At first site, Besom Hill can seem fairly poor for fossils. However, if you can find the thin Bullion Mine Marine Band, you will change your mind. This band of rock is highly fossiliferous and includes fish teeth, scales, fin spines and other remains. Goniatites and bivalves are also common within this layer.
♦ Besom Hill can be found along the A672 towards Oldham, just south of Grains Bar. The location is marked on maps with a parking symbol.
♦ There is a small car park with an information board detailing the Oldham Countryside. Park here and walk through the gate, but, rather than following the footpath that veers to the left, follow straight ahead towards the quarry through the hedge.
♦ Ref: 53.57028°N, 2.06396°W
FIND FREQUENCY: ♦♦♦♦♦ – The carboniferous horsetail, Calamities, can usually be found, regardless of whether you manage to find any shale from the Marine Band. However, the site is particularly rich in marine fossils, such as fish remains, goniatites and bivalves.
CHILDREN: ♦♦♦ – Besom Hill is not suitable for younger children as the cliff faces are quite high and are constantly crumbling. However, the large scree slopes to the right of the quarry, where the faces are more stable, are suitable for older children if they don’t climb the slopes.
ACCESS: ♦♦♦♦ – The site is very easy to find and there is parking right next door.
TYPE: – This quarry is disused, but there are still many good, clean cliff sections and there are spoil heaps and scree slopes to collect from. Most of the fossils can be found in the scree. You should get permission from the landowners before entering this quarry.
You will probably come away with a few Calamities specimens (large, tree-like horsetails). The problem is that most fossils are found in one thin layer – the highly fossiliferous Bullion Mine Marine Band. However, if you can find hard nodules, these can contain excellent specimens. These are within the Marine Band, where there are goniatites preserved in these hard concretions called ‘bullions’. These can be found along with bivalves (Dunbarella) and fish remains, such as teeth, scales and fin spines.
Most of the fossils can be found at the bottom of scree slopes or on the floor of the quarry. Keep a look out for small, hard nodules. These mostly contain Calamities in good condition. There are no fossils in the hard sandstone blocks at the top of the quarry.
If you can find a lighter coloured shale, this is the ‘Marine Band’. Finding these shales will change your view of this location; otherwise you will come away thinking this is a poor site for fossils. The marine band is actually one of the most fossiliferous shales in the area and contains some well-preserved specimens.
At Besom Hill, most of the beds are covered with scree. At the top of the quarry, a hard sandstone and layers of finely silted shale are exposed. Further down, the shales become softer. The beds are from the Westphalian A Series of the Upper Carboniferous (Pennsylvanian).
The Bullion Mine Marine Band is present at this quarry and this is one of the most fossiliferous shales in the area.
Common sense when collecting at all locations should be used, and hard hats and high visibility jackets should be worn at all quarries that are in use. This quarry is disused, but the cliff face constantly crumbles, so a hard hat is still recommended.
Remember to take lots of paper so you can wrap up your finds. In addition, it is recommended that you take a chisel pick, specimen bags and walking boots.
There are no restrictions at this site.