A small group braved the relentless, torrential rain on the 14th May to meet Little Doward Champion Ray Whiley, at the Woodland Trust entrance near Ganarew Cross. The plan for the day was to explore Little Doward, then drive the short distance to Goodrich Castle for lunch and a rendezvous with Laurence Moss. Laurence is the Champion for the Coppett Hill site and was to be our leader for the afternoon.
Ray gave us a brief introduction to the geology of Little Doward and then led us up the hillside to the first locality, the quartz conglomerate cliff. This is an impressive feature which shows cycles of deposition when flash floods periodically swept over an arid desert landscape. Layers of large unsorted pebbles grade upwards into finer deposits, ending with clay and mud. This sequence can be followed up the rock face, and tells a graphic story of flash floods gradually running out of energy, then more peaceful conditions until the next flood event.
Swathed in soggy waterproofs from head to toe, we moved uphill to another exposure of the quartz conglomerate showing a clearly defined junction between a bed of even grained crossed-bedded sandstone lying on top of a conglomerate horizon with sizeable pebble inclusions.
Coming out through the woods to the top of the hill, we inspected Ray’s pride and joy – his bench to commemorate the Champions project. Sadly the weather was not inviting us to rest awhile and admire the view, but it was a moment to reflect on the hard work which Ray has put into looking after the spectacular geology here, and to think of the future of these sites. Ray is the sole Champion for Little Doward and would love to recruit more volunteers. If you are interested, or know anyone who might be, please get in touch using the contact form on the home page.
As the relentless rain showed no sign of easing, the return journey took us hurriedly past the Carboniferous dolomite/limestone cliff, followed by a brief stop at the Tintern sandstone quarry. Here the Devonian Tintern sandstone lies immediately above the Quartz Conglomerate, but the junction is obscured by dense foliage.
There is much more to see here, but time and conditions brought this part of the day to a close, with appetites whetted to return in more clement conditions. The Champions trail leaflet for Little Doward can be downloaded from the Little Doward web pages.
The drive to Goodrich Castle gave us time to warm up, and Laurence joined us for lunch in the castle cafe. He gave us an introduction to the geology of Coppett Hill, but the rain showed no sign of abating, and we all decided to save the Coppett Hill visit for another day. The Champions leaflet for the Coppett Hill can be downloaded from the Coppett Hill web pages.
Thanks were warmly extended to Ray and Laurence for their time, and for all the hard work they do under the ‘Champions’ banner to conserve and promote some of the outstanding geological sites in this area.