The fields around Steeple Ashton in Wiltshire yield a large number of superb corals when they are ploughed, which are accessible by public footpaths. This guide examines one such field, which is south of the road to the Keevil Airfield and, because this field is regularly ploughed, contains well-preserved corals. It also has access by means of a good public footpath.
♦ Steeple Ashton is to the east of Browbridge. You will need to park in the village of Steeple Ashton. Try to park to the south of the village, since this is where the footpath starts.
♦ On OS maps, you can see the footpath marked running across a field.
It then joins the road to Keevil Airfield and finally reaches Spiers Piece Farm a short distance after.
♦ The best area to collect from is south of the road, just after where the footpath reaches the road and, from there, all the way until you reach the farm.
♦ Ref: 51.30438°N, 2.12545°W
FIND FREQUENCY: ♦♦♦♦ – The field featured in this guide is rich in corals, and these are in excellent condition and well preserved. However, this site can only be visited when there are no crops, ideally directly after ploughing.
CHILDREN: ♦♦♦♦ – This location is suitable for children, as it is accessible from public footpaths. However, please ensure everybody wears suitable footwear, since the fields can become muddy after rain.
ACCESS: ♦♦♦♦ – There is a walk of just under a kilometre from the south of Steeple Ashton and the field then runs for about another kilometre. The walk is easy going, but stay on the footpaths and keep off the fields when crops are growing. There is a lovely cafe and shop in the village, which also offers Internet connection.
TYPE: – Fossils are found in the fields, which have been brought to the surface by ploughing. The corals here are very hard and easily spotted. However, collecting can ONLY be done after harvest and is best after ploughing of the field. It is not possible to collect from this site when there are crops present.
It is a pleasant, short stroll over countryside fields to easily find some large and very well preserved corals. Each year, when the fields are ploughed, fresh corals are brought to the surface. They are easy to spot and easy to collect. What is even handier is the presence of pubic footpaths that run along the fields.
This is a good location for all the family to visit, with plenty to find, although don’t expect to find anything other than a variety of different coral species. Other fossils, such as brachiopods, can also be found here, but since these are small and are extremely hard to spot in the fields.
From this locality, 46 scleractinian species belonging to 23 genera have been recorded, which renders this site unique in the British Oxfordian.. In this fauna, lamellar and fungoid forms are the most numerous, including the genera Thamnasteria, Morphastraea, Mesomorpha, Protoseris, Fungiastraea, Thamnoseris, Microsolena and Comoseris.
Associated with the corals is a facies-dependent reef-fauna consisting predominantly of attached and encrusting bivalves and serpulids. Nanogyra nana is common along with Chlamys natheimensis . Gastrochaenolites borings into Thamnasteria concinna contain natural casts of Lithophaga inclusa . Serpulids occur on many of the Steeple Ashton corals and include tubes of the species Mucroserpula tricarinata and Glomerula gordialis. The echinoids Acrosalenia angularis and Nucleolites scutatus have been found here.
Steeple Ashton site is Britain’s richest Jurassic coral locality. It has been renowned since the earliest years of geological study for its extremely localized Upper Oxfordian coral bed. No permanent exposure of the bed had ever been seen prior to an excavation carried out in 1979. The Steeple Ashton Coral Bed is present in only a small area south-east of Steeple Ashton village, having apparently been removed by erosion over much of the area, beneath overstepping sandy clay. The coral bed is Upper Oxfordian, belonging to the Stanford Formation of the Corallian Group.
Common sense should always be used when visiting any site. However, this site has no real safety concerns, but please keep to footpaths and don’t collect when crops are growing.
No tools are required at this site, as corals can easily be picked up from the surface of the fields. However, some corals are quite large and so a small trowel might come in handy to dig them up. Remember to wear suitable footwear.
There are currently no known restrictions at this location.