Field Trip to the Carboniferous Rocks of the Howick Shore Section, Northumberland (North east England)

The following description is based on the itinerary as described in the Yorkshire Geological Societies handbook "Northumbrian Rocks & Landscape" and handouts given on the field trip.

     The area is a classic coast section of the upper part of the Visean and overlying Namurian sediments of the mid-Carboniferous period which were deposited in a broad half-graben structure between the Alston Block to the south and the Southern Uplands Block to the north. There are indications (palaeocurrents and sediment analysis) that sediments originated from the north and east.

 The rocks of this period are characterised by a rhythmic sequence of a limestone overlain by coarsening up sediments, often capped by a palaeosol and coal. 
These "Yoredale" cycles are interpreted as the product of marine transgression of a delta or coastal plain with deposition of shales followed by carbonate sediments in an open marine environment.  (High Stand). Ensuing progradation of a delta or coastal plain resulted in deposition of a coarsening up siliciclastic sequence followed by plant colonisation (Low Stand).

  Structural features such as planar & trough crossbedding can be seen. The area is also well known for the presence of fossils such as large gigantoproductid brachiopods, the brush-like marks of the trace fossil Zoophycos, crinoid ossicles, corals, bryozoans, plant rootlets & trilobite fragments.  The remains of amphibian (temnospondyl?) footprints averaging 18cm in length & 14cm in width can also be examined in Howick Bay.
       The headland of Cullernose Point at the north end of the shore section is composed of the Whin Sill, a dolerite intrusion. Here, it shows well developed columnar jointing.


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