Writhlington spoil heap has been opened up to the public for fossil collecting. It has yielded hundreds of plants and insects and is well documented. It is publically accessible, and there is plenty to be found.
♦ Travel along the Radstock to Frome road. Take the road ‘Manor Road’, and follow it through. It will change into ‘Church Road’. Continue to follow around the bends and down into the valley. It will merge into another road from the right, take this.
♦ At the lowest part of the valley, you will see a small opening with a gate. Enough space for one car. If you come to a bridge, you have gone too far.
♦ At the opening, you will need to climb over the gate, you will see evidence of the old railway tracks. You will come to a second gate at the bridge. Follow the footpath all the way until you reach a ‘T’ junction which also climbs a slope. Just before the start of this slope, a footpath veers left into some woods and into an opening. Follow this footpath through the opening and up the mound.
♦ Ref: 51.29599°N, 2.42530°W
FIND FREQUENCY: ♦♦♦♦ – The plants and insects at Writhlington are very well preserved and plentiful. The only problem is that this site has been over collected and today, you will have to dig for them because the surface spoil has been over picked.
CHILDREN: ♦♦ – Because access to this location requires crossing a dangerious bridge, it is not suitable for families. It is also a fair walk.
ACCESS: ♦♦ – Finding this location can be a real challange, it is also difficult to get to due to a dangerious bridge to cross. It is tucked in the woods with several footpaths which you can easily take the wrong one. Parking is also quite tight with only one space for a small car.
TYPE: – This quarry is disused, most of the area is covered in spoil heaps which are now overgrown. Beneath the surface are plant remains waiting to be uncovered. It may look like just another old disused overgrown quarry which ‘once’ produced good specimens, but it still does produce those good specimens providing you work for them.
There are well over a hundred different plant specimens to be collected at this site, some much more common than others. As well as plant remains, be sure to keep an eye open for insects such as dragon fly’s which are also quite common. Dragon Fly wings can often be mistaken as plants, but looking at them under a field lens is the best way to be certain that they are wings. There is also a very hard limestone layer which if it can be found contains a range of freshwater shells including brachiopods and bivalves. These are well preserved. This blocks can sometimes be found mixed within the spoil heaps.
You need to follow the footpath all the way until you reach a ‘T’ junction which also climbs a 45 degree slope. Just before the start of this slope, a footpath veers left into some woods and into an opening. Follow this footpath through the opening and up the mound. You will come to a large clearance of spoil. Search for fossils in the blocks and also dig the spoil. You can also search the areas around the clearance as these areas are more likely to yield fossils as they are less likely to have been picked by
The Upper Carboniferous beds at Writhlington are the Upper Coal Measures. Within the Radstock formation, coal seams frequently occur at the lower end of this formation, for this reason Radstock became a very popular location for coal mines in the Avon area. However due to the inconsistency’s of these seams and the fact that they were usually quite thin, the quarries shut down and moved out into other areas. The top of the Radstock formation has been removed and the coal seams at the lower end, the fossilferious beds are those of the Farrington & Barren Red Formations which contains the hard rocks at the base seen occasionally scattered around the Spoil Heap. Bands of Red measures occur within the shale at the top of this formation containing very poorly preserved and corroded plant fauna.
Common sense when collecting at all locations should be taken. Please ensure that no digging on the direct public footpath within the quarry is done for the safety of others. There is a bridge to cross which has a gate over it. There is a fence to the left and right, access can be made from the right hand side which has collapsed. Extreme care must be taken when crossing this bridge as the stream is a long way down and is also quite deep.
You will need the right tools for Writhlington since this quarry is now overgrown. Providing you take some tools to expose the plant bed, you should come away with some good specimens. Take plenty of paper to wrap your finds and something to put them in. Treat as soon as possible.
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 – Writhlington