Situated on the border of Warwickshire and Oxfordshire, this quarry is popular with schools. These are able to visit and collect fossils from a designated area, where the quarry regularly dumps fresh material on a spoil heap. Rich in echinoids and now an SSSI, this is a site definitely worth visiting, if permission can be obtained.
♦ Cross Hands Quarry is 5km west of Chipping Norton. From Chipping Norton, follow the A44, passing Salford.
♦ You should also pass a track on the right, which is used by another quarry.
♦ Pass this and take the next road on the right. Almost immediately, you will see the quarry on the left, with a house just to the south.
♦ Parking is on the roadside, just north of the main quarry gates. The designated area can be reached by walking north.
♦ Access to the site is by prior arrangement with RA Newman & Sons (tel: 01608 674288).
♦ Ref: 51.958838, -1.609939
FIND FREQUENCY: ♦♦♦♦ – Although the site is regularly picked over, the limestone is extremely rich in fossils. Since it easily crumbles, the specially designated spoil heaps have been deliberately crushed to make easy to find fossils. However, you will struggle to find large rocks. Instead, the spoil heaps consist of small, gravel-size particles, with small, loose fossils among the debris. This makes the site perfect for children to look through the limestone gravel and simply pick out fossils without the need for tools.
CHILDREN: ♦♦♦♦♦ – The designated area has been set aside especially for school visits. Therefore, this site is very suitable for children, provided they keep to the designated fossil area and do not wonder around the main site.
ACCESS: ♦♦♦♦♦ – Parking is just outside the quarry or, with permission for school visits, inside the quarry. Anyone is welcome to visit the site, provided they obtain prior permission. From the car park, it is a very short walk to the designated area.
TYPE: – A special ‘fossil spoil heap’ is regularly kept fresh for schools and visitors to pick through. It is within the main quarry, which is now disused. Limestone has been mechanically crushed to provide a safe way, in a safe area, for children to collect fossils.
Although the site has been used for landfill since quarrying ceased, the landowners – in consultation with English Nature – have ensured that representative exposures are conserved onsite for future scientific study. In addition to the in situ interest, large amounts of spoil, rich in good quality fossil material, remain. The landowners actively encourage educational use of the site by making fresh spoil freely available for collecting fossils.
Although the site is an SSSI, this refers to the in situ bedrock of the main quarry. The special fossil collecting area consists of regular refreshed spoil, which does not have any restrictions on collecting. However, do not collect in, or even explore, the main quarry site. This is not allowed by the owners, who have kindly provided the special area, and is also restricted under the site’s designated SSSI status.
When you first enter the quarry, walk north to where you will see some spoil heaps. It is here that collecting can be carried out in the special area (with prior permission). Very quickly, by picking through the gravel sized scree, you should start to make some finds. Fossils are more often found fragmented or worn due to the limestone being crushed. However, complete fossils are still very commonly found. Expect to find tiny echinoids and brachiopods.
Cross Hands Quarry exposes rocks of Middle Jurassic age (approximately 170myrs old) that were deposited in a shallow marine environment, not too dissimilar to that of the modern-day Bahamas. These rocks belong to the Inferior Oolite and comprise the Clypeus Grit, overlain by the Chipping Norton Limestone and the Hook Norton Limestone. Now disused, the quarry was formerly a blockworks for extracting Cotswold Limestone.
Common sense should always be used when visiting any site. Providing you keep to the main designated collecting area, there are no real safety concerns. This site has been made as safe as possible, with a view to encouraging school visits.
The purpose of this site is to provide a safe area for children – especially on school trips – to collect fossils without the need to use tools. However, a small pick or a trowel comes in handy to move the debris around, although most fossils are found by simply picking them up from the bottom of the heaps.
The site has some of the most extensive outcrops of the Bajocian Clypeus Grit laid down during the Middle Jurassic Period, some 170mya. These limestones underlie the basal units of the Hook Norton Beds. The Clypeus Grit is here seen in its most northerly exposure and the site is therefore of considerable value in any palaeogeographical and palaeoecological reconstruction for this part of the Middle Jurassic. As a result, it is a key research and teaching locality.
This is a private quarry and permission needs to be obtained to enter. Access to the site is by prior arrangement with RA Newman & Sons (tel: 01608 674288).
This site is a site of special scientific interest (SSSI). This means you can visit the site, but hammering the bedrock is not permitted. For full information about the reasons for the status of the site and restrictions, download the PDF from Natural England.