Geology of the Norfolk coast: Hunstanton to Happisburgh

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Skip to main content. White and unique red chalk cliffs at Hunstanton on the Norfolk Coast Our coastal geodiversity is second to none and offers a real journey through time. Here are a few geological highlights and surprises you may discover on a walk around the coast: The white chalk cliffs of the south coast, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire - formed in a shallow tropical sea some - 70 million years ago. Chalk comes in red as well see above! When the sea-level rose sufficiently the land was completely flooded and only white chalk was deposited.

The Carstone contains fossils including ammonite fragments, bivalves and traces of burrowing organisms, whilst the fossils of the Red Chalk include belemnites, brachiopods, echinoids and corals.

Field Guide to the Geology of North Norfolk

The lowermost bed of the White Chalk also contains numerous fossils including, bivalves, brachiopods, belemnites, echinoids. This was originally named from what was thought to be a sponge but in fact turned out to be sediment-filled, anastomosing Thalassinoides burrow systems. Paramoudra or Pot Stone On the Sunday our group went east to spend the day to try and gain a basic understanding of the Quaternary geomorpholgy.

Our first stop was west Runton. It is famous for the elephant or steppe mammoth, Mammuthus trogontherii, which was discovered in and is one of the oldest and best preserved fossil elephants ever found in the UK. Commencing on the beach we are standing on a chalk wave-cut platform and there are large flint circles and other flint structures which resemble garden pots. As we work up the succession the Wroxham Crag lies unconformably on the chalk. This is a shelly deposit and is pre-Pastonian to Cromerian in age.

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Revealed: the rarely-glimpsed geology that shaped the Norfolk we know

The shells are marine bivalves that are cold water species and herald the onset of the glaciation. Four members are recognised in north Norfolk coastal sections. The Sheringham Member lowest member comprises freshwater organic mud, clay and sand. The Runton Member includes laminated freshwater silty clay. The West Runton Member comprises layers of alluvial clay and organic freshwater mud. The Bacton Member highest Member comprises clay and organic mud.

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The Cromer Forest bed has yielded the richest Pleistocene vertebrate fauna in UK and include, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. The upper part of the Cromer Forest Bed the layers become gravelly and marine bivalves are present indicating a return to marine conditions. This, along with cross bedding suggest esturine conditions. They consist of a complex sequence of fluviatile sediments and contorted drift which demonstrate a climate cooling from the interglacial to glacial conditions.

They include river sands, gravels, glacial till and outwash sands. There is remarkable folding in the glacial sediments the consequence of glacio-tectonic deformation. Glacio-tectonised strata at Weybourne Hope.

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From West Runton we travelled to Weybourne Hope. The overall first impression was of high cliffs of contorted soft sediment very unlike any glacial till in mid-Wales. The lower cliffs are composed of the Weybourne Chalk Member Norwich Chalk, Upper Cretaceous, Campanian , which are glacio-tectonised where sub-horizontal shear planes have occurred due to glacial ice movement. This is chalk breccia in which fractured flints and fragmented shells occur. Above the chalk is the Wroxham Crag Member Early Middle Pleistocene as seen at West Runton but is disturbed and distorted due to the effects of glaciation.

An esker is a long winding ridge of sand and gravel which has been deposited within a tunnel made by a subglacial stream cut into the base of an ice sheet.


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They are not normally preserved very well as the loose sand and gravel are washed away by melting ice sheet. The esker is 3. The fine sandy beaches and healthy climate have contributed to the growth of such popular watering-places as Cromer, Yarmouth and Hunstanton, while Mundesley and Wells-next-the-Sea are lesser resorts. Pliocene beds predominate in the eastern third of the county; while a narrow belt of Lower Cretaceous and Jurassic rocks lies along the western border.

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Oxford Clay and Corallian beds have been proved by boring at Lynn, but the oldest formation to appear at the surface is the Kimeridge Clay, which stretches along the coast of the Wash from Hunstanton to King's Lynn and south to Downham, where it has been dug for bricks and tiles. The Lower Greensand, which forms the picturesque escarpment overlooking the Fen-land and the Wash, is represented in its upper part by the brown, iron-stained sandstone, the Carstone up to 40 ft.

Below the Carstone are the Snettisham Clay beds, dug for brick making at that village and at Dersingham and Heacham; these pass southwards into sandstones and ironstones. The lowest division of the Greensand, the Sandringham beds, highly-coloured sands and sandstones, are exposed at Sandringham Warren, Downham Market and Grimston Common. Overlying the Lower Greensand is the Gault Clay which extends from Shouldham northwards to Dersingham, where it begins to change in character and finally passes into the Red Chalk 4 ft.

In the same cliffs the Lower Chalk is exposed resting on the Red Chalk which does not belong to the Chalk proper but the Gault ; it is a hard grey or white limestone; at Marham and other places it is quarried for building and for lime. The Middle Chalk about ft. The Upper Chalk about ft. Dressed flints are still used for facing walls in churches and other buildings.

The Norfolk Coast Overstrand to Hunstanton

At Trimingham occurs the highest horizon of the Chalk known in England. Eocene strata, Reading Beds 46 ft. Pliocene deposits, sands, gravels and clays are exposed along the coast from Weybourne and Cromer to Happisburg and in the river valleys over most of the eastern part of the country. The lower subdivision, the Norwich Crag Series ft. The upper subdivision, the Cromer Forest-Bed ft. Next in order come the glacial clays, sands and gravels, which cover and obscure so much of the older stratified rocks of the county and hence greatly influence the scenery.

The drift is thicker in the east than in the west—very interesting exposures occur on the cliffs about Cromer. Later valley gravels occupy some of the stream courses, and among the more recent deposits are the Fen beds and blown sands. Climate and Agriculture. The air is, however, generally dry, and unhealthy fogs are not common, except in the marshy districts. The cynd is a characteristic mist which sometimes rolls up like smoke from the sea over the eastern parts.

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