On Saturday 28th January the Black Country Geological Society headed south for a chilly fieldtrip to two fossil rich quarries in the Cotswolds. The geologists gathered excitedly at the first quarry, where Dr Neville Hollingworth was waiting to brief us about the local geology and what wonders we may find. Finally everyone arrived and I anxiously listened to the brief, fighting the urge to rush off into the mud to begin my hunt for fossils. Once we had all been introduced to the Cornbrash Formation of the Jurassic Period it was time to hunt! The group of geologists immediately dispersed into the wilderness and no more than two or three could be located at any one time. Competition was intense to find the best specimens. The first find was an almost complete ammonite, followed quickly by rafts of brachiopods and bivalves. Further back in the quarry there was some unappealing open ground. This is where a number of members discovered some beautiful sea urchins. Another section of the quarry was extracting the Pleistocene aged glacial gravels from the second terrace of the River Thames. Within the gravels two members made discoveries, such as an ice age horse tooth and a shark’s tooth, which was probably reworked from older rocks.
Now the word muddy is an understatement when describing the conditions within the quarry. It was so gooey and sloppy that one member of the society very nearly was lost completely; well at least her wellington boots were nearly lost. As she fought her way out of the mud one boot sank deeper and deeper until it was completely covered in clay. A swift wellie rescue was launched to try and retrieve the boot before the front gates were locked, for we had no key to get out. The vacuum of the mud was so strong the rescue team struggled and pulled, but couldn’t pull it out. Help arrived in the form of a great whacking pick axe! After 10 frantic minutes of digging, photographing and a lot of laughing the wellie was still lodged firmly and sinking. On the last attempt before we had to evacuate the quarry it came free. Although soggy and muddy the red faced owner and her wellie was reunited to hunt again at the next quarry. Unfortunately I couldn’t resist a verse of “These boots are made for Walking”. The wellie jokes were flying from then on!
The afternoon hunt was 15km west in another quarry containing Oxford clay and again Pleistocene gravels. With buckets of enthusiasm the fossil hunter once again melted into the landscape. The initial hunt was dominated by a sense of frustration as the best ammonites were within concretions which required more heavy duty equipment to split open. This feeling a short-lived as finds began springing up, initially with Gryphea bivalves and belemnites in the Jurassic Oxford Clays. Moments later my star find of the day was located on a pile of gravel waste. Covered in an unassuming lump of mud a well preserved, complete Mammoth tooth with roots was picked up with great excitement. This tooth turned out to belong to a juvenile and was its third tooth from an upper jaw. Many of the other members began searching the waste piles for that special find, sadly this was to no avail. On the walk back to the cars I noticed some gravel waste, this pile was considerable smaller than the ones that everybody had scoured previously. Obviously when you notice rocks so inviting you have got to check them out. Realising time was short I rapidly trudged across the gravel and to my surprise lying there on the top was a perfectly preserved Plesiosaur vertebrae, seconds later this was followed by a fist-sized lump of marine reptile bone.
The day was a huge success, personally and for the Black Country Geological Society. The turn out from the members was excellent, proving this was a very popular trip and something completely different for the society.
Photo by Julie and John Schroder