This site is a disused railway cutting near Tilton-on-the-Hill, which is extremely rich in fossils. Now fairly overgrown, there is just one small area of collecting where the cliffs are still accessible. The site is a SSSI, for the diversity of its fossils, its geological important and for the living fauna and flora that can be seen here. It is also a nature reserve. One key feature is the presence of two thick limestone beds – crammed full of brachiopods – which can be easily collected from by looking in the loose scree.
♦ This site is located near the village of Tilton-on-the-Hill, 12km southwest of Oakham, and is a Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust Reserve. ♦ It is next to the Tilton to Oakham road, about 2km east of the village of Tilton.
♦ There is parking for one vehicle at the entrance. The road is dangerous, so extreme care should be taken.
♦ From this small parking area, it is a very short walk down some steps to the cutting. Several information boards on the geology and fossil diversity can be read as you go down the steps.
♦ Once you reach the bottom of the cutting, you will see the last remaining area of bedrock and scree, which is not covered by vegetation.
♦ Ref: 52.642702, -0.876589
FIND FREQUENCY: ♦♦♦♦♦ – With most of the formation covered up, one would expect to find very little at this site. However, despite being so overgrown, the rocks here are so rich in fossils that you will still find plenty. By far the most common are brachiopods, which come from two thick limestone layers that are crammed full of them. Ammonites used to be common, but are now quite rare.
CHILDREN: ♦♦♦ – This site is suitable for older children, but the large amount of brambles and loose rocks can make it difficult for younger children.
ACCESS: ♦♦♦ – There is only enough parking space for one car at the entrance and this, together with a very busy and dangerous road, means that access can be difficult. The actual walk from the car parking area is quick and easy, although there are a number of steep steps down to the cutting.
TYPE: – The site is a disused railway cutting, which has now been turned into a nature reserve. In addition, the importance of this site for both geology and palaeontology is reflected in its SSSI status.
Once you reach the bottom of the cutting, you will notice that you are limited to just one small remaining area where collecting can be carried out. However, there is still plenty of bedrock here, from which rocks frequently fall adding to the scree and where you can look among the fallen rocks, picking out fossils.
By far the most common finds are brachiopods, including many different species of Tetrarhynchia and Lobothyris. There are two thick layers crammed full of them and they easily fall out completely whole. These get mixed up in the scree. Note that tools are not allowed at this site, but you can still easily find fossils.
A rich assemblage of other fossils has also been found, including gastropods, brachiopods, belemnites, and a species of ammonite (Tiltoniceras acutum), named after the location and the nearby village. Other ammonites can be found, although they are now fairly rare.
This 750m section of disused railway cutting provides outstanding exposures of sediments, which were deposited during the Lower Jurassic, between 189 and 186mya. The rocks were deposited in warm tropical seas and consist of oolitic ironstones and limestones (the Marlstone Rock), capped by shales of the Upper Lias from the Whitby Mudstone Formation.
The Marlstone Rock was an important rock quarried locally for its high concentration of iron ore and for use as local building stones. The present exposed rocks and scree in this cutting are from this formation.
The Dyrham Formation, which consists of soft siltstones and hard shelly limestones, are now obscured by fallen scree. At the bottom of the cutting would have been sandstones from the bottom of this formation. A lot of research was conducted on these sandstones by cutting sections, which showed it to be rich in mica flakes and quartz grains.
The full stratigraphic succession, detailing each bed, can be seen on a series of information boards in the cutting.
Common sense should always be used when visiting any site. Although overgrown, this site still has some very steep and unstable cliffs along the cutting. Keep away from the steep sides. In addition, brambles can make collecting difficult, because they cover up the loose rocks and scree. As a result, it is easy to trip and fall.
The use of hammers or any other tools is strictly prohibited. However, you can easily make some wonderful finds just by picking through the scree.
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.