Thursday, 22 July 2010

Quarry News

I recently took the opportunity to visit Quarry 4 again but this time it was on a field trip organised by a local geological society. The quarry is made available every now then to such societies, as well as university students from Leicester and Cambridge. It was more of a fact finding mission since Mark and I haven’t visited the quarry much since spring due to other commitments and other family matters.

It proved to be an interesting day, not least because I was able to catch up on the news regarding a few quarries, but also because of a couple of recent finds from Quarry 4 and, of course, the days discoveries.

Firstly, it appears that Quarry 4 has finally ceased to be worked on. The last drag line has been moved away and the edges of the quarry are being sculpted in preparation for flooding. This looks almost certain to happen now, some time prior to December and the quarry will be lost to us forever. However, Carl Harrington pointed out that one of the huge clay scoops has been left in the secure compound located at the head of the quarry and it MAY mean they can start digging again should they need to. A kibbler is still there but it doesn’t appear to be doing much either.

Since we were last there, there hasn’t been that much clay removed and, despite the recent heat wave, there is still plenty of water in the left hand side of the quarry, which is a pain. There were some interesting pieces recovered. The most significant being a long rib-like bone from Leedsichthys. About three feet long and well preserved although in pieces, which is quite normal for these fragile bones. Carl winkled out what looks to be a plesiosaur ischium last knockings as well.

One chap found some teeth at the back of the quarry, including plesiosaur teeth. However, the majority of material was largely fish including scales, micro-verts, teeth and some small jaw sections. These were all found in an area about 5 meters square and this is also where the Leedsichthys bone was recovered.

Cliff Nicklin found the majority, as you would expect. Some of these teeth and jaw sections are tiny – no wonder I keep missing them! But some of the preservation is amazing. Speaking of Cliff, he only recently recovered a complete Lepidotes macrocheirus from Quarry 4. It was in pieces scattered over an area of about 3 or 4 feet. After extraction, he cleaned them up and pieced it back together and it’s all there! He showed me a picture – 2 feet long and awesome.

Quarry 5 still remains off limits to us at this moment in time although we are all optimistic that we will gain access in the near future. This highlights the continual problems for gaining access to any quarries these days and it is very sad that it continues to get harder, even for us who are already “on site” as it were.

The quarry itself is being excavated properly now and it makes you wonder how much is being uncovered and lost right now although, as mentioned previously, Quarry 5 is about as secure a quarry as it is possible to have. Worth mentioning again is the fact the clay is still not of a good quality for the brick making process so there is still a remote possibility that more clay may be required from Quarry 4.

Other quarry news now and I have some more positive news regarding the Devil’s Hole and Minnie’s Quarry. It seems news of their permanent closure is a little premature. Although the vast majority of workers at the quarries have lost their jobs, it appears that the quarries themselves are simply lying fallow and will be reopened when demand resumes.

This is indeed good news and means that these quarries join the Bluff in waiting for an upturn and there does seem to be signs of that now. I can confirm the brickworks are busy now and that all three were working when I was there. Not too long ago there was only one.

Its still too early to say that this is the turn around we’ve been waiting for but it is the first time that I could sense the belief that this may be it.

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