Friday, 3 August 2018

The Churnet Valley - Part 1

Triassic sandstone

During my visit to the Gleadless Valley in the first week of May this year, although I had a good walk and encountered some interesting architecture, the geology wasn’t very exciting; however, I didn’t have to wait long before my next day out with the Sheffield U3A Geology Group – this time to the Churnet Valley
Looking on Google map and the Geology of Britain viewer prior to our visit, I was particularly interested to discover that our planned walk was not very far from Alton Towers, where I had discovered some spectacular exposures of Triassic sandstones - when finding some peace and quiet on a field trip that had become a fixture with the Heart of England summer school. 

The bridge and weir in Oakamoor

Meeting up in the village of Oakamoor, which is set on the Millstone Grit, our leader introduced us to the very interesting industrial history here – where a river, a railway and a canal all once passed through the Churnet Valley, and provided the power and transport links necessary to develop early heavy industries, based on nearby mineral resources. 

Information boards that describe the industrial history of Oakamoor

There is very little remaining evidence of the previous industry and, after looking at a few information boards, we set off in a south-easterly direction along the steep side valley which is occupied by the misfit River Churnet, where we soon passed across a fault and found a good exposure of the Hawksmoor Formation – now renamed the Chester Formation by the British Geological Survey

An exposure of Triassic sandstone

Laid down by rivers in an arid environment, periods of flash floods are recorded by beds full of pebbles – known as conglomerates – which are very characteristic of rocks of this age in the English Midlands

Triassic conglomeratic sandstone

Moving on to the Ramblers Retreat – one of 2 gatehouses commissioned by the Earl of Shrewsbury within his estate – we briefly stopped for a drink before continuing on the way to the village of Alton, via a dry valley that is now occupied by a few houses and a farmstead.

A view down Rakes Dale


  1. Nice dune cross-bedding in the Triassic

  2. It certainly is Ichthyodorulite, and there are very many fine exposures there too.