This location is so over collected that you have to crawl into the cutting and it can be hard to get any decent rock samples for splitting, but the rewards are worth the hard work. Superb trilobites and graptolites in excellent condition can be found, and some are complete.
♦ Leave Ludlow on the road over Ludford Bridge and turn right into the Whitcliffe Road at the Charlton Arms pub and follow the road up and around the town. You will pass a large Forestry Commission lay-by and also a small car park on your right. After a further kilometre, you will see a signpost to ‘Hazel Coppice’. Keep going and, after another 0.65km, there is a large car park with a sign saying ‘Vinnels’ on your left. It is obvious, but still takes you by surprise.
♦ The site is a small stream with low banks. However, note that, since the Shropshire Geological guide published by the Geologists’ Association was published, the Forestry Commission has moved all the footpaths and changed the colour coding of the paths. However, the easiest way to find the location is to look for the deepest part of the forest, which is lower than the level of the car park. If you go up, you have gone wrong.
♦ From the car park, you will notice a map and signpost to ‘Vinnals Car Park’. Do not go past this sign. Instead, immediately as you enter the car park, through the height barrier, you will notice a small short trackway to your left. The last time Vinnals was visited by UK Fossils, it had a white signpost saying ‘All ability walk’ and is also referred to on the car park map as the ‘white dotted line’. This is a track that winds down and around a wooded area, veering back past a large pond. Keep following this track and it will start to climb uphill again. Shortly afterwards, you will notice a small signpost saying ‘Geological Stop 4’. At this point, you will have probably already noticed a small stream and banks, where evidence of fossil hunters is all too obvious.
♦ Alternatively, from the car park, this time go ahead, past the signpost saying ‘Vinnals Car Park’ and Map’, along the large trackway going uphill. You will pass a couple of tracks turning off with white band markers and, at the top, you will notice that a green band track is to the left and the main track veers right continuing uphill with a green and white band marker. At this point, turn left at the first green marker. (If you pass a green and white marker, you have gone too far). Shortly afterwards, the green marker track turns off up a very steep and narrow track. Ignore this and continue going along the wide track, and the exposures are on the right hand side. There are two of them, which are slightly overgrown.
♦ Ref: 52.35407°N, 2.77368°W
FIND FREQUENCY: ♦♦♦♦♦ – This location is rich in trilobites, but it has also been over collected.
CHILDREN: ♦♦♦♦♦ – Vinnals is suitable for families.
ACCESS: ♦♦♦♦ – The car park is easy to find, but many people have problems trying to find the actual area where fossils can be found. However, there are plenty of exposures along the walks to collect graptolites from.
TYPE: – Fossils are found in the stream and cuttings.
Vinnals is probably one of the best places in Shropshire for guaranteed trilobites. Tails and heads are by far the most common and complete specimens are much rarer. Vinnals is also good for graptolites, although they are quite worn and faded (or, unless treated soon after collecting, will fade).
To collect from the first location near the stream, you will notice a small bank, which shows clear evidence of fossil hunters. Here, you can either look for fragments in the scree or try to obtain freshly cut shale slabs. It is quite difficult and we recommend that you bring something to pry any shale slabs, where natural cracks have occurred. Once you obtain a slab, it will most probably contain trilobite fragments, but failing this, these slabs can be split easily with a sharp chisel-ended pick or splitting chisel. The best beds are a grey-like colour on the bottom producing better preserved trilobites or, below this, a black shale, which contains clearer but more fragile trilobites, which are white or sometimes half white/half brown in colour.
Trilobites can also be found in the middle and top areas of the small cutting. The rocks here are highly fossiliferous, but the problem is trying to find a descent slab to split. Further downstream, within a matter of metres, are two further smaller exposures. These contain graptolites, but these are quite worn. Once again, these beds are quite fossiliferous, but trilobite fragments are not present. There are several bands of graptolites with different species, with the most common being Monograptus, but there are two other species, one double and the other a brown colour. Cephalopods are also common here. The cutting is much easier than the stream for collecting, but you won’t find any trilobites.
The geology is Silurian and is 419 to 421myrs old.
The small cutting next to the stream at the first location is now overhanging and is in danger of collapsing. Care must be taken at this location and children should be kept away.
A splitting chisel, hammer or pick and eye protection will come in very useful, since fossils are found mostly by splitting the shale. A wedge bar may also come in handy, since obtaining slabs of shale can be quite difficult due to over collecting at this location. It is also wise to bring some preserving liquid, as the trilobites and graptolites can be very fragile. Fossils should be well wrapped and separated from each other.
This site is an SSSI. This means you can visit the site, but hammering the bedrock is not permitted. For full information about the reasons for the status of the site and restrictions please download the PDF from Natural England – SSSI Information – Mortimer Forest