Museum Expeditions & Field Trips - 2003

Dr Gideon Mantell

This field trip follows the life of one of Britain's most famous geologists, Gideon Mantell. Full details have been included in the website under the 'Lewes' entry in Places to Visit Further Afield.


This field trip was set up to examine the Lower Cretaceous sandstones, clays and shales of the Ashdown Beds east of Hastings town centre. However, on arrival, rock falls of large sandstone boulders weighing several tons had completely destroyed the footpath down to beach level. This means that the only access to the area beyond the sailing club compound is by climbing over the stone groyne at the end of the beach. Unfortunately, this is only possible for a half hour or so at extreme low tide, making this field trip now virtually impossible.

It is understood that because of the unstable nature of the cliff edge, the local authority have no plans to repair the footpath. Because of this, and the danger of being cut off by the tide, visits to this site are NOT recommended.

Samples of the main rock components that we were able to collect included Ashdown Sandstone, Wadhurst Shale and a Siderite nodule. These are illustrated below:-

Sandstone Shale Siderite Nodule

Cliffs Close-Up of Cliffs

In contrast to the Lower Cretaceous strata at Hastings, the cliffs to the east of Bexhill-on-Sea comprise the Tunbridge Wells Sand and underlying Wadhurst Clays of the Upper Cretaceous.

At the eastern end of the seafront, the road rises sharply to the top of Galley Hill. Erosion of the sea-facing side of this hill has produced cliffs up to 8 metres high and these exposures have produced fossil fish teeth and casts of Iguanadon footprints.

Samples collected included iron banded sandstone, Wadhurst clay and trace fossils. These are illustrated below:-

Iron-Banded Sandstone Wadhurst Clay Siderite Nodule Siderite Nodule Flint Cast

Main Building Reef Limestone The 'Old Quarry' Face #1 The 'Old Quarry' Face #2 North East Quarry Face
Crinoid Information Board Crinoidal Limestone 'in situ' West Quarry Upper Level West Quarry Lower Level Millenium Wall Plaque

The National Stone Centre has been formed from a set of old limestone workings owned by Tarmac plc and displays one of the best fossil reefs to be seen in the country. The site has been landscaped with signposted paths and trails to lead walkers through the main points of interest. A visitor centre houses a museum displaying the various rocks and fossils to be found, together with an extensive shop and cafeteria. Free parking is available close by at the top of the quarry with paths leading down to the visitor centre. The rocks here are dark grey, light grey and buff limestones, all dating from the Lower Carboniferous Period (also known as the "Mississippian") of 350 million years ago.

An unusual feature is a collection of dry-stone walls constructed to show the different types of stone used and regional construction methods adopted around the British Isles.

Fossils abound, although the main reef structures have been fenced off to prevent visitors from removing the best specimens and unfortunately, most of the quarry faces and scree slopes have been similarly fenced off for safety reasons.

The only remaining exposures that are now freely accessible are those of the upper western quarry. Here, limestone scree provides a good source of mineral (mainly calcite) and fossil specimens of crinoids and brachiopods. The upper quarry is divided from the lower by a long line of giant limestone boulders. These are here to prevent visitors from straying too close to the edge. Please respect these as it is a long way down! The fossils below are representative of those to be be easily found in this area, although less common bivalves, corals and bryozoa are also present:-

Crinoid debris Productid brachiopods Large brachiopods

This is a site for browsing - turning over rocks on the ground to see what they may contain - as the use of hammers is strictly forbidden.

The centre is open from 10am to 5pm daily from Easter until the end of October with only limited opening during the winter months (telephone 01629 824833 for details). Admission to the site is free although a small charge is payable if you want to look around the museum or want to arrange for a guided tour.

Stone Museum thanks our consultant geologist Shirley Randall for discovering this little gem tucked away in the Derbyshire Dales and bringing it to our attention.

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