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Help from a Quaternary scientist required!

By Sarah Groves, also posted in News on

Covehithe and Easton Bavents Wood

Along this stretch of the Suffolk coast, we're treated to a magnificent sweep of Quaternary deposits (the Quaternary period spans the last 2.5 million years of geological history) exposed by the constant nibbling of the sea. I often walk the stretch of beach from Southwold to Covehithe alongside crumbling sandy cliffs of lower Pleistocene deposits. These deposits are mere babies in the 4 billion year history of the earth. If you're lucky, you can find fragments of fossilised bone and, more frequently, the chalk-white shell fragments of a large clam - I think the species may be Arctica islandica, but this is where I need an expert's help! There's so much erosion along this section of the coast because our landscape is made up of soft, glacial outwash beds containing laminated silts, clay, pebbles, sand and gravel. This creates our beautiful sandy and pebble beaches, but also means there's very little resistance to the power of the sea. If you're interested in geology, you'll love the walk from Covehithe to Easton Woods - there's some great deposits exposed in the cliffs. The topmost layers consist of glacial outwash, then there's a layer of lovely purple / grey Baventian clay (1.5 - 1.6MA), then golden Antian sands and a series of shell beds. There's reportedly six beds in total, but usually there's only the top two exposed at the base of the cliff - the rest are only revealed after a beach scouring. At the bottom of the series lies the Norwich Crag bed (1.7 MA) from which bones of whale, mastadon, horse, mammoth and other species have been found. Here are a few pictures of the section between Covehithe and Easton Woods. [caption id="attachment_413" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="A small section of the cliff approaching Easton Woods"]A small section of the cliff approaching Easton Woods[/caption] [caption id="attachment_414" align="alignnone" width="400" caption="Fragile shells revealed in the shell beds"]Fragile shells revealed in the shell beds[/caption] [caption id="attachment_415" align="alignnone" width="400" caption="Is this Arctica islandica? It's covered in sand so the white shell is hard to see."]Is this Arctica islandica? It's covered in sand so the white shell is hard to see.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_416" align="alignnone" width="400" caption="A common find on the beach - washed out of the base of the cliff. Is this a fragment of Arctica islandica?"]A common find on the beach - washed out of the base of the cliff. Is this Arctica islandica?[/caption] It would be fantastic if anyone could post a comment on this shell and the geology around the Southwold coast. There's more information on the geology of Suffolk at the UK fossils site.


Sarah Groves