent
a thin levee deposit or bar swale-filling between the bar sands and the backswamp
silts. As shown by the sparse burrows, invertebrates colonised the periodically inun-
dated floodplain top, although plants seem never to have grown there. Suncracks might
therefore have been expected amongst the siltstones, but as these are fairly uniform
lithologically their absence is accounted for. Alternatively, the backswamp area may
have been a more or less permanently flooded lake, although the sparse race suggests
some groundwater movement.
To summarise, the cyclothem at Ludlow appears to record a floodplain sequence at
its simplest: point-bar sands deposited chiefly from bed-load are overlain by top-
stratum deposits representing fine detritus suspended in floods.

Sedmentology, 3 (1964) 163-198


176 J. R. L. ALLEN

DITTONIAN CYCLOTHEM AT LYDNEY

Main facts

This cyclothem is seen amongst gently dipping beds of the St. Maughans Group
(WELCHand TROTTER, 1961) exposed over a cliff section 350 m long (SO 653018) on
the west bank of the river Severn about 1/4 mile upstream from Lydney harbour,
Gloucestershire (Fig. 1). Its age is early Dittonian, Traquairaspis sp. appearing in the
lower beds. The cyclothem (Fig.3, 8) is more complex than that at Ludlow, dividing
into four members: interbedded sandstones and siltstones (units 1-22), cross-stratified
sandstones (units 23-26), interbedded siltstones and sandstones with signs of exposure
(units 27-34), and siltstones with minor sandstones (units 35-39). The total thickness
is 8.8 m.
Below the cyclothem is about 5 m of red and blue siltstone with a thick concretio-
nary limestone and several bands of ripple-bedded very fine sandstone, a few other
sandstones showing symmetrical ripples. These are abruptly terminated by the wide-
spread scoured surface below unit 1, which is sharp and with a local relief up to 5 cm.
The first member (units 2-22), of siltstones and sharply defined lenticular sandstones
in close alternation, presents remarkable contrasts in lithology. The pale green silt-
stones are devoid of plant debris or shells and much finer grained than the average
Lower Old Red siltstone. The white to pale green sandstones have mixed calcareous
and siliceous cements, varying in grain size from the fine sand to the granule grades.
Sorting is moderate to good and most units hold green siltstone clasts varying from
granules to pebbles 6 cm long. Ostracoderm scales and spines are plentiful locally
with Pachytheca and pellets of carbonised wood. The sandstones are lenticular, varying
from stringers of grains through lines of isolated ripple ridges to beds of 55 cm. Their
bases are invariably sharp, without gradation. Some beds rest with smooth contacts
on the siltstones, whilst others show irregularly fluted lower surfaces or a development
of shallow, round- or flat-bottomed channels (Fig,6A, B) comparing with erosional
forms from the beds of modern rivers. The tops of the beds are also sharp, being either
smooth and rolling as if defining a system of standing symmetrical sand waves, or
thrown into small linguoid asymmetrical ripples. Most beds are cross-stratified inter-
nally, the sets attaining a maximum thickness of 20 cm. The uppermost parts of the
beds are usually flat- or ripple-bedded. The directional structures indicate currents
from the north or northeast (Fig. 7B-D).
The cross-stratified sandstones of the second member (units 23-26) overlie a
scoured surface extending across the entire exposure of the cyclothem. Both flat- and
round-bottomed channels occur on this surface, their orientation suggesting flow
from the north (Fig.7F). Above this surface at the southern end of the outcrop is a
20 cm bed of intraformational conglomerate (ALLEN, 1962b), thinning rapidly
northeastward into a seam of siltstone clasts flooring a cross-stratified sandstone.
Unit 23, a purple, fine to medium grained rock, is a solitary cross-stratified set with
intense foreset convolutions (Fig.6G; cf. JONES,1962, fig.5). Micro-cross-laminated
Sedimentology,3 (1964) 163-198
SIX CYCLOTHEMS FROM THE LOWER OLD RED SANDSTONE 177

MAIN FACTS INTERPRETATION

Thick red, coarse siltstones with lentides Vertical accretion deposit from averbank
and persistent beds of very fine, ripge- floods. Mostly bcckswamp deposits with
bedded sandstone. Invertebrate burrows d coarse intercalations representing toes of
several horizons. No suncracks. levees or crevasse-splays Concretions
Abundant calcium corbonate concretions. suggest fluctuating groundwater table and
exposure.

,/lentides
Thick red, coarse siltstones with
and persistent beds of very fine
Vertical accretion deposit from averbanh
floods. Alternate submergence and
to medium sandstones. Suncracks at exposure. Complex of levee, bockswamp
three horirans. Sandstones ripple-bedded and perhaps crevasse-splay deposits.
with sharp, rippled taps. Convolute Active river channel at a distance
lamination and slump balls. Invertebrate
burrows.

Channel deposit probably formed by


Planar cross-stratified, fine to medium, lateral accretion on paint-bar Strong,
purple sandstone with contorted foresets variable currents Sand carried as bed-load
locally. Thin siltstone and very fine in straight-crested "dunes" moving rapidly
ripple-bedded sandstone, both lenticular. at times. Conglomerate represents lag
Scattered siltstone clasts. Intraform- deposits formed in deepest parts of
ational conglomerate a t base. channel

Cut an siltstone. Relief low. Small- Erosion in deepest parts of wandering


scale channels freshwater channel encroaching on tidal
river.

Rapid alternation of lenticular sand- Tidal channel deposit Variable currents


stones and siltstones. Sandstones mostly with segregation of slack and moving
white, coarse, cross-stratified; sharp boses, water Channel floor o complex of mud
often erosional, and sharp rippled or banks and sand banks covered with
smooth tops. Siltstones pale green "dunes"
and unbedded

Cut on sinstone Relief low Erosion ot floor of tidal channel

Fig.8. Generalised succession and interpretation of cyclothem at Lydney (SO 653018). For legend see
Fig.5.

(HAMBLIN, 1961) very fine red sandstone passing up into flat-bedded sandy coarse
siltstone lies above.
Cross-stratified fine to medium grained sandstones (Fig.6F, unit 26) follow sharply
on the thin siltstone, steep walled channels up to 13 cm deep with fills of siltstone clasts
and ostracoderm scales occurring at their base. These channels establish currents along
Sedimentology, 3 (1964) 163-198
178 J. R. L. ALLEN

an east-west line (Fig.7F). With foresets dipping southward as in unit 23 below


(Fig.7E), the cross-stratified sets average 1.25 m in total thickness and number five in
most local sections. Most sets are planar (MCKEEand WEIR,1953, fig.2) and few
approach the typical trough form. One is topped by thin flat-bedded sandstones with
primary current lineation (STOKES, 1947), thus resembling cross-stratified sands with
top-sets amongst the estuarine deposits of the Haringvliet (OOMKENS and TERWINDT,
1960, fig.9a), and the cross-stratified fluviatile Rhine sands south of Wageningen.
Locally there are contorted foresets.
The third member of the cyclothem (units 27-34) is a close alternation of thin red
to white sandstones and somewhat thicker red siltstones totalling 1.5 m. Varying from
clayey and very fine grained to clean and medium grained, the sandstones attain a
maximum thickness of 16cm. Some carry angular siltstone clasts. Their bases are sharp
and in places erosional, while the tops vary from sharp to gradational. Although flat-
bedding and primary current lineation are present locally, ripple-bedding is the typical
structure. The siltstones between are coarse and sandy, usually showing traces of
ripple-bedding and also well developed convolute lamination (TENHAAF,1956) and
zones of slump balls (KUENEN, 1949). Three of the four siltstones are deeply sun-
cracked, to a depth of 25 cm and a maximum polygon width of 45 cm, and thus com-
pare with dried-up overbank silts of the Mississippi alluvial valley (GROVER and
MAINLAND, 1938, p.710, p1.23A; KELLER and FOLEY, 1949, fig.1). The ripple marks
and ripple-beddingindicate southwestward flow (Fig.6H).
Above lies 2.5 m of red clayey siltstone with two widely persistent thin sandstones
(units 35-39). The thick siltstone of unit 35 shows faint ripple-bedding as well as many
sheets, lenses, and biscuits of ripple-bedded very fine to fine sandstone. Of the per-
sistent sandstones (units 36, 38), both 13 cm thick, the lower is flat-bedded and the
upper massive. The topmost siltstone is coarse, sandy, and devoid of bedding or sand-
stone lenticles. Race concretions abound, but other evidence of exposure is lacking.
Invertebrate burrows are present. The top of the cyclothem is seen beneath a persistent
sandstone grading up into a concretionary limestone.

Interpretation

From the scoured surface below unit 23 upward the cyclothem agrees well in the super-
position of facies with a modern alluvial succession, and at least this portion could
therefore represent alluvium. Units 1-22 seem, however, to represent a facies not so
far recorded from a floodplain, although perhaps one not far removed.
The first member accumulated under variable conditions. The coarseness and lentic-
ularity of the sandstones, the features of their bases and tops, and the relatively fine
grained character of the siltstones point to the simultaneous existence of rapidly
moving and slack waters. As time passed the water bodies shifted their position over
the bottom. Banks of sand covered with shifting ripples or dunes arose where the
flow was relatively swift, while in adjacent slacks fine silt from suspension built up
mud-banks which often were subjected to later erosion.
Sedimentology, 3 (1964) 163-198
SIX CYCLOTHEMS FROM THE LOWER OLD RED SANDSTONE 179

The environment may have been a river channel where fresh water was periodically
backed up by the tide, for under these conditions the various flows become segregated.
In support of this is the good agreement between the lower member and the bottom
sediments of tidal river channels in the West African Niger delta (ALLEN,1964b),
where water movements are complex and variable. The channel floors are a patchwork
of mud banks subject to repeated erosion and of ripple or dune covered mounds of
sand with clay pebbles and plant debris, just as the bottom seems to have been when
the first member was deposited. Vertical changes in lithology in these delta deposits
are as marked as those recorded from the lower member.
At length the channel deposits of a non-tidal river seem to have reached Lydney,
probably because of a steady southward movement of facies belts. This sand member
(units 23-26) spread erosively, perhaps in meander loops, across the earlier tidal
deposits, recalling that in the Niger delta the meandering non-tidal rivers are generally
shallower and sandier than the same rivers under tidal influence. The grain size and
abundant cross-stratification suggests bed-load transportation in a current referable
to a high intensity in the lower flow regime. The facies recalls the cross-stratified river
channel sands and the bars covered by straight dunes of the rivers Klaralven and Oka
(SUNDBORG, 1956, fig.20, 45; SHANTZER, 1951, fig.27, 28). As was shown (ALLEN,
1963b), straight-crested dunes probably generate planar types of cross-stratificatior.
Dune migration was rapid at times, judging from the deformed foresets, indicating
that the river stage varied. Bank corrasion is implied by the scattered siltstone clasts
(LUGN, 1927), while the conglomerates beneath units 23 and 26 suggest repeated
channel floor winnowing and the accumulation of lag gravels. Erosional forms
developed in the siltstones agree well with those from modern rivers (ARNBORG, 1958,
fig.8, 9, 12; DOEGLAS, 1962, fig.9-12), and thus probably had a similar origin.
There then followed a long period of top-stratum deposition because of overbank
flooding. The active channel must now have abandoned or have migrated away.
Proofs of exposure are abundant in units 27-34 and periods of submergence and
drying out clearly alternated. Thus in grain size the deposits range across the suspend-
ed and bed-load fields (SUNDBORG, 1956, fig.23), as do modern floodplain top-
stratum sediments (WOLMAN and LEOPOLD,1957, fig.63). Moreover, in grain sizes,
sedimentation structures, bed thicknesses, bed relations, and the presence of sun-
cracks, the facies agrees well with modern top-stratum deposits as reported by GROVER
and MAINLAND (1938, p.701-702, p1.23), HAPP et al., (1940, p.24), IAHNS (1947,
pp.98-112, p1.22), SHANTZER (1951, fig.52-55), and ANDERSON (1961, pp.88-90). The
currents, when deposition was occurring, appear referable to a lower flow regime of
relatively low intensity (Table 11). The southwesterly current pattern observed in the
member is consistent with these interpretations, since WOLMAN and LEOPOLD (1957,
p.101) observe that overbank flows tend to move directly downvalley rather than
follow the long course along the more sinuous path of the channel.
Additional top-stratum deposition is implied by the thick siltstones with sandstones
above (units 35-39). Grain size points to deposition from suspension, and the facies
as a whole compares favourably with the backswamp clays of the Mississippi valley
Sedimentology,3 (1964) 163-198
180 J. R. L. ALLEN

(FISK,1944, p.20, fig.l7B, 19B, 20B). Only when the floods were strong and persistent
enough did sand invade the backswamps, perhaps as the toe of a levee or as a crevasse-
splay. Whereas there are no direct proofs of exposure, indirect evidence is afforded
by the abundant race. This resembles petrographically the Indian kankars (WADIA,
1947, p.394) and the South African calcretes (Du TOIT,1954,pp.445-447), as shown by
specimens of kankar presented to the writer by Dr. N. P. Kataki (Associated
Cement Companies Limited, India). Invertebrates seem to have colonised the flood-
plain top extensively, but there is no evidence of plant growth.
In summary, the cyclothem at Lydney suggest the three-fold development of a river
system: an initial deposition under tidal control, channel aggradation by bar sands,
and the accumulation of top-stratum fines through overbank flooding.

DITTONIAN CYCLOTHEM AT TUGFORD

Main facts

This cyclothem crops out in a long stream exposure (SO 566873) east-northeast of
Tugford, Shropshire (Fig.1). It lies in the Pteraspis leathensis or low Pt. crouchi zone
of the Dittonian, beds a little below stratigraphically having yielded Pt. (Pteraspis)
rostrata var. trimpleyensis WHITE, Traquairaspis symondsi (LANKESTER), and Tesse-
raspis sp. (BALLet al., 1961, p.232).
The cyclothem (Fig.9, 10) totals 9.3 m and is of particular interest for the compli-

TUGFORD CYCLOTHEM

sw

0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 110 120 130


HORIZONTAL SCALE- M E T R E S

Fig.9. Facies relations in main outcrop of cyclothem at Tugford (SO 566873). For legend see Fig.5.
Sedimentology, 3 (1964) 163-198
SIX CYCLOTHEMS FROM THE LOWER OLD RED SANDSTONE 181

MAIN FACTS INTERPRETATION I

Red, coarse sdfstone with invertebrate Vertical accretion deposit from ovwbank
burrows and obundant calcium c a r h a t e floods Levee overlain by backswamp
l3 concretions, obove red, very fine, ripple- or deposits Fluctuating groundwater table
during times of exposure.

Fills and covers channel Red, flat- Channel-fill and lateral accretion
bedded. fine sandstone with parting deposit Sand transported as bed-load and
lineation. scour-and-fill. and local scoured reworked over shifting channel floor of
10 surfaces Scattered siltstone clasts flat-topped banks Exposure of higher
Local cross stratificotion Lenticular banks.
suncracked siltstone

Erosion at floor of wandering river


In form of channel Relief about 4 8 m channel. Extent of wandering possibly
controlled by eorlier channel-plug.

Red, flat- or ripple-bedded, very fine Channel-fill deposit Overbank floods


sandstone passing up into red, coarse plug cut-off channel almost to top.
siltstone with carbonate concretions Fluctuating groundwater table and
Scattered siltslone closls at base periodic exposure.

Cut on very fine sandstones In form Attempt to re-open plugged channel.


of channel Relief about 2 2 m

Repeated graded units overlying Channel-fill deposit. Repeated intrusions


6 scoured surfoce with moll-scale channel' of suspended sediment down a sloping
Mostly ripple-bedded. very fine sandstone surfoce, probably ot times of higher
5 Some siltstone stage

Wedging intraformotionoi conglomerate Log deposit formed a t deepest parts


with sandstone lentccles of floor of wandering river channel.

Erosion at floor of wondering river.


~ ~~

~ ~~

Fig.10. Generalised succession and interpretation of cyclothem at Tugford (SO 566873). For legend
see Fig.5.

cation of the sandstone member, although otherwise the three essential elements of
the Lower Old Red cyclothem are all present.
Sedirnentology, 3 (1964) 163-198
182 J. R. L. ALLEN

The basal scoured surface, exposed over about 65 m, is cut on thick, coarse, red
siltstones and very fine sandstones with abundant race. It is sharp, of low relief
(< 5 cm), and lacks directional elements. An intraformational conglomerate follows
over a long outcrop (unit I ) ,thinning northeastward and southwestward from a maxi-
mum thickness of 70 cm. It is represented to the southwest first by a single layer of
siltstone clasts and then by a thin, lustre-mottled fine sandstone. The conglomerate is
of well rounded siltstone pebbles and cobbles, abundant poorly rounded race con-
cretions, and a few very fine sandstones. Many clasts can be matched in the under-
lying rocks. Scales of Pteraspis sp. are common locally, with here and there a spine.
The matrix is fine sandstone, in places cross-stratified or ripple-bedded in lenticles.
Low-angle bedding picked out by irregular sandy partings is seen, suggesting the
lateral accretion of the conglomerate.
The sandstones divide into four natural members: a lower one of minor cycles
(units 2-7), a sandstone and siltstone filling a channel (units 8 and 9), a sandstone
plugging a second higher channel (unit ZO), and sheet sandstones (units 11-13).
The first member begins with 15 cm of bright green ripple-bedded very fine sand-
stone with a sharp top showing linguoid asymmetrical ripples. Above lie five minor
cycles (units 3-7), thnning and fining southeastward (true direction) under the channel
fill of units 8 and 9. The minor cycles vary in maximum thickness from 20-55 cm, each
resting on a scoured surface usually marked by discordantly filled round-bottomed
channels with tiny groove casts (Fig.6C). Small siltstone clasts and ostracoderm scales
are often included in the fill. The bulk of each minor cycle consists of ripple-bedded,
very fine sandstone, often passing upward to evenly laminated sandstone. Flat-
bedding is predominant in unit 6, which has a central zone of convolute lamination.
The topmost deposits of the minor cycles verge on siltstone, illustrating the upward
grading through these units. Crustacean tracks occur at several horizons. The small
scale channels indicate currents toward the south-southeast, while the ripple-bedding
and ripple marks suggest a more northerly flow (Fig.7J-K).
The channeled surface beneath units 8 and 9 has a maximum relief of 2.2 m.
Siltstone clasts strew its sides and floor which trend at 104" (284") and show small
scale round-bottomed channels. The clasts are followed by flat-bedded sandstones
concordant with the channel sides, passing upward and laterally into ripple-bedded
very fine salidstones with crustacean tracks. These grade up into 50 cm of coarse red
siltstone with scattered race (unit 9), passing laterally northeastward into very fine
sandstones. An easterly flow parallel to the channel sides is given by the ripple-bedding
and small scale channels (Fig.7L-M).
The second channel form is deeper with steeper sides which strike at 105" (285"),
the relief being approximately 4.8 m. It is defined by a scoured surface showing small
scale channels, terraces (ALLEN,1962b),and non-directional irregularities. Northeast of
the channel the scoured surface flattens out to one of little relief. Fine sandstones (unit
10) follow the lenticles of siltstone clasts on the channel side and floor. These sand-
stones are mostly flat-bedded with primary current lineation on the bedding planes,
the lamination recalling beach sands (THOMPSON, 1937, fig.2; MCKEE, 1938, p.78;
Sedimentology,3 (1964) 163-198
SIX CYCLOTHEMS FROM THE LOWER OLD RED SANDSTONE 183

VAN STRAATEN, 1959, fig.19). Sandstone sets lie discordantly on each other at low
angles. Scour-and-fill structures (SHROCK,1948, p.230) up to 15 cm deep and 60 cm
across are very common (Fig.6H), most being filled discordantly with cross-strata,
but some concordantly with thinly laminated sand. Cross-stratified sets (planar type),
rippIe-bedding, and ripple marks are infrequent. There are many local scoured surface
of low relief covered by lenticles up to 15 cm thick of siltstone pebbles and cobbles.
A wedge of suncracked siltstone overlain by siltstone clasts and fine sandstone occurs
1.3 m below the top of unit 10. The primary current lineation and scour-and-fill axes
suggest flows toward the east-southeast (Fig.7N-0).
Closing the sandstone member of the cyclothem are three, sheet-like, very fine sand-
stones (units 11-13), the lowermost and uppermost being ripple-bedded while the
middle one is flat-bedded. The ripple-bedding of the lower one varies from HAMBLINS
(1961) micro-cross-lamination to STOKES (1953, p. 17) rib and furrow. Invertebrate
burrows are present and knobby race is very abundant.
Unit 13 grades up into 80 cm of coarse red siltstone lacking bedding but with race.
The cyclothem top is seen beneath thick cross-stratified intraformational conglomer-
ates at the base of the next cyclothem.

Interpretation

The cyclothem clearly agrees in general succession with modern alluvium and there-
fore probably has a fluviatile origin. Although two siltstones are present, the sequence
is considered to represent a single cycle of deposition, because of the essentially
uniform palaeocurrents observed and the manner in which an existing facies con-
trolled deposition of a later one.
The basal scoured surface probably arose as a river wandered across a floodplain
built from earlier alluvium. Recalling the channel floor lag gravels of the Mississippi
and other rivers (HAPPet al., 1940, p.25; FRAZIER and OSANIK, 1961, fig.2B), it is easy
to see that the scoured surface and its overburdening siltstone clasts could have been
formed through bank corrasion (FISK,1947, pp.70-75) with channel floor winnowing
and erosion in scour pools.
Local conditions changed profoundly with the rapid transition from lag gravels to
minor cycles. Texturally the gravels beIong to a bed-load seldom moved in the stream,
whereas in their grain sizes, structures, and upward grading the minor cycles imply
the deposition of a waning suspended load with intermediate bed-load transport
(SUNDBORG, 1956, p.218; ALLEN,1963b, p.206). Perhaps the site became part of a
channel plugged at both ends through being cut off, exposing lag gravels beneath rela-
tively still water (FISK,1944,p.19, fig.14A). Fresh supplies of sediment, necessarily fine
because in suspension, would reach such a slough only during high river stages. Thus
each minor cycle may represent a contribution to a growing clay plug (FISK,1944,
p. 19). Their features recall graywacke-shale units explained by turbidity current
action, and are consistent with repeated injections of fresh sediment, such as would
occur whenever the river flooded. Thus FISK(1944, p.19) writes of Mississippi clay
Sedimentology, 3 (1964) 163-198
184 J. R. L. ALLEN

MAIN FACTS INTERPRETATION

Red coarse siltstones with invertebrate Vertical accretion deposit from


burrows, ripple-bedded sandstone lenticles, overbank floods. Backswamp area, probably
and convolute laminations. No evidence a Dermanent lake.
of exposure.
I/

I

Red coarse siltstones alternating
with beds or biscuits of ripple-bedded,
very fine sandstone. lnvertebrote
-/0. burrows No proofs of exposure.
9
Vertical accretion deposit from
overbank floods. Levee and backswamp
deposits with area possibly a lake
far long periods.

-
7
1 Red, flat- or ripple-bedded very
fine to fine sandstone with a channeled
Probably mixed channel-fill and
lateral accretion deposits. Deposition of
scoured surface in lower part. suspended and bed loads on channel
Scattered siltstone clasts. bars and sand flats. Deepening or
wandering of channel a t times.
6

-
5
1 Intraformational conglomerates on
scoured surfaces alternating with green
siltstones and very fine to fine sand-
stones, showing ripple-bedding, flat-
Mixed channel-fill and channel lag
deposits. Repeated migration and
partial aggradation of channel. Flotsam
of floodplain plants and riverine
4 bedding or convolute lamination. ostracoderms deposited in or near
3 Concentrations of plant debris and active channel.
2 ostracoderms, some of latter articulated.

-
I Scoured surface of low relief cut Erosion at floor of wandering river
on siltstone

Fig1 1. Generalised succession and interpretation of cyclothem at Abergavenny (SO 31 1156). For
legend see Fig.5.

plugs formed of interbedded clays, silty clays, silty sands, and sandy clays. Palaeo-
current data indicate an active channel somewhere to the west.
A more important phase of slough filling is indicated by units 8 and 9, the first
clearly associated with a channel structure. The clearly discordant and erosive base
suggests that this may have occurred after the partial re-opening of the earlier channel.
The flow entered the cut-off from the northwest, the grain size suggesting transport
largely in suspension. The siltstone uppermost in the fill may have plugged the slough
almost to the general floodplain level, for its race compares with modern calcretes to
suggest a fluctuating groundwater table beneath a soil.
Sedimentolqqy, 3 (1964) 163-198
SIX CYCLOTHEMS FROM THE LOWER OLD RED SANDSTONE 185

The advance and aggradation of an important channel is indicated by the fine


sandstones of unit 10. The final position of this mass seems to have been determined
by the existing clay plug, which formed a resistant wall, as in many river today (e.g.,
FISK,1947, p.75-79). Erosion at the channel floor and sides gave scour forms in the
cohesive deposits below agreeing well with those seen in modern streams (ARNBORG,
1958, fig.9, 13; DOEGLAS, 1962, fig.10). Sediment of bed-load type was deposited
within the channel and over the sides on the eroded top of the plug. The numerous
local scoured surfaces with siltstone clasts point to extensive reworking and winnow-
ing on the aggrading channel floor, perhaps due to kolking in the water (MATTHES,
1947, fig. 1), and to simultaneous corrasion of siltstone top-stratum deposits. Although
in terms of present knowledge, the flat-bedded sandstones are more suggestive of
beaches under wave action (cf. THOMPSON, 1937; MCKEE,1938; VANSTRAATEN, 1959),
with implications of exposure, presumably in the channel itself the sand accumulated
on submerged flat-topped banks from a n upper regime flow (ALLEN, 1963d; Table 11).
Thus the lineation, the scour-and-fill axes, the small channels, and the sides of the
main channel all agree in giving a similar current trend. The suncracked siltstone near
the sandstone top recalls a scene from the Colorado delta floodplain (SYKES, 1937,
fig.17). Channel bars topped by silt were evidently dried out during low river stages
at Tugford.
The ripple- and flat-bedded sandstones above the channel sandstone seem to be top-
stratum deposits formed on levees or mudflats after the active channel had moved
away. They match well deposits in these positions in the Colorado delta floodplain
(SYKES, 1937, fig.63; M C K E E , 1939, pl.lA-B), the pavement-like bedding planes with
linguoid ripples reminding one of the flats of that area. The flows apparently did not
exceed a low intensity in the lower flow regime.
Backswamp deposition from floods carrying suspended fines alternated with dry
periods to close the cycle at Tugford. The siltstone (unit 14) agrees texturally with
known backswamp deposits (FISK,1947, p.57), while the abundant race sugpests
exposure, soiI formation, and a shifting groundwater table. Invertebrates colonised
the environment sparsely.
Summarising, the cyclothem at Tugford probably records the development and
aggradation of a complex of channels, after which top-stratum deposition took place
from floodwaters.

DITTONIAN CYCLOTHEM AT ABERGAVENNY

Main facts

This cyclothem is exposed in a stream (SO 3 11156) about one mile north of Aberga-
venny, Monmouthshire (Fig. 1). Having yielded P t . (Belgicaspis) crouchi LANKESTER
(WHITE, 1950, p.56), it lies about the middle of the Dittonian Stage. The cyclothem is
divisible into three members above a basal scoured surface (Fig.11): a conglomerate
Sedirnentology,3 (1964) 163-198
186 J. R. L. ALLEN

group (units 2-5), a thick sandstone with channel features (unit 6), and siltstones with
thin sandstones (units 7-12). The total thickness is about 7.2 m.
The conglomerates group lies on a scoured surface cut on red and blue siltstones
with abundant race exposed to about 1 m. The scoured surface, of little relief, is smooth
and gently undulating. The first intraformational conglomerate, with interbedded
rippled sandstone lenticles, is of gray siltstone pebbles, race, and plant debris in a very
fine sandstone matrix. The fine to very fine grained silty sandstones above total 60 cm,
and vary from flat- to ripple-bedded with seams of drifted plants and eurypterid skins.
Layers of siltstone clasts and rolled race occur toward the base and middle. Unit 3
varies from an intraformational conglomerate with scoured surface below, to a flat-
bedded sandstone with load casts (Fig.6D) and in places to a siltstone with convolute
lamination. The bed is crowded with large plant fragments, pellets of wood, Puchy-
them, eurypterid skins, and pteraspid and cephalaspid scales, plates, and discs. From
a distinct horizon a little below, the late Mr. W. N. Croft of the British Museum
(Natural History) collected a fauna of small articulated cephalaspids preserved in
green very fine sandstone and siltstone with load casts (WHITE,1950, p.56). The
cephalaspids lie in various attitudes to the bedding, but are neither distorted nor
blown. Instances of articulated preservation of ostracoderms in the Lower Old Red
Sandstone are few but of importance in establishing the habitat of these vertebrates
(ALLENand TARLO,1963). The conglomerate group continues with an impersistent
seam of siltstone pebbles and race over an erosional surface. The lenticular conglom-
erate above rests on a surface with round- and flat-bottomed channels proving cur-
rents rom the west-northwest (Fig.7Q).
Grading from this is 1.4 m of fine to very fine sandstone (unit 6) with flat-bedding
locally at the base but otherwise with ripple-bedding. A deeply channeled surface is
seen 50 cm above, the sides of the two largest channels striking at 120(300)and 109
(289) respectively. The deeper channel, reaching down almost to the conglomerate,
is at least 2 m wide and has a partially concordant fill above siltstone clasts. Ripple-
bedding, partly HAMBLINS (1 96 1) micro-cross-lamination, indicates eastward flow in
the channel-fill and adjacent sandstones (Fig.7R).
The unusually thick siltstone member (units 7-11; 3.65 m) grades up from the sand-
stones and includes thin beds, lenticles, and biscuits of sandstone and sandy coarse
siltstone. Generally these have gradational tops but sharp bases with invertebrate trails
or erosional features. Some of the sandstones show convolute lamination or break
into slump balls. The siltstones between are mostly coarse, blocky, and unbedded,
with few race concretions or burrows. The scoured surface beneath a prominent
sandstone terminates the cyclothem.

Interpretation

The fluviatile origin of the cyclothem is suggested by its good agreement in general
lithology with modern floodplain deposits. Although siltstones occur low down in the
Sedimentology,3 (1964) 163-198
SIX CYCLOTHEMS FROM THE LOWER OLD RED SANDSTONE 187

cyclothem, siltstone clasts are also present and these are not normally found in top-
stratum siltstones. Only one cyclothem seems to be present.
The conglomerates group suggests the repeated accumulation of channel-floor lag
gravels (HAPPet al., 1940; SUNDBORG, 1956, p.274). From the presence of two main
conglomerates, it follows that channel aggradations were twice eroded during periods
of channel migration. Flow was from the northwest during the second migration, the
scour structures at the conglomerate base agreeing with minor erosion forms observed
on river beds (DOEGLAS, 1962, fig.9-12; ARNBORG, 1958). The siltier aggradations
between migrations suggest the existence of current shadows downstream of channel
bars where fines could be deposited (LEOPOLD et al., 1960, fig.75).
The extraordinary heterogeneity of unit 3 can only mean the flotsam of a waning
flood (e.g., SYKES,1937, fig.20). It was perhaps deposited at the head of a channel bar
or in the entrance to a chute or slough where gravel from the channel floor might also
be found (e.g., FISK,1944, p. 18). The disarticulated pteraspid-cephalaspid faunule
seems to have been derived from an earlier deposit, in whch the animals may have
been articulated, since a number of arched pteraspid discs help to define the surfaces
of siltstone clasts. The articulated cephalaspids of the lower faunule may have died
catastrophically in the river as the result of flood conditions. Their attitude to the
bedding implies that they were dead, or at least helpless, when rapidly entombed. They
cannot have travelled far, and would appear to have lived in the stream.
Aggradation continued with flow now from the west. Repeated deposition on the
channel floor led to the sandstones with minor channels above the conglomerate (unit
6). Particularly in structures, these agree well with Connecticut river bar sands (JAHNS,
1947, fig.6b) and sand flats of the Colorado delta floodplain (SYKES,1937, fig.63;
MCKEE,1939). The grain size suggests the deposition of a suspended load via a
bed-load phase, while the ripple-bedding points to gentle flows in the lower flow
regime (Table 11).
Levee building and backswamp filling appear to have followed as the result of
overbank flooding from an active channel nearby. The siltstones with interbedded
sandstones (units 7-20) agree well in grain sizes, structures, and the alternation of units
with modern top-stratum deposits (cf. GROVER and MAINLAND,1938, pp.701-703;
JAHNS,1947, pp.87-121; SHANTZER, 1951, fig.15). Proofs of exposure being absent, the
backswamp area may have been a more or less permanent lake comparable to a delta
flank basin (cf. KRUIT,1955, p.381) repeatedly fed by floods carrying fines in suspen-
sion. A lake would also explain the thick siltstones with sandstone biscuits and
slump structures which follow, for these seem never to have been exposed.
To summarise, the cyclothem at Abergavenny probably represent a sequence of
channel sands and gravels overlain by top-stratum silts mostly of lacustrine origin.
I t is particularly interesting for its record of channel aggradation and the contempo-
rary vertebrate habitat.

Sedimentology,3 (1964) 163-198


188 J. R. L. ALLEN

BRECONIAN CYCLOTHEM AT MITCHELDEAN

Main facts

This cyclothem is exposed over an outcrop of 50 m in the Brownstones of Wilderness


Quarry (SO 672185), about z / 3 mile east of Mitcheldean, Gloucestershire (Fig.1). A
Breconian age is confirmed by Rhinopteraspis cornubica ( M c C o y ) (TARLO,
1961) from

MAIN FACTS INTERPRETATION

23 Red sandy coarse siltstones wjth Vertical accretion deposit from


traces of ripple-bedding,abundant car- overbank floods. Backswamp deposa with
bonate concretions. and invertebrate intercalated levee tangue. Fluctuollng
22 burrows. Thin ripple-bedded. very fine groundwoter table and periodic
sandstone overlying suncracked surface. exposure.
21

-. -
20

19
18
Alternation of thin sandstones and Vertical accretion deposit from
/7 siltstones. Red sandy coarse siltstones overbank floods. Deposition of
16 with invertebrate burrows and rare suspended load via bed-load on levees,
15 carbonate concretions. Very fine to fine crevasse splays, and in backswamps.
14 poorly sorted sandstones, flat- or ripple- Repeated scour, aggradation. and
bedded or massive. Commonly rest on exposure of floodplain top-stratum.
12
suncracked or eroded surfaces. Tops Flow at times in direction away. from
I1
gradational or sharp with ripples. earlier channel.
Invertebrate burrows.
l0

9
8
7
6
3 5
4
3

. . .. . . . Local lenses of siltstone clasfs. Probably mixed channel-fdl and


. . 2 Well-sorted fine sandstones with cross- lateral accretion deposit. Deposition of
. . . stratification, flat-bedding, primary current bed-load in channels. shallow and
. . lineation and fluted scoured surfaces. probably shifting and braided, with some
Top sandstone ripple-bedded wzth wave action on exposed banks and
I sharp top. Rare invertebrate burrows bars. Local channel lag deposits.
I I

Scoured surface with 4 0 c m relief Erosion at floor of wandering


cut on siltstone. Small channels, flute river channel.
casts. and current crescents.

Fig.12. Generalised succession and interpretation of cyclothem at Mitcheldean (SO 672185). For
legend see Fig.5.
Sedimentology,3 (1964) 163-198
SIX CYCLOTHEMS FROM THE LOWER OLD RED SANDSTONE 189

the quarry (WELCHand TROTTER, 1961, p.45). There are three members to the cyclo-
them (Fig.12): a lower sandstone (units 2-3), a group of sandstones and siltstones
(units 4-20), and a siltstone group (units 21-23). The total thickness is 8.1 m.
The scoured surface at the base overlies 80-120 cm of red and green siltstone of the
cyclothem beneath. It is irregular with a local relief of 40 cm, showing small scale flat-
and round-bottomed channels (Fig.6B), flute casts, current crescents (PEABODY,
1947), and terraces. Steep-walled channels 35 cm deep filled with siltstone clasts are
present. These sole markings show littled preferred orientation.
There follows 1.1-1.6 m of well sorted fine sandstone (units 1-3) with siltstone
clasts toward the base. A few cross-stratified sandstone lenses at the very base are
succeeded by flat-bedded sandstones (units 2, 3). These consist of thin (0.5-2.0 mm)
laminae, each showing primary current lineation, and resemble beach sands in the
relative thinness and lateral persistence of the layers (cf. THOMPSON, 1937, pp.726-728;
MCKEE,1938, p.78). Minor erosion surfaces formed of broad troughs (30 cm-1.5 m)
separated by cuspate ridges are followed by concordantly bedded sandstone. Sparse
current crescents developed around invertebrate burrows (cf. SEILACHER, 1953, fig.9a)
show on the bedding plane between units I and 2, while lower down many other planes
reveal crescents around siltstone clasts. The highest sandstone is fine grained, silty and
poorly bedded in the lower part. The upper part is ripple-bedded with small linguoid
ripples on the sharp top. Three current directions are shown by the sandstones
(Fig7S): from the northwest and north-northeast in unit 1, from the northeast or
southwest in unit 2, and from the north in unit 3 .
The alternating sandstones and siltstones of units 4-20 total 3.7 m. The sandstones,
varying in thickness from 8-60 cm, are fine to very fine grained, mostly badly sorted,
and generally silty. Several units lie on suncracked surfaces, while others overlie
erosional ones of appreciable relief (< 8 cm). The pot-holes beneath unit 5 are con-
spicuous. The suncracks are generally small regular polygons (Fig.6-f).Although a few
units seem quite massive, most reveal poorly preserved flat- or ripple-bedding. A
reliable current direction, toward the south-southwest, is given by unit 5 only (Fig.7T).
Several of the sandstones grade up into the siltstone although others have sharp tops
with linguoid ripples. Sandstone pipes (ALLEN,1961a) appear in unit 10. Most units
show branching burrows 5-20 mm across filled with silt at many angles to the bedding,
as well as a variety of tracks and burrows on bedding planes (Fig.6L-M). The silt-
stones are coarse, sandy, and without bedding.
The siltstones (units 21-23) above total 1.8 m. The lowest is coarse and very sandy
with traces of ripple-bedding and shallow suncracks at the top. There is some race.
Erosively above is a thin, fine to very fine, silty ripple-bedded sandstone with platy
siltstone clasts. Burrows are sparse and the top is sharp. The next sandy siltstone shows
much race, many burrows, and traces of ripple-bedding. The top of the cyclothem is
defined by a scoured surface beneath cross-stratified sandstones and intraformational
conglomerates.

Sedmentology, 3 (1964) 163-198


190 J. R. L. ALLEN

Interpretation

This cyclothem is probably fluviatile in origin. In general succession it closely resem-


bles a modern alluvial sequence in that uniform coarse beds underlie interbedded
coarse and fine deposits followed by uniform fine sediments. Large channel structures
being absent, the origin of the flat-bedded lower sandstones is at first sight puzzling.
Nevertheless, these are considered to be channel deposits because of underlying beds
confidently referable to a top-stratum environment.
Clearly a river was shlfting its channel. The basal scoured surface recalls the sur-
face of unconformity in the Klaralven valley (SUNDBORG, 1956, p.272) and the
disconformity beneath the alluvium of the rivers Oka and Moscow (SHANTZER, 1951,
fig.3,4). Bed erosion was unusually great at Mitcheldean, since the scoured surface has
a greater than normal variety of scour structures and a pronounced relief. Most of the
scour forms find parallels on modern river beds (ARNBORG, 1948, fig.9, 10,40,52).
The channel subsequently aggraded seems to have been relatively shallow, judging
from the thickness of the lower sandstone and the distance from the scoured surface
to the first suncracks. The sandstone grading indicates bed-load transport (SUNDBORG,
1956, fig.23), and in the context of an alluvial succession this suggests deposition
within a channel. The minor erosion surfaces, formed into flutes perhaps because of
kolking in the water (MATTHES, 1947), and the observed changes in current direc-
tion show that reworking accompanied aggradation. Evidently the current transgres-
sed its earlier deposits several times, repeatedly building flat-topped banks. Some of
the higher flat-bedded sandstones may represent wave-formed river beaches (cf.
MCKEE,1938), especially if the river varied at all widely in stage. However, it seems
likely that most was deposited on the floors of shallow and perhaps braided channels.
Thus the plane beds with primary current lineation suggest currents in the upper flow
regime (Table 11) such as can exist in shallow river channels during floods (DAWDY,
1961; ALLEN,1963d, 1964a). It is much more likely that these conditions will be
encountered in a braided channel which is relatively steep and shallow, than in a
meandering reach of the same river (cf. LEOPOLD and WOLMAN,1957). Finally the
channel decayed. The ripple-bedded sandstones at the top of the member compare
with the ripped sand flats of the Colorado delta floodplain (SYKES,1937, fig.63;
MCKEE,1939, pl.lA).
With the active channel at some distance there followed a long period of top-stratum
deposition from overbank floods. All the essential features of modern top-stratum
sediments are reproduced in units 4-20, which seem to include levee and crevasse-
splay deposits as well as backswamp fines. Their grain sizes imply deposition from
suspension, while the structures indicate, in general, currents of a low intensity in the
Iower flow regime (Table 11). Alternate drying out and submergence of the top-stratum
is indicated, and the alternation of fine and coarse sediments with suncracked contacts
finds an exact parallel in modern top-stratum sediments (cf. GROVER and MAINLAND,
1938, pp.701-703; JAHNS,1947, p1.22; SHANTZER, 1951, fig.52-54; ANDERSON, 1961,
pp.88-89). The ripple-bedding proves further the rapid deposition from suspension,
Sedimentology, 3 (1964) 163-198
SIX CYCLOTHEMS FROM THE LOWER OLD RED SANDSTONE 191

and it is worth recalling that JAHNS (1947) has often recorded pseudo-cross-lamina-
tion from floodplain top-stratum deposits.
Units 5, 8 and 10 may be crevasse-splays in view of their sharp erosional bases of
pronounced relief, internal ripple-bedding, and rippled tops (cf. HAPPet a]., 1940,
p1.4A). With the crevasse-splay to main channel relation of the RhBne delta (KRUJT,
1955, fig.12) in mind, the lineation in unit 5 suggests flow away from the channel where
units 1-3 earlier accumulated. The remaining sandstones with gradational o r less
conspicuously eroded contacts may represent levees constructed under calmer con-
ditions. The top-stratum provided a favourable habitat for invertebrates.
Backswamp conditions with the ponding of floods finally held sway. The grain size
of these siltstones (units 21-23) points to the transport and deposition from suspension
(SUNDBORG, 1956, p.218) found to accompany bank over-topping. Their position above
interbedded sandstones and siltstones in turn above better sorted and coarser sand-
stones, compares well with that of the backswamp clays and levee deposits over bar
sands in the Mississippi valley (FISK,1944, fig.17A-B). Suncracks on top of the lower
siltstone confirm the periodic drying up of the backswamp. The race seems to be a
calcrete, and thus points to the fluctuations of groundwater that would accompany
drying. The sandstone between the siltstones agrees in position with some Mississippi
river levee sands (FISK, 1944, fig.l7B, 20B), and could mean the re-approach of the
active channel. Its platy siltstone clasts probably came from the dried-up backswamp
silts rather than from the channel (cf. JAHNS, 1947, p.93). Backswamp conditions
returned with the upper siltstone.
In summary, the cyclothem at Mitcheldean probably records the development of a
floodplain sequence in which bar sands were overlain by top-stratum fines. It is of
interest for its suggestion of a braided river reach and for the relative importance of
the top-stratum deposits.

BRECONIAN CYCLOTHEM AT BROWN CLEE HILL

Main facts

This cyclothem appears over a small outcrop (SO 583847) in a stream at Clee Liberty,
Brown Clee Hill, Shropshire (Fig. l), lying in the (?)Breconian Clee Sandstone Forma-
tion (Woodbank Series) about 250 ft. above the base (ALLEN, 1961b, 1962c, fig.19A).
It shows three members (Fig.13): a lower group of green sandstones (units 1-7), a
green sandstone filling a channel form (unit 8), and siltstones (units 9-11). The total
thickness is just over 5 m.
The basal scoured surface is cut on variegated red, yellow, and green siltstone
passing up from sandstones of the cyclothem below. Although the relief is locally
pronounced (< 15 cm), the scoured surface shows only pot-hole mouIds and lacks
directional elements.
Cross-stratified and flat-bedded sandstones 3.1 m thick lie above (units 1-7). The
Sedintentology,3 (1964) 163-198
192 J. R. L. ALLEN

MAIN FACTS INTERPRETATION

Red coarse siltstone devoid of Vertical accretion deposit on flood-


bedding, grading up from very fine plain topstratum from overbonk floods.
// sandstone at base Sandstone lenticle Bockswamp deposit probably formed in
on erosional surface No proofs of more or less permanent lakes.
exposure

Chonnel-fill deposit. Plug from


longitudinal currents after channel was
cut.
scoured surface Scattered siltstone

Channel cut occross sand boi

Channel deposit probably farmed by


Medium t o very fine green sand- lateral accretion on point-bar. Strong
stones with siltstone clasts, planar variable currents. Sand transported in
5 cross-stratified or flat-bedded and with straight- crested "dunes". Wove action on
primary current lineation beaches exposed at low river stage.

L a g deposit formed in deepest parts


of channel

Erosion in deepest ports of


wondering river channel.

Fig.13. Generalised succession and interpretation of cyclothem at Brown Clee Hill (SO 583847). For
legend see Fig.5.

first is a medium sandstones crowded with well rounded siltstone clasts, and is cut out
erosively toward the southeast by a cross-stratified sandstone with flat-bedded top-
sets (cf. OOMKENS and TERWINDT, 1960, fig.9a). A second well sorted, medium, cross-
stratified sandstone follows with scattered siltstone pebbles and cobbles. The cross-
stratification is apparently of the planar type, to judge from the plane foresets of
constant strike dipping southeastward (Fig.7U). The next cross-stratified sandstones
(units 5 , 6 ) are well sorted although very fine to fine grained in contrast to the earlier
ones. Again the cross-stratification is planar, but the flow came from the west-south-
west (Fig.7U). Siltstone clasts persist. The member is completed by flat-bedded sand-
stones with obscure primary current lineation to a maximum thickness of 50 cm, the
structure resembling beach lamination (cf. MCKEE,1938; VANSTRAATEN, 1949,fig.19).
The erosive second member overlies a smoothly curving scoured surface with a
maximum dip of 25" toward the north-northwest and a strike of 208". Rare siltstone
clasts at the base are followed by well sorted medium sandstones and then by fine
sandstones, bedded more or less concordantly against the channel side. Layers low
down in the fill thicken downdip, as in some experimental channels (McKEE, 1957,
fig.6), but in the fine sandstone at the top the bedding is almost horizontal and the
Sedimentology, 3 (1964) 163-198
SIX CYCLOTHEMS FROM THE LOWER OLD RED SANDSTONE 193

laminae uniformly thin. Flow along the channel is suggested by poorly preserved
current lineation parallel to the strike of the sides.
The vertical transition to siltstone is rapid, taking place through silty very fine
sandstones and then sandy siltstones. Ripple marks and ripple-bedding are conspic-
uously absent (ALLEN,1962c,p.684), in contrast to the previous five cyclothems. The
iltstones (units 9, I I ) are dark red, almost magenta, coarse grained and without
bedding, race, and invertebrate burrows. Bedding is defined only by a thin seam of
pebbly fine sandstone 20 cm from the base on an erosion surface. After 1.7 m of silt-
stone the scoured surface and basal sandstone of the next cyclothem are seen.

Interpretation

A fluviatile origin for the cyclothem seems likely from its general resemblance to a
modern alluvial succession. However, it is simpler than most modern alluvial sequences,
lacking a conspicuous development of the transitional mixed coarse and fine deposits.
Construction began with a river wandering through the top-stratum deposits of an
earlier floodplain. The scoured surface dividing an overlay of siltstone gravel from
massive siltstone finds a parallel in the surface of unconformity beneath modern
alluvial successions (SUNDBORG, 1956; SHANTZER, 1951). Its features of relief can be
accounted for in the same way as comparable irregularities known from present day
river beds (e.g., ARNBORG, 1958, fig.10).
The spread of the river seems to have been matched by the growth by lateral
accretion of a point bar. The lower sandstones agree well with the cross-stratified
point-bar sands of present day rivers (cf. SHANTZER, 1951, fig.21; BERNARD and
MAJOR,1963). Judging from the cross-stratification (ALLEN,1963b, p.209), the river
bed was a complex of dunes migrating downstream with a current of high intensity in
the lower flow regime (Table 11). They may have resembled the straight-crested dunes
of the rivers Klaralven and Oka (SUNDBORG, 1956, fig.20,45; SHANTZER, 1951, fig.27,
28). Bed-load transport is indicated by the grain size (SUNDBORG, 1956, p.218). At
first the river ran toward the southeast but later the flow shifted toward the east-
northeast with the current eroding the earlier sand bank and depositing finer sand
from the shifting dunes. The upward decline in grain size (ALLEN,1962c, fig.19A) sug-
gests shoaling and agrees with trends known from modern point-bars (BERNARD
and MAJOR,1963). The flat-bedded sandstones above reminiscent of beach sands
may therefore prove to be a wave-formed deposit laid down at the river edge during
changing stage conditions (cf. ALLEN,1963d, 1964a). Thus in the Niger delta flood-
plain smooth beach faces occur on the higher slopes of the point-bars and underlie
evenly stratified sand (ALLEN,1964b). MCKEE(1938) reports flat-bedded beach sands
from the Colorado river.
The cutting of a fresh channel across the point-bar halted aggradation. This was
eroded to a depth of at least 1 m along a north-northeast or south-southwest line. The
concordantly bedded sandstone plug (unit 8) with layers thickening downdip agrees
with a channel form from modern alluvium (SHANTZER, 1951, fig.23) and recalls
Sedimentology, 3 (1964) 163-198
194 J. R. L. ALLEN

experimental channels (McKEE,1957, p.133) to suggest a trough filled by longitudinal


currents. The channel may represent an attempt to cut a chute across the bar top at the
general level of the floodplain, since the plug is followed immediately by siltstone.
The siltstones above seem to be top-stratum deposits. Their grain size is consistent
with deposition from suspension and their relation to the underlying channel sands is
similar to that of top-stratum deposits in modern alluvial valleys (cf. FISK,1944, 1947;
SHANTZER, 1951). There may have been little exposure, however, since neither sun-
cracks nor race are present and there are no beds referable with confidence to levee
building. The deposit seems to have formed under relatively uniform conditions and
the environment did not favour the burrowing invertebrates which in other Breconian
cyclothems (e.g., Mitcheldean) preferred a habitat subject to temporary inundation
only. Thus a permanent backswamp lake may have existed after the active channel
moved away.
Summarising, the cyclothem at Brown Clee Hill suggests aggradation in criss-
crossing river channels followed by uniform deposition in a backswamp lake.

CONCLUSIONS

In the foregoing paper six selected cyclothems have been described and interpreted in
detail (Fig.5, 8,9-13). The work has revealed close similarities between the cyclothems
of the Lower Old Red Sandstone in the Anglo-Welsh Basin and modern alluvial
sediments.
Each of the cyclothems is underlain by a scoured surface probably swept out through
erosion at the floor of a wandering river channel. Erosion forms from these surfaces
agree with those on the beds of modern rivers.
The sandstones vary widely between the cyclothems but in each case seem to have
been deposited from bed-load in a river channel by lateral and (or) vertical accretion.
Usually the lowest deposit is an intraformational conglomerate which appears to be a
lag accumulation at the channel floor through winnowing of cohesive materials eroded
from the channel bank and sides. The thick sandstones above are mostly fine or
medium grained and often cross-stratified, suggesting rivers whose beds carried migra-
ting trains of dunes. The basal portion of one cyclothem is an alternation of sand-
stones and siltstones which agrees best with the deposits of tidal rivers. The sandstone
member of another seems to represent a complex of eroded and then plugged channels.
Deposition in a braided stream with upper regime flow is suggested by the sandstones
of a third cyclothem.
The siltstone members which grade from the sandstones can be explained by depo-
sition on the top-strata of floodplains through vertical accretion from overbank floods
carrying suspended fines. Backswamp lakes seem to be represented by the thick
uniform siltstones. The rapid alternations of sandstone and siltstone with evidence of
repeated exposure probably record deposition on levees and crevasse-splays where
submergence and drying out alternated.
Sedimentology, 3 (1964) 163-198
SIX CYCLOTHEMS FROM THE LOWER OLD RED SANDSTONE 195

The Lower Old Red Sandstone accumulated against a tectonic backcloth of basin
subsidence and source area uplift (ALLEN,1962~).This allowed a coastal alluvial
plain, embracing at times the London area, the Midlands, South Wales, south Devon,
Anglesey, and southern Ireland, to remain at or just above the level of the sea in the
Devonian proto-geosyncline to the south and southeast. Obviously this plain was the
product of a complex of rivers.
Thus the cyclicity has three possible explanations:
( I ) Each river wandered back and forth unhindered across a portion of the flood-
plain under conditions of steady subsidence and sediment supply (cf. CROUZEL, 1957;
BERSIER, 1958b; FRIEND,1961; ALLEN,1962b).
(2) Influenced by sea level changes, the rivers in unison alternately eroded and
aggraded the floodplain under steady subsidence and sediment supply conditions.
Channel wandering occurred but was not the fundamental cause of the cyclothems.
The rivers might conceivably have been entrenched at times in valleys cut in earlier
alluvium.
(3) Bursts of tectonic activity in the source area which led to increased sediment
supply through rejuvenated streams caused the rivers alternately to erode and
aggrade the floodplain (cf. DINELEY, 1960). Base level and rate of subsidence of the
basin need not have varied. Channel wandering occurred but did not determine the
cyclicity.
These explanations are speculative at present. The problem of the fundamental
control underlying the cyclicity will probably not be solved until the three-dimensional
form of individuaI cyclothems, and the three-dimensional relationship between cyclo-
thems, becomes better known. It is not proving easy to overcome these deficiencies
in the poorly exposed Anglo-Welsh Basin.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The author is greatly indebted to his colleagues in the Sedimentology Research


Laboratory, Reading for their helpful discussions and comments. He would like to
thank Dr. P. F. Friend for comments on the manuscript, Dr. L. B. Tarlo for helpful
suggestions concerning the ostracoderms, and Dr. E. I. White for ready permission
to examine the cephalaspid-pteraspid material collected by Mr. W. N. Croft.

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198 J. R. L. ALLEN

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