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Essex Field Club
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Geology Site Account

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Whitehill Wood Chalk Pits, SAFFRON WALDEN, Uttlesford District, TL55783915, Potential Local Geological Site

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Site name: Whitehill Wood Chalk Pits

Grid reference: TL 5578 3915

Brief description of site:

In Whitehill Wood next to the Ashdon Road are two adjacent chalk pits, a large eastern pit and a smaller western pit. They are much overgrown but minor exposures of chalk and the overlying boulder clay (glacial till) are still visible.



The report of an Essex Field Club visit to this pit in May 1914 just before the start of the First World War (Morris 1915) states that the junction of the Chalk and overlying boulder clay was visible and that ‘the grinding action of the ice was illustrated by the fact that the Chalk was scooped out in basin-like hollows filled with reconsolidated chalk rubble, containing only a small quantity of clay’.

Despite the encroachment of vegetation and accumulation of talus, it is still possible to see chalk and glacial till, although much would be gained by removal of talus and cleaning of the sections. In the larger eastern pit, as described by Morris, above the talus is about one metre of what appears to be Chalk but is actually glacial till composed entirely of reconsolidated chalk rubble in the form of hard chalk pebbles in a soft chalk matrix. It is barely distinguishable from the Chalk bedrock which is shattered due to freeze-thaw action.

The Chalk in these pits contains fossils, but they are almost entirely stout pieces of the bivalve shell Inoceramus which occur in profusion. Osborne White (1932) makes a reference to the abundance of Inoceramus in this pit.

Whitehill Wood is a Local Wildlife Site.


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Reference: Morris 1915 (p. 14), Osborne White 1932 (p.41).

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