Essential Wessex: Earthlore

The earthlore (geology) of Wessex is a living remnant of its very beginnings in prehistory. The east of the region is dominated by the chalk downlands into which our ancestors carved the famous white horses scattered around our region, not to mention the Rude Man of Cerne Abbas.

Devon gives its name to the Devonian period, when the old red sandstone found in the south of the county was formed. The great granite irruptions of Dartmoor and Lundy came later (much later in Lundy's case), caused by volcanic activity along the wonderfully-named Sticklepath Fault.

Dorset's Jurassic Coast is a major tourist attraction in the county, and its only World Heritage Site. Fossilised ammonites and icthyosaur vertebrae are commonplace, making it an excellent place to go fossil hunting. Portland Stone is a major export, as mentioned in our earlier post on mining and quarrying in Wessex.

Geologically, the youngest parts of Wessex are Southern Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, with their clay deposits from the Paleogene period, between 66 and 23 million years ago. Even younger than that are peat bogs, most notably on the Somerset Levels.

Wessex's geology tells its story from before the first vertebrates crawled onto land to the earliest human settlements, as well as providing valuable information about the landscapes we still see around us to this day.

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