Wednesday, 11 September 2019

A Reconnaissance of Pontefract

A spectacular exposure of the Yellow Sands Formation

The Sheffield U3A Geology Group trip to Rushup Vale and the subsequent walk from Mam Tor to Hope made a great day out in the middle of May, to look at some interesting geology, and three days later I was on the road again to Pontefract – to prepare the June field trip. 

The proposed route for the field trip in Pontefract

Although I had a plan in place, based on my own investigations and observations during several previous visits to Pontefract, I am a lot younger and generally walk faster than most of the Group’s members and, as with my reconnaissance of the Greenmoor/Brincliffe Edge Rock for the September meeting, I was glad to be accompanied by Paul May. 

The Cadeby Formation at Pontefract Monkhill station

Starting at the road cutting at Pontefract Monkhill railway station, this exposure of the Cadeby Formation has numerous crystal lined cavities known as vughs, which form along the line of the bedding planes, and it is the only exposure of accessible Permian dolomitic limestone that I know of in Pontefract. 

Weathered sandstone at All Saints church

At the nearby All Saints church, which I considered to be one of the key locations on the day along with Pontefract Castle, we quickly looked at the main points of interest here before leaving the car at Friarwood Car Park, which would be the meeting place for the Group on the day. 

Parking charges are a consideration on a field trip

Taking note of the very reasonable parking charges, we then discovered a rock face at the back of Stringers Coaches that I hadn’t noticed before. After having a quick word with the girl at the desk of the petrol station, we were told that it probably wouldn’t be a problem for the Group to start our field trip there and contact details of the owners were provided. 

Tourist information on Southgate

Continuing up Southgate, we stopped at the old General Infirmary, where various information boards and blue plaques informed us about the history of St. Richard’s Dominican Priory and the Hermitage, and then had a very quick investigation of Friarwood Valley Gardens, where the predecessor of the mainly culverted stream once formed the steep sided valley here. 

The stream in Friarwood Valley Gardens

Moving on to Dark Lane, which I had previously discovered from the West Yorkshire Geology Trust website, we stopped to look at the outcrop of the Yellow Sands Formation that was not yet covered in ivy – before knocking on the door of Sundial House. We just wanted to let the owner know that our Group would be turning up in the following month, to look at the rock outcrop in his garden that we could see from the road. 

In the front garden of Sundial House

Much to our surprise, after our introduction was made, we were shown around his garden – where the Yellow Sands Formation and the overlying Cadeby Formation, complete with vughs, are spectacularly exposed.

In the garden of Sundial House

With the whole Group being invited to come back in June, and with a subsequent mutually beneficial arrangement – for us to be accompanied around Pontefract by a member of Pontefract Civic Society – the rest of the day just fell into place as I had envisaged it. 

Local Carboniferous sandstone used for walling

Briefly looking at the market place, the museum, several historic buildings and various monuments - including the market hall where we bought some Pontefract cakes - we finished at Pontefract Castle, where we made our final arrangements for the tour of the castle magazine.

The Counting House public house

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