Marsh Brook cuts through Carboniferous marine deposits. These are rich in goniatites, bivalves and gastropods, but also contain many other types of fossils. Often, these are not particularly well preserved, being flattened, but the shale is also extremely rich in well-preserved microfossils.
♦ Follow the A632 from Matlock and turn off to Ashover at Kelstedge. Follow the road and you will pass a hairpin bend with public footpaths to the left and right. For parking, continue until you reach a road on the left next to a school. Park carefully.
♦ Walk back to the hairpin bend and, on your right (east), you will come across two public footpaths. Ignore the first path and take the second with the vertical footpath sign and stone wall, which is just before the ‘incoming vehicles in middle of road’ sign.
♦ Follow the footpath for a short distance until you see the drop down to the stream. Exit the footpath and walk down the slope (east). Once you reach the stream, wade along to the left until you get to the cliff sections. Further (better) sections can be found round the corner.
♦ Ref: SK 34340 63404
FIND FREQUENCY: ♦♦♦♦ – Fossils are very common from this brook. You are sure to find goniatities and bivalves, which are very common, but you can find plenty of other fossils, including microfossils.
CHILDREN: ♦♦♦ – This site is suitable for older children under adult supervision, but parts of the stream can be deep. Wellington boots will be needed.
ACCESS: ♦♦♦♦ – Access is very good, but there is a bit of a walk from the safe parking area. However, the site is easy both to find and access.
TYPE: – Fossils are found in the marine shale exposed in two cliff sections along Marsh Brook. You will need Wellington boots for this location and it is best to visit during the drier summer months.
The small cliff sections exposed in Marsh Brook are the rich Carboniferious Edale Shales. They are packed with goniatites (Reticuloceras umbilicatum) and bivalves (Dunbarella sp. and Canayella sp.). While both bivalves and goniatities are abundant here, they are flattened and can be poorly preserved. Gastropods can also be found and, if you are lucky, trilobites. The shale is also extremely rich in microfossils, with ostracods, fish teeth and other marine animals.
When you first enter the stream, you will need to walk towards the northwest (left). Continue until you reach the first small section of cliff. The best sections are just around the corner, so continue and you will see a much larger section of cliff.
Using a pick to remove some sections of shake and gently split the shale using a chisel pick. You don’t need much, as the shale is highly rich in fossils. Fossils can initially be very hard to see, especially as this is a dense, poorly lit wooded area. Visit this location during the summer months or after drier periods, otherwise the water will be too high to collect from the stream.
The Carboniferous shale at Marsh Brook is part of the Bowland Shale Formation (formerly Edale Shales). These are Asbian (Viséan) in age and are dark grey. They dip 30 degrees to the northwest.
The shales are mainly of dark grey fissile and blocky mudstone, weakly calcareous, with subordinate sequences of interbedded limestone and sandstone, fossiliferous in more-or-less discrete bands.
Most of the water here is shallow, but parts of the brook can be deep, especially during the winter.
You will need Wellington boots and a pick or knife. If taking samples back home for microfossil processing, you will also need sample bags.
This location is along a public footpath, there are no restrictions on entering the brook.