Thursday, 20 January 2011

Winter 2009/10

Quarry 4 - November 2009
The Winter of 2009 had proven to be one of the harshest for some years. A substantial fall of snow during October and a sustained spell of freezing temperatures hinted at what was to come and it came as quite a shock to a nation that had become use to mild, wet winters.

As we entered February, the British Isles suffered a major fall of heavy snow that affected everyone. Roads were blocked, schools were closed and places of work were devoid of their employees. The snow and ice that followed, and the freezing temperatures, hung on for several days.

During this time, Mark and I had renewed our affiliation to Quarry 4 and were attempting to get down there since we had been informed that there would be significant movement of clay during the early part of the year.

The first day we selected was the first Saturday after the heavy snowfall that had fallen on the previous Monday. We felt there was a chance that we could make it OK but as the week wore on, the snow and ice returned and we decided that discretion was the better part of valour and cancelled.

This turned out to be the last big fall of snow and by the following Monday it had cleared and we tentatively opted to try again the following Saturday. With everything seemingly going to plan I loaded up the car and headed to Quarry 4.

As I got closer to the quarry it became very apparent that the thaw had not set in up here as well as it had down south although the distance from where I live to the quarry is only about 70 miles. I got more concerned on the final approach since the fields were now completely white.

I parked the car by the quarry, climbed the bank and surveyed the scene before me. The quarry had been worked on but it was the overall conditions that were interesting. Any sitting water, whether in trenches or floodwater, was solid ice. Indeed, where the permanent pools of water had flooded and spread across the floor of the quarry, the ice had made walking from one end of the quarry to other nigh on impossible. In fact it was downright dangerous.

Mark duly arrived and after getting rigged up with all our gear proceeded to walk around the top of the quarry and drop into it on the other side of the ice field. There was still some snow lying in the quarry but most of it had gone and we made our way to the newly excavated areas.

Suffice to say that conditions were harsh in the extreme. I’ve mentioned before about clay quarries being hard to negate in wet conditions but this was something else – you could hardly move.

When we got to the new excavations much of it was underwater and it was almost impossible to differentiate between anything at all. Mark did find, however, a nice twig and I managed a couple of big belemnites but that was it. The conditions were simply impossible.

So instead of spending a day at Quarry 4 we ended up leaving after only three hours – and that includid walking time! I was hopeful that new trenches would be dug to help drain some of the water away and this, in turn, would uncover some more fossils. I was expecting some decent finds in the not too distant future and, weather permitting, was hoping to return real soon.

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