Geology Site Account
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Belhus Woods Country Park, AVELEY, Thurrock District, TQ565825, Potential Local Geological Site
Site category: Thames (post-diversion)
Site name: Belhus Woods Country Park
Grid reference: TQ 565825
Brief description of site:
Belhus Woods Country Park combines ancient woodland, flower meadows, open grassland, and lakes. Much of it is restored and unrestored gravel pits which provide exposures of Corbets Tey Gravel, deposited by the Thames about 300,000 years ago. The unrestored gravel workings formerly known as Hunts Hill Farm and Whitehall Wood Pits have the most promising exposures.
Summary of geological interest
Straddling the border between Thurrock and the London Borough of Havering, Belhus Woods Country Park contains many lakes that were originally gravel pits. The area is situated on the Lynch Hill terrace of the Thames which consists of Corbets Tey Gravel, deposited by the river about 300,000 years ago. The gravel underlying the country park is about 4 metres (12 feet) thick and lies directly on London Clay bedrock.
Like other gravels of the Thames terraces, over 90 per cent of the Corbets Tey gravel is flint, with the remaining percentage consisting of quartz, quartzite, chert and rare volcanic rocks. These ‘exotic’ rocks have been incorporated into the gravel as a result of the river reworking its older terraces as it meandered across the valley and cut down through the floodplain. These older terraces were deposited by the Thames when it was considerably larger, with a catchment area extending as far as North Wales.
The surrounding area is littered with active and disused gravel pits including Baldwins Farm Pit (TQ 578 838) about a kilometre north-east of the country park. Here, in 1978, an excavation revealed organic sediments wedged above the gravel and sand which yielded numerous species of plants representing a warm interglacial period. These deposits may be linked to similar discoveries in Belhus Park, Aveley (see separate site record) and in nearby Cranham and Upminster in the London Borough of Havering.
Belhus Woods Country Park is part of Thames Chase Community Forest and is managed by Essex County Council. The old gravel workings, formerly known as Hunts Hill Farm and Whitehall Wood Pits, have fortunately been spared the ‘landscaping’ that is fashionable nowadays; therefore most of the pits still retain their original profiles with some gravel and sand still visible in the banks.
Access to the country park is from the Romford Road and facilities include parking, toilets and a visitor centre.
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Reference: Gibbard 1994 (p. 75, 76, 149 and 150)
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