Tucked away in the fold of a valley near Llandrindod Wells, in Mid Wales, sits Little Wern holiday cottage. It is set within 18 acres of beautiful Welsh farmland and it is hard to think of a more peaceful and relaxing place to stay. The cottage has its own small quarry, which is solely open to visitors staying there. And what’s more, it is stuffed full of trilobite remains.
♦ Little Wern holiday cottage is set in a secluded spot, close to Bettws, near Hundred Houses and approximately 13km from Llandrindod Wells. From the south, east and west, it can be reached by country roads from the A481; and from the north by country roads from Llandrindod and the A44.
♦ It is practically essential to use a SatNav to find the cottage; and even then, it will only take you to within a couple of miles. From there, you will need to ring the owners for directions. The post code to use is LD1 5RP. To contact the owners, Mike and Maggie, ring 01982 570418 or e-mail: Maggie.firstname.lastname@example.org.
♦ Ref: 52.212309, -3.302583
FIND FREQUENCY: ♦♦♦♦♦ – You are guaranteed to find many fossils here. However, most will be disarticulated trilobite pieces. The fossiliferous rocks are shale (which crumbles easily), thick mudstone layers (which are almost impossible to split) or hard nodules (which are very hard to break). Despite this, the best fossils can be found between bedding plains, making them easy to extract.
CHILDREN: ♦♦♦♦♦ – The quarry is within 100m of the holiday cottage. Children can safely use a hammer and chisel (with safety goggles) on the edges of the cutting, where the quarry wall is low; and they can also collect from spoil below the face.
ACCESS: ♦♦♦ – Only guests staying at Little Wern holiday cottage are granted unlimited access to the quarry. From there, access is through a horse paddock and up a hill, with a reasonable gradient. Do not over-collect from this location.
TYPE: – This quarry is owned by the owners of the holiday cottage; and those staying at the cottage are free to collect. However, access is strictly not permitted for anyone not staying at the cottage.
The most common fossils to be found in the quarry are the remains of trilobites and complete trilobites are common, if you find the right bed. Numerous species are present, the most common being Ogyginus corndensis, with cephalons (heads) and pygidia (tails) being found very frequently. Also present are graptolites, such as Didymograptus sp., as well as infrequent brachiopods, bivalves and sponges.
All areas of the quarry face are productive, but it is worth collecting from all parts of the quarry to maximise the potential of finding different species. The procedure for hunting is simple. Remove any overburden of weathered material and then use a hammer, chisel and safety goggles or a pry to loosen a block of in situ shale. This can then be split with a chisel or a knife, to reveal any fossils it contains.
The left hand side of the quarry contains very crumbly shale. The fossils here are mostly poorly preserved and are fragmentary. The best areas to collect from are in the middle and right hand sections. Fossils can be found in both the mudstone and nodules. Trilobites are very common on the surface of the nodules, as well as inside (if you manage to break them). They are beautifully preserved, mostly complete and do not normally require any immediate preserving. The mudstone is also rich in trilobites, with complete specimens being commonly found in between the bedding plains. One of the problems with the mudstone is that it is almost impossible to split cleanly. We recommend leaving any complete specimens in their entire blocks, then using a rock saw/hack saw at home to cut away the excess rock. Attempting to split using a chisel will probably destroy the fossil.
Fossils from the mudstone and shale need preserving quickly. We recommend bringing a PVA solution with you and treating them back at the cottage. Allow them to dry out first and then brush gently with a small paint brush to remove debris. With a second brush, cover the fossils using either a PVA solution or a strengthener of your choice.
The geology at Little Wern displays rocks from the same horizons as found at Upper Gilwern quarry, although the trilobites here are more fragile and often disarticulated.
The quarry, in the main, displays exposures of fine mudstones from the Llanvirnian stage of the Ordovician (c.465 Mya). The mudstones show nodular features and possible layers of bentonite, indicating local volcanic activity at the time of deposition. The deposits have undergone compression, causing deformation and introducing cleavage at an angle to the bedding planes.
The site is fairly safe, as it is only a shallow quarry. However, take care not to fall off the slopes when collecting and do not collect in wet weather, as the rocks become slippery.
A good, sturdy bag and plenty of packing material, as well as a hammer, chisel and safety goggles are needed at this location. A rock pry also comes in very useful for pulling rocks away from the bedding plains. Waterproof boots, with a good grip, will also come in handy during times of wet weather (which is fairly common here). However, it is best to collect during dry spells, when the rocks have time to dry out, allowing the fossils to be seen more clearly.
The quarry is owned by a holiday cottage. It is open solely to visitors staying there. To contact the owners,
Mike and Maggie,
Telephone: 01982 570418