This spoil heap is partly still being used and partly disused. Most of the waste material contains limestone and shale that is poor in fossil remains. However if you can find the right rocks, then plant remains can be found. However, these are often poorly preserved, but, as with all tips, you never know what you might find.
♦ From Auchinleck, head south towards Cumnock. At the crossroads, take the road to the east, which is Coal Road.
♦ Follow this road, until you cross the Auchinleck Burn. The road will then start to veer northeast. Instead take the small road east. From here, just before a sharp corner with a house on the right, you will see the area of tips on the left and plenty of space to park.
♦ You will need an OS 1:50,000 or OS 1:25,000 scale map to help you find this location. On the OS 1:50,000 edition, the tip is shown as being on the bend in the road that crosses the disused railway, south of Commondyke Farm and east of Birnieknowe.
♦ Ref: 55.47356°N, 4.25309°W
FIND FREQUENCY: ♦♦♦ – You can spend a great deal of time searching and splitting the shale, finding little but the remains of Calamites. These seem to be the most common find here. Other plant remains do exist, but are much harder to find and are often poorly preserved.
CHILDREN: ♦ – This tip is still partly working, so children should not visit the site, because lorries are sometimes present. However, the current level of industrial activity is low, but children should still not visit.
ACCESS: ♦♦♦♦ – It is very easy to park off road in the lay-by beside the tip and walk in. The tip is right next to the road, where you can immediately start searching for fossils.
TYPE: – This is a spoil heap; and consists of the waste material from the local opencast mines, which includes limestone and shale. The fossils are found in the layers of shale, which are soft and easy to split open. As this is waste material that the coal mines do not require, specific zones cannot be identified as it has all been dumped together on the tip.
There are possible restrictions at this location. This is a new tipping site and, at the time of writing, the spoil heap had easy access without any gates, fences or warning signs. It is also a large area, with piles of spoil waste. The level of activity is extremely low, with lorries turning up about once a day. However, this may change in the future. Therefore, we cannot guarantee that this is publically accessible or that the situation outlined in this guide has not changed.
From the entrance, you will see lots of piles of limestone and shale of various heights, spread around over a large open area. You will need to search around to find any shale, most of which contains no fossils. However, you can find areas of shale packed with fossil stems (Calamites). Layers or fossil roots can also be found.
Most of the fossils are poorly preserved, although occasionally, if you find shale from the better preserved layers, plants can be found in fairly good condition. Much of the waste material is hard limestone, which contains few if any fossils. The shale is fairly easy to split and is often a pale yellowish colour. Most of it has already been split by weathering and you can simply pull away the layers of shale from the larger boulders; others you can split using a chisel ended pick.
The rocks at Auchinleck Tip are a mixture of Upper Carboniferous (Silesian) limestone and shale from about 310myrs ago. They are Duckmantian in age, but have become mixed up as a result of the inevitably indiscriminate extraction of coal from local opencast mines.
The bedrocks are from the Scottish Middle Coal Measures Formation, formed approximately 310-312 Mya.
Although this tip is spread out and fairly flat (rather than consisting of the usual dangerously high spoil heaps), this site is still partly being used. The level of activity is very low, but this may change or may have already changed. It appears as if this is a fairly new spoil heap, so it may become dangerous as the heap grows. You must keep well away from any vehicles entering the site.
A splitting pick is very handy at this location. You will also need plenty of paper to wrap up your finds.
Scotland’s fossil resource is at risk of abuse and damage, and so we must all safeguard and managed fossil collecting to ensure its survival for future generations. For this reason it is VITAL you read and adhere to the Scottish Fossil Code for ALL sites in Scotland.