The Forest of Dean is full of evidence of past coal mining. This old spoil head in Whitecroft, although overgrown, contains some excellent shale full of fossil plants. It is a shame the site is so overgrown, which means you will need to do some digging.
♦ This spoil heap can be found by driving to Whitecroft in the southern part of the Forest of Dean. From the B4234, cross over the disused rail track and follow the road to the west towards Bream (Whitecroft Road). Once outside Whitecroft, you will pass a large hill with trees on top and to your right.
♦ Take the road on your right (Bowson Road) and follow it around the side of the hill. You will find parking near some houses further up the road.
♦ Walk back to the hill, where you will find an open grass area, which provides access to the spoil heap.
♦ Ref: 51.75537°N, 2.56289°W
FIND FREQUENCY: ♦♦♦ – If you find a slab of fossiliferous shale, try to carefully split it thinly. The problem is that this site has become so overgrown, that it can be hard to find such slabs.
CHILDREN: ♦♦♦ – Although this site is safe, there is some digging to be done and fossils cannot just be picked up. Therefore, we do not recommend the site for younger children.
ACCESS: ♦♦♦ – This location can be difficult to find if you do not have an OS map showing the location of the spoil. However, once along the correct road, the tall hill cannot be missed. There is an open grass area just before it and you can walk over this to the base of the spoil heap. The best slabs are found at the bottom.
TYPE: – This is an old spoil heap containing waste material from the old quarries. Over the years, this has become overgrown and now looks like a natural hill.
Whitecroft spoil heap looks like a very tall, natural hill, which is covered in trees. Actually, this is entirely man-made, being made of spoil from the local quarries. When you arrive at the site, it doesn’t look that promising. However, when you find the highly fossiliferous shale, you will find that is packed with fossil plants. Just a single slab can yield many different species in excellent condition.
The easiest way of finding fossils is by digging around the bottom of the spoil heap, which is not so overgrown. However, this can be hard work. Most of the shale has turned to mud on the surface, and therefore the fossils have been destroyed. There are still plenty of slabs to be found, but a little patience is needed.
The source of the spoil is the Colford High Delf Coal Seam, which is the most important and productive seam in the Forest of Dean and rests below the Pennant Sandstone. Blocks of this sandstone can also be seen around the base of the spoil.
This site is relatively safe, providing you don’t climb the hill as it can be quite steep in places. Common sense should be used at all locations, and follow our collecting guide.
A pick will be very handy at this location for pulling blocks out of the spoil and for splitting, but a spade might also be useful for digging into the spoil heap and clearing the mud from the top layers.
This is an old spoil heap that is easy to get to. You may need permission to visit, although the current owners of the spoil heap cannot currently be found. It is marked on OS 1:25,000 scale maps as an area of spoil.