When visiting the village of Dalmellington, you cannot help but see the huge spoil heap. This is now disused, but contains plenty of material to search through, including black shale that is rich in fish remains. Plant remains can also be found.
♦ The tip can be seen when you enter the village of Dalmellington. Take the B741 north towards New Cumnock from the A713, through the village,.
♦ Just before the bridge over the steam, where there is a view of the tip to the north, there are some side roads. You can park on any of these and then walk towards the tip.
♦ Access to the tip is gained by walking along the B741 through the trees along the side of the road. Keep a look out for when walking through the grass for large boulders.
♦ Ref: 55.33182°N, 4.38962°W
FIND FREQUENCY: ♦♦♦♦♦ – Fish teeth, coprolites, scales and bones, plants and shells can all be found here. In fact, this site is extremely rich in fossils. In particular, fish remains are abundant and you should quickly start finding fossils. Plant fossils, including leaves and bark, can also be found here. When weathered, the fossils turn white, which makes them stand out on the black shale. However, when they are unweathered, they tend to be much harder to see, because they are the same colour as the shale.
CHILDREN: ♦ – This spoil heap is dangerous, as material can fall from the top. Therefore, it is not a place for children. Blocks of hard limestone can easily slip and fall down. In addition, the steep slopes can be very slippery.
ACCESS: ♦♦♦ – This location is easy to find and, from the main road, you cannot miss it. Parking is nearby and you can walk through the trees along the road and cut through the grassy area to the heap.
TYPE: – This site was once a dumping ground for the local open coal mines. All of the waste material they did not want got left here by rail, as this was a quick and convenient way of getting rid of the waste material. The spoil is a mixture of limestone and shale.
This site is not an SSSI, so there are no restrictions on collecting or hammering the rocks. However, be aware that it is on private land and you may need permission to visit.
When you first arrive at the site, you will see the very tall spoil heap. Be aware that there is much more limestone here than shale and it is the shale you need to find. However, there is still enough of it to keep collectors going for years. Where the black shale is weathered on the surface, the fossils turn bright white and you can spot them very quickly, as the white fish teeth and coprolites stand out against the black shale. Walk around the edges of the spoil heap, but do not attempt to climb the steep sides as this is dangerous. There should be plenty of material for you to collect from around the edge.
Once you have searched for any obvious fossils, then you can start turning over slabs and splitting the fine shale. This is packed with black fish teeth, bones, coprolites and scales. The teeth and scales are easiest to find as they shiny. You should also be able to find plant material, including bark and leaves, although it is not as common as the fish remains. Shells are also found here and, because this is a spoil heap with material taken from various zones, you could find anything here.
The rocks at Dalmellington Tip are a mixture of marine shales and Upper Carboniferous rocks. They range from Langsettian – Duckmantian in age, but as all the zones have become mixed up over years as a result of the extraction coal from local open cast mines and the exact zones are not known.
The rocks at Dalmellington are primarily from the Scottish Middle Coal Measures (formed approximately 310-312 Mya) consisting of sandstone, siltstone and mudstone in repeated cycles that most commonly coarsen upwards,W of Duckmantian (previously Westphalian B) age and the Scottish Lower Coal Measures (formed 312-313 Mya) of Langsettian (previously Westphalian A) age, both from the Scottish Coal Measures Group, at the base of which lies the Lowstone Marine Band.
Safe and sensible collecting is advisable at all locations. The long grass on the approach to the tip hides several very large limestone boulders and even the odd wall. These are difficult to see and are easy to trip over. At the site itself, the dangers are mostly from falling rocks. The spoil heap is extremely high and large limestone rocks can easily fall. The height of the heap is actually quite shocking and it is made worse by having steep sides. The other danger is that it is very easy to slip and fall as a result of the steep sides.
A splitting pick is very handy at this location. You will also need plenty of paper to wrap up your finds, because the shale is quite brittle. Larger slabs of shale are fairly stable, but when split thinly, this can result in the fossils being very fragile.
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.