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Essex Field Club
Essex Field Club
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Essex Field Club

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EFC Centre at Wat Tyler Country ParkWe are closed due to the Covid-19 situation, but we are otherwise normally open to the public at our centre at Wat Tyler Country Park every Saturday, Sunday and bank holiday 11am-4pm, check. We are also normally open on Wednesdays 10am-4pm.

Geology Site Account

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Foulness Island (part of Foulness SSSI), , Rochford District, TR048954, Site of Special Scientific Interest

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Site category: Holocene deposit

Site name: Foulness Island (part of Foulness SSSI)

Grid reference: TR 048954

Brief description of site

Site of Special Scientific Interest designated for the importance of its biodiversity and for its geology and geomorphology. The defined area of the SSSI is larger than that shown here.


Summary of geological and geomorphological interest

Remote and isolated, Foulness (formerly called ‘Fowlness’) is the largest of the Essex islands, over 6,000 acres of flat, almost treeless land. The coastline is of considerable geomorphological interest and much has been written in about it in the scientific press over the years, particularly by Trevor Greensmith and Viv Tucker who wrote extensively on coastal erosion and evidence for sea level changes over the last 10,000 years.

At Foulness Point, saltmarsh is fringed by a prominent bank of cockle shells known as a ‘chenier ridge’ similar to that at Bradwell-on-Sea. These masses of empty shells have been eroded from tidal flats and built into ridges by waves and storms. They slowly migrate landwards until they are stabilised by salt marsh vegetation. They form the most extensive shell beach in Britain.

Access to Foulness Island is restricted to those that live and work there. Permission to visit must be obtained from the Ministry of Defence who own the entire island and use it as a base for artillery ranges over the Maplin Sands.


Further information

In the graveyard of Foulness church is the prominent gravestone of Samuel Neale Dalton, who was rector here for 43 years until his death in 1892. His son William Herbert Dalton (1848-1929) was a geologist and member of the Essex Field Club who made an important contribution to Essex geology. Dalton worked for the Geological Survey for 17 years, en-gaged in surveying the geology of many parts of north and eastern England. Subsequently he worked as a consultant geologist, specialis-ing in petroleum geology, which took him to many parts of the world. He was the author more than 50 geological books, papers and maps and over 30 papers relating to the geology of Essex, mostly published in the Essex Naturalist. Dalton donated many rocks, minerals and fossils to the Passmore Edwards Museum in Stratford when it was being set up. He died in Surrey in 1929.

Members of the Essex Field Club and the Geologists’ Association being conveyed at low tide in farm wagons across the Maplin Sands towards Foulness Island. The photograph was taken in 1911 on the Broomway, a highway that, until 1926, was the main access to the island. Photo: © The Geologists’ Association.


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Reference: Lake et al. 1986 (p.51), Greensmith 1999, Neal et al. 2002.

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