Marske

I picked up these two lovely fossils fragments yesterday from the beach at Marske.

This is a fragment of a large ammonite. The chambers within the ammonite have been mineralised, the sea has eroded the fossil along its suture lines.

This piece of limestone contains the fossilised remains of corals that lived on the bed of a warm sea during the Carboniferous period 325 million years ago.

This is the cloud that decided to shed its load on to us.

Redcar Fossils

There are a number of plaques built into the path of the promenade along Redcar seafront. Each plaque is comprised of smaller plaques, which presumably represent different aspects of the town and coast.

This lovely plaque shows Ammonites, a fairly common fossil which occurs in the Jurassic rocks of the coast and are often found on the beaches from Staithes to Robin Hood’s Bay.

If I were to chose a fossil to represent Redcar, it would be Gryphea, known locally as Devil’s Toenails. Gryphea are the fossil remains of a member of the oyster family and are commonly found on the beaches from Redcar to Marske. Large fossil oyster beds can be easily seen at low tide on the mudstone scars that run from Redcar beach into the sea.

There are also ammonites to be found at Redcar, they are nowhere near as common as the Devil’s Toenails and they don’t frequently weather-out of the rocks as they do further down the coast. The specimens that I have seen in the oyster beds at Redcar are generally quite large, typically between 20-50 cm across.

Fossilised fragments of large Ammonites do occasionally wash up onto the Beach. I found the one below on Marske beach.

Redcar Rocks have official protection, the scars have been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Please do not try and cut any fossils out of the rocks, it’s possible to walk along the beach from Redcar to Marske and collect a pocketful of fossils, especially Devil’s Toenails, from the foreshore.

Kettleness

A coastal walk with Graeme Chappell

Kettleness – Cat Beck – Randy Bell End – Hob Holes – Runswick Sands – White Stones – Redscar Hole – Hill Stones – Kettleness Sand – Kettleness Scar – Wind Hole – Long Sand – White Shoot – Maiden Wyke – Lucky Dogs Hole – Kettleness Alum Works

The Fairies long gone, the sound of Claymoor battledores no long ring over Runswick shores.

Hob has flit, kink coughs go untreated.

A whale lays headless and rotting on the rocks at White Stones. The stench of death and decay is all around, even the gulls avoid this place. We push on, scrambling over rocks, mouth breathing.

17th of December 1829. The village and Alum Works of Kettleness slid down the cliff to the sea. No lives were lost. The village and works were swiftly rebuilt.

Ore was gathered from these beaches when Teesside furnaces were still an idle dream.

Iron returns to its source, the sea reclaims its own

Shap Granite, batholith born, ice borne.

The sun is shining, we are bold.

We wade through whin following a cliff-top path to the Alum Works, we watch Gannets. A very good day.

Stone

Crossing the muddy, cattle-churned field from the Hutton Road, there are various earthworks visible in the low winter sun. This was once the site of a Medieval leper hospital overlain by a nineteenth century tramway, built to transport ironstone from the local mines.

I follow the path uphill, the woodland sits in the winter shadow of the escarpment. I stumble up the steep, muddy track to the lichen-splattered, table-top outcrop, the Hanging Stone.

Many visitors have left their mark on the outcrop.

Out of the shadows, walking from Ryston Nab along Ryston Bank, warmed by the low winter sun. A line of prehistoric barrows follows the scarp edge, the ancestors watch over Bousdale. An intake wall, now in ruins, has been built across the barrows, the tumbled wall stones contain fossils. There were once other cairns here, marked on the early maps, erased by the forester’s plough.

I leave the footpath and follow a line of boundary stones across Hutton and Newton Moors. The stones follow a low ridge and have been erected on top of prehistoric mounds. The mounds are most likely Bronze Age in date, all have been disturbed by excavation. The boundary stones date from the mid-eighteenth to early nineteenth centuries and mark the parish boundaries between Newton, Pinchinthorpe, Hutton Lowcross, Guisborough and Great Ayton.

Ryston: rhiw – Welsh ‘hill, ascent’

Roseberry Topping – Othensberg 1119

Durham Dales – Stanhope

Stanhope DU [Stanhopa 1183 BoB, -hop 1228 Ep]. ‘Stony HOH or ridge and HOP or valley.’

Graham and I drove up into the Wear Valley to Stanhope to have a look at the wonderful fossilised tree in the churchyard of St. Thomas’s church.

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The 320 million year old fossil was found by quarrymen at a sandstone quarry at Edmundbyers Cross in 1915. It was originally taken to Newcastle and was brought to Stanhope in the 1960s and placed in the churchyard.

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This is a superb relic of one of the trees that grew in the Carboniferous forest. It is a species known as Sigillaria, an early ancestor of modern club mosses. Today clubmosses are small mountain plants, only a few centimetres high, but in the tropical swamps of the Carboniferous Period they grew into 30-metre high giants!

tree

Another fossil tree recovered from the sandstone quarry can be seen in the Hancock Great Northern Museum in Newcastle.

While here we thought we’d take a look inside the church. This was a very different building to the previous church we had visited at Escomb. St. Thomas’s is a very well endowed church and reflects the fortunes that have been made from farming and mineral extraction in the district.

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The first thing you notice when you enter the church is the Victorian baptismal font. Beautifully carved in Frosterley marble with an extremely ornate cover complete with an over-engineered lifting mechanism.

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Frosterley Marble has been used on the chancel floor.

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Frosterley marble isn’t a true marble. Marble is a metamorphic rock, i.e. a rock that has been altered from its original state by temperature and pressure. Frosterley marble is merely a highly fossiliferous limestone, that when cut and polished forms a highly decorative stone.

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Fossil – Laing Art Gallery Newcastle

This sculpture is a carved block of Frosterley Limestone inset with cast bronze interpretations of the fossils found within it. The fossil installation is displayed on an oak plinth among the Frosterley floor tiles and oak doors and display cabinets in the Marble Hall of the Laing Art Gallery. The sculpture is finished on one side to reflect the smoothness of the floor tiles and the central section shows and explains the unusual shapes seen in the tiles with carved and truncated fossils. The third section is a representation of a carboniferous sea floor with ‘living’ dibunophyllum bipartitum cast in bronze. The Department of Coelenterates at the Natural History Museum in London offered invaluable advice in establishing the most accurate representation of ‘dibunophyllum’. 

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This ancient stone coffin in the grounds of the church was carved from a single block of Frosterley marble.

The only true marble in the district is to be found in Upper Teesdale. A limestone which was subjected to heat and pressure from contact with the igneous rock that forms the Whin Sill. The resultant rock is known as Sugar Limestone. It is quite crumbly in nature and therefore pretty much useless as a decorative stone.

altar

It was nice to see this Roman altar displayed inside the church. A translation of the inscription is provided, it reads..

To Silvanus, the invincible, sacred

Caius Tetius Venturius Mecia

Prefect of the Sebosian Cavalry

On account of a boar of enormous

size taken which

many of his predecessors

were not able to destroy, erected (this

altar) willigly in discharge of a vow

The town of Stanhope is surrounded by quarries and the valley has a long history of  lead mining and smelting. Spoil heaps from the quarries encroach onto the margins of the town but I can find very little evidence in the church of the people who worked in the quarries and mines of Weardale. We left Stanhope and drove up the dale to visit the Rookhope Arch.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The arch is all that remains of a two mile long horizontal chimney or flue. The flue carried the toxic gases and fumes from the lead smelt mill to the moortop. Mill workers were periodically sent into the flue to dig out the deposits. The average life span of a lead miner in 1860 was 45 years. Perhaps this ruin is a more fitting memorial to their lives than some mossy obelisk in a churchyard

Sources

The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names. 4th Edition. Eilert Ekwall. 1974

North Pennines AONB Geoparks Leaflet

Laing Art Gallery – Topografik

The Hand of Glory

When I was young summer holidays were generally camping trips to the Lake District or ‘days out’. Days out were day trips to the seaside of the moors. The most popular local seaside destinations for the children of Middlesbrough were Redcar, Saltburn and Whitby.

Each seaside town had its own particular draw, Redcar had gaming arcades and a cinema, Saltburn had a cliff lift and rock pools, Whitby, my favourite, had Dracula, the 99 steps and The Hand of Glory.

The Hand was, and still is, kept in a display cabinet in the Whitby Museum at Pannett Park. The museum remains one of my favourite places. It’s a lovely place that rejects the need for modern push-button interactivity and focuses on stimulating our natural curiosity by presenting us with strange, beautiful, bizarre and exotic objects.

The Museum also houses one the best collection of marine fossils outside of the Natural History Museum in London.

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the-hand-of-glory

For further reading on the Hand of Glory I’d recommend a two-part essay  by Robin Wilson entitled A Blaze of Glory published in the excellent quarterly magazine Northern Earth  (issues 140 & 141).

The Whitby Museum can be found here  and includes a page on the Hand Of Glory