Thursday, 1 December 2016

Barr Beacon & Pinfold Quarry

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This site is in Walsall, part of the north West Midlands in England. Here, the rocks are Triassic in age, and are aeolian sandstone. Features here include cross bedding, river channels, faulting, fining up, conglomerate layers, and wildlife features such as holes made by solitary bees. These rocks are around 250 million years old, and represent a time when Britain was a dry, sandy desert.

A shot of the rockface

I first visited this site in November 2016, with a friend from university. We had decided to go on a Black Country Geomooch, and we visited four sites of geological interest. The quarry at Barr Beacon is called Pinfold Quarry, and is part of the Black Country Geopark. It is site number 003. The rockface itself is a glorious rich red, the tell-tale sign of the presence of iron in the rock. Samples can easily be gathered from the floor. It is not wise to hammer the rock face as it is steep and liable to breaking. This exposure of sandstone forms part of the Birmingham Sandstone Ridge, which can be traced through Birmingham to the south. The University of Birmingham campus in Edgbaston sits atop this ridge, which is why it is higher than the surrounding student-ville of Selly Oak. This sandstone is also the main aquifer unit under Birmingham, but it is too polluted by past industry to be used as a source of water. Consequently, Birmingham’s drinking water comes from Wales.

Barr Beacon itself is one of the highest points around here; supposedly there is nothing between this point and the Ural Mountains of the same height. There is a monument at the top which houses a toposcope. This housing is made from Portland Stone, and fossils can be seen within the columns, slabs and steps. This stone is Jurassic in age, around 147 million years old. This stone is used extensively for buildings; a lot of central Birmingham and London is made with Portland Stone. There is a meadow area at this site, which has had enhancement works done by the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country.

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