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Essex Field Club
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Geology Site Account

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Langdon Hills Country Park, , Basildon District, TQ681863, General geological site

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Langdon Hills Country Park


Site of geological interest with disused pits that have provided information about the underlying geology. Any further significant excavations in the area should be recorded.


Site description

Straddling the border between the districts of Thurrock and Basildon is the high ground of the Langdon Hills. The hills are composed of an isolated patch of Bagshot Sand overlying Claygate Beds and London Clay, and the summit, like other similar high points in the area, is capped with flint gravel. The Bagshot Sand and the overlying gravel were formerly visible in several small pits in the area.

The Bagshot Sand, Claygate Beds and London Clay were formed on the floor of an sub-tropical sea some 50 million years ago but the gravel at the very top of the hill is clearly much younger and of a different origin. Originally known as ‘pebble gravel’, and called Stanmore Gravel on modern geological maps, this gravel was for years thought to have been laid down under a sea but it is now thought that it may have been deposited by a river. But how could river gravel, of geological recent origin, be capping the tops of some of the highest hills in the region?

For many geologists the riddle of the pebble gravel has now been solved by studying the pebbles it contains. Although mostly of flint, a small proportion are distinctive pebbles of chert from the Lower Greensand of The Weald, and other rock types that could only have been deposited by a river flowing from the south. Similar gravels are found capping the high ground in Epping Forest and the Rayleigh Hills. These isolated outcrops of gravel date from the early part of the Ice Age, perhaps as much as a million years ago, and were probably laid down by northward-flowing tributaries of the Thames, when the Thames flowed across north Essex and Suffolk before its diversion to its present course by the Anglian ice sheet 450,000 years ago.

It is difficult to believe that this gravel may originally have been the floor of an ancient river valley. Curiously this gravel may even be the reason these hills are here, the gravel protecting these parts of Essex while the surrounding land was reduced to the present lowland by hundreds of thousands of years of erosion.

Although only partly within the district of Thurrock the Country Park is run by Thurrock Council’s Ranger Service. It consists of two areas: Westley Heights and One Tree Hill and is open 365 days of the year during daylight hours with ample parking. There are panoramic views over the present Thames Estuary and across to London.

The sand pit on One Tree Hill showing a fine section through the Bagshot Sand. The photograph was taken in 1907. Photo © British Geological Survey (P252671).


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Reference: Cole 1888, Cole 1908, Wooldridge and Berdinner 1922, Bridgland 1999.

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