Wednesday, 25 November 2020

A Walk Around Edwards Meteor Way

Efflorescence at St. Helen's church

As briefly described in my introduction to the geology around the village of Treeton, with walks around Treeton Dyke, the River Rother and 70 Acre Hill, much of the surrounding area has been despoiled by the coal mining industry and I still hadn’t seen any exposures of the underlying strata of the Pennine Middle Coal Measures Formation.
A view of theTreeton Colliery tip

I always try and find something that appeals to my interests in “geology” when I go out on my day trips or - as during the COVID-19 Lockdown in April 2020 - taking essential exercise and my next short walk was to further explore the ridge of Mexborough Rock that I can see from my house.
The lower slopes of the ridge here are covered in landscaped waste from Treeton Colliery, which once occupied the land now covered by the Beaumont Park housing estate and, in memory of the pilot of a Gloster Meteor jet that crashed here in 1954, it has been named Edwards Meteor Way.
A view towards Treeton

The area is very popular with dog walkers and, on the only occasion that I had been there to take some photos of Treeton and views towards Handsworth in the west, a local told me that the waste from Treeton Colliery tipped here included red shale.
A view towards St. Helen's church

Quickly walking to the top, from the entrance at Windle Court, I didn’t see any signs of red shale anywhere and I only stopped to take a good like at the reddened soil that can be seen on the agricultural land beyond.
A view towards Burnt Wood

Wherever the red variety of Mexborough Rock outcrops, its position in the landscape is generally marked by the colour of the soil that lies upon it and, below Burnt Wood, it is very strong. This general colouration of this rock formation and the Spa Fault to the east of is further discussed in the Geological Survey of Britain memoir for the Sheffield region and in a paper by John Hunter in the Mercian Geologist.
A view of the reddened soil on Spa Hill

I spent less than 15 minutes here and, on this occasion, the light wasn’t very good for photography and so I carried down another path to the Beaumont Estate and, walking along Front Street back to my house, I popped into St. Helen’s churchyard, which I had not visited since the beginning of the lockdown.
St. Helen's church

To my great surprise, the stonework to the porch was covered in efflorescent salts, which I had never seen before in the 4 years that I had been attending the Coffee Mornings here, when I help with the day to day maintenance of the fabric and the churchyard.
The porch at St. Helen's church

In the late afternoon, with the sun bringing out the colour of the Rotherham Red sandstone and its contrast with the jambs of the doorway, which are built in Ancaster limestone, an interesting example of a  weathering process was taking place before my eyes.
A detail of the north jamb
The repeated recrystallisation of salts in the micropores of the stone, due to cycles of wetting and drying, causes it to deteriorate and it won’t be that long before the details on the headstops are completely unrecognisable.
A weathered headstop

Several years ago, I noticed that cavernous decay affected the masonry inside the porch, and having been in effect a ‘surveyor of the fabric’ in recent years, I have noticed that many blocks of stone that exhibit this type of weathering have deteriorated considerably – especially some of the C15 masonry where tool marks have been scoured out.
A pheasant on Wood Lane

Finally arriving back on Wood Lane, although I hadn’t seen any exposures of rock or any buzzards, which can often be seen flying around Spa Hill, I was very surprised to see a pheasant wandering along the other side of the road. I have no idea where it might have come from, but it made me smile at the end of the day.
A short walk around Treeton


Monday, 23 November 2020

70 Acre Hill and High Hazels Park

An artificial pond on 70 Acre Hill

Following the COVID-19 lockdown instructions to go out only for essential exercise and shopping, my third trip to explore the geology around Treeton involved a short bus journey to Poplar Way, from where I headed north under the Sheffield Parkway to the 70 Acre Hill local wildlife site.

Gorse on 70 Acre Hill

As with Treeton Dyke and the land around Spa Farm and the River Rother, I had walked around this area many years ago and didn’t encounter any rock outcrops, but I remember the impressive views from the top of 70 Acre Hill, which is actually a landscaped tip of colliery waste.

Like at Treeton and nearby Catcliffe, various coal mines once operated in the area and the now disused Sheffield City Airport was built on the site of a large opencast mine, which was closed and infilled before I moved to Rotherham.
Views towards Rotherham
The path from the Sheffield Parkway to 70 Acre Hill passes around Tinsley Park Golf Course and at the time of my visit, the ubiquitous gorse bushes were in full bloom; however, I stopped only to look at the views towards Rotherham, where the Mexborough Rock forms the high ground.
A recreational area on 70 Acre Hill

Wandering randomly around various pathways, I encountered a few artificial ponds and a small recreation area, where there is a concrete sculpture, and then headed downhill to High Hazels Park, which I had never visited before.
An artificial pond

At its centre is the mid C19 High Hazels House, in the Italianate style, whicht is now the home of Tinsley Park Golf Club. It is notable mainly for the use of Permian dolomitic limestone which, although a very common building stone in Rotherham and Doncaster where the Cadeby Formation outcrops, I had not seen before in Sheffield - except for the chancel at St. James' church in Norton.
High Hazels House

On one corner of the house, a bright red patch on the limestone can be clearly seen from a distance and, looking closer, this reddening is the result of a fire that must once have been lit right next to the wall.
Fire damage at High Hazels House

I have seen this oxidation of the iron bearing minerals in several old buildings and ruins built out of dolomitic limestone, where there has been a fire, but the intensity of the heat here has been such that it has shattered the stonework.
A view across Tinsley Park Golf Course
Various modern sculptures are dotted around the park, as I have seen before in several parks in Sheffield, and I took a few photographs of these before heading across the empty golf course on the way back towards Poplar Way and Morrisons supermarket at Catcliffe.
A view of Treeon from Poplar Way

I didn’t see any rock exposures but, having walked for 6.75 km, it was good exercise and I now have a better appreciation of the varied topography formed by the Pennine Middle Coal Measures Formation strata in this part of South Yorkshire, as well the coal mining history.

A walk around 70 Acre Hill

Saturday, 21 November 2020

From Spa Farm to the River Rother

Wetlands at Long Lane

Continuing my exploration of the geology and historic buildings around Treeton during the COVID-19 lockdown, after taking a few photographs of the Mexborough Rock that forms the high ground beyond Ulley Brook, I had a quick look at Spa Farm.
A view of the Mexborough Rock beyond Ulley Brook
A chalybeate spring here was once exploited for therapeutic purposes in the 1660’s and a couple of farm buildings are listed, but I only stopped long enough to note the mottled red/yellow colouration of some of the Rotherham Red sandstone before making my way down to Long Lane.

Various buildings at Spa Farm

The escarpment of the Mexborough Rock and the line of the Spa Fault can be clearly seen from here and, continuing along Long Lane under the M1 motorway towards Whiston - passing by a lot of rubbish on the way - I went to investigate an area of permanent wetlands that I had seen many times when driving by.

A view to Spa Farm from Long Lane

Looking at a geological map, the area between Treeton, Catcliffe and Whiston is marked by an extensive spread of alluvial sediments that have been deposited by the River Rother and its tributaries - Ulley Brook and Whiston Brook – and the whole area was turned into a great lake during the floods of 2007.
The natural landscape here has been changed so much by efforts to manage the flow of water, with various embankments and drainage ditches being clearly marked on Ordnance Survey maps that date back to the mid C19.

Arriving at a break in the hedgerow on Long Lane, I followed the footpath to the wetlands and quickly walked around its edge, from where I could see various species of water loving plants that would be of interest to botanists and ecologists.
The wetlands at Long Lane

Returning to Long Lane, I had a look at the Rotherham Red sandstone bridge that crosses Whiston Brook, which has a surprisingly small arch through which the water flows, and then followed the brook for a short distance before heading along the path towards the River Rother.
Views of Whiston Brook
Unknown to me at the time, the path runs past a moated scheduled ancient monument known as Blue Man’s Bower, which I had been aware of  ever since living in Treeton but had never known its precise location. Stopping only to photograph the escarpment of the Mexborough Rock in the distance, which I had encountered earlier on my walk, I soon arrived at the river.
A ridge of Mexborough Rock in the distance

Starting my walk back to Treeton, the path next to the River Rother runs under the M1 and continues intermittently along embankments and, with the riverbanks here being completely bare and only seeing a couple of swans, I hurried on towards Catcliffe.
Views of the River Rother
Looking back towards Bole Hill Plantation, which covers the spur of Mexborough Rock that was once quarried for Rotherham Red sandstone, the soil on the lower slopes above the floodplain is characteristically red.
Bole Hill Plantation

Beyond Catcliffe railway bridge, which now only takes freight traffic, the path carries on along past a landscaped tip of waste from Treeton Colliery and ends at the disused railway viaduct, where the renowned Staffordshire blue engineering bricks have been used in its construction.
Railway engineering along the River Rother

Towards the end of my walk, I took a path that I had never used before, which runs on an embankment alongside the River Rother behind Catcliffe Flash, an area affected by coal mining subsidence that is now a nature reserve popular with birdwatchers.
A view across Catcliffe Flash

Stopping to photograph a feature in the riverbank at the edge of the Waverley Estate, which at a distance I thought might be an outcrop of the Pennine Middle Coal Measures Formation, I walked along another embankment to Treeton Lane, from which I had a good view of the new building that has been erected on the former site of Mill House.
Miscellaneous views
I finished my walk by carrying on up Mill Lane over the railway bridge to Station Road, which then winds up the escarpment of Treeton Rock to the junction with Front Street, where I turned right and continued along Wood Lane until I finally got home.
An exploration of the Spa Fault and the River Rother

Saturday, 14 November 2020

A Walk to Spa Farm

An escarpment of Mexborough Rock at Spa Farm

Starting my exploration of the Mexborough Rock in Treeton at my house on Wood Lane, which is one of a terrace built in Rotherham Red sandstone for employees of the colliery, I walked along Front Street past St. Helen’s church, which is at the centre of Treeton Conservation Area, until I reached the T-junction with Station Road and Well Lane.
My Rotherham Red sandstone house

To the left, Station Road winds down the escarpment of Treeton Rock but I instead turned right into Well Lane, which runs down the dip slope of this geological formation and the overlying Middle Pennine Coal Measures Formation strata, and carried on down until I reached a shallow vale, where the railway line from Treeton Colliery once crossed.

Views down Well Lane

Before the River Rother was diverted and coal mining and associated tipping completely changed the landscape around the village, old Ordnance Survey maps mark wells and pumps in several places on this road, but no signs of these are now visible and without much of interest to see here, I quickly walked up Bole Hill.
A map of Treeton in 1850

Passing a row of Rotherham Red sandstone terraced and semi-detached houses, which were built at the end of the C19, I stopped to quickly photograph a house dating to 1655, which has some interesting architectural details – including a miniature canted oriel-bay-window and an original stone tile roof.

A C17 house on Bole Hill

At the end of the village, just past the row of houses that turn at a right angle to Bole Hill, I followed the public footpath that heads straight up across the Mexborough Rock ridge and which, I have subsequently learned, is believed to be part of a Roman road that ran from Navio to Littlebrough – connecting the lead mines in Derbyshire to the River Trent.

The public footpath to Spa Farm

This path is also used by farm vehicles and, except to take few photographs of the landscape – which includes several examples of scarp and vale topography - I just made my way up to the top of the hill without stopping.
A view towards Treeton

Apart from taking a diversion from the path, to see if I could see any evidence of the old quarry from the top of Bole Hill Plantation – and finding only a fireplace made of fragments of Rotherham Red sandstone and a brick from one of the terraced houses that once existed next to Long Lane - I carried on along the path towards Spa Farm.
A fireplace
From conversations with friends in the village, I was aware that flint tools had been made in various places around Treeton and that other archaeological finds had been made in the area, but I didn’t notice anything in the ploughed land as I walked past.

The stile overlooking Spa Farm

As a geologist, I was more interested in the steep escarpment that becomes immediately apparently, when the path turns at 90 degrees before crossing a stile and descending steeply at an angle to Spa Farm.
A general view of Spa Farm

This distinctive topographical feature relates to the Spa Fault, one of a handful of large faults marked on the geological map of the Sheffield region and which is marked immediately to the north-west of the group of buildings that are found here.