Geological Conservation In Dorset

Dorset's Important Geological Sites Group

Quarr Lane open space, Sherborne

Quarr Lane open space, Sherborne

 

DERC holds about 800 records of sites of geological interest in Dorset. The records are a combination of literature search and fieldwork. There are over 40 SSSI's, including the whole coastline, and over 60 Regionally Important Geological Sites (RIGS) that are mostly inland.

The primary task of the Dorset's Important Geological Sites (DIGS) group has been to select sites for conservation. The sites were visited by a group of members for assessment as possible RIGS using the following criteria:

  • scientific importance
  • educational value
  • ease of access
  • historic significance

Ownership of the site is determined together with the local contacts if neccessary. Then, only with the owner's permission, the site can be nominated for designation. With a map and description, RIGS are incorporated in the District Local Plans alongside SNCI's.

Quarr Lane open space, Sherborne

Thorncombe sands at Shutes Lane,
Symondsbury

 

Sites will require management; in some cases the clearance of the rock faces needs heavy machinery, in others the removal of decades of vegetation growth. An old quarry face has been re-exposed to show the Forest Marble at Wanderwell quarry. This RIGS is within West Dorset District Council's Local Nature Reserve near Bockhampton. West Dorset has also cleared the old quarry face of Inferior Oolite Rubbly Beds in Quarr Lane open space at Sherborne (above, right). Additionally, in the carpark and picnic site at Rockpit Farm (Maiden Newton), the old working face has been cleared to expose the Lower Chalk - Upper Greensand junction. All these are excellent examples of co-operation between DIGS and the District Council. The first and third of these sites have information boards in place, and a board is in preparation for the Sherborne site.

In Purbeck and West Dorset the National Trust has been working with DIGS to make their RIGS sites more accessible and visible to the general public, such as Shutes Lane, Symondsbury (above, left). Many other landowners are equally helpful in supporting DIGS' efforts to bring the knowledge of earth science to a wider audience.

The Strategic Stone Study in Dorset

St Maryís Church: Winterbourne Abbas

St Maryís Church: Winterbourne Abbas

This 13th Century church is built from Lower Purbeck Cypris Freestone banded with Flint.

Photo: Jo Pennell

The Buildings 1, 2, 5, 6 and 8: Symondsbury

The Buildings 1, 2, 5, 6 and 8: Symondsbury

Photo: Jo Pennell

This 18th Century row of Cottages is built from Inferior Oolite, giving it the characteristic orange colour.

Post Office Cottage

Post Office Cottage

This 18th Century Cottage is characteristic of all the buildings seen in Symmondsbury. The vibrant orange stone used is an oolitic limestone known as the Inferior Oolite.

Photo: Jo Pennell

Place Mill: Christchurch

Place Mill: Christchurch

This was the monastic mill belonging to the Priory. It has a mediaeval stone base which contains a mixture of Purbeck Marble, Quarr stone from the Isle of Wight, Hengistbury Ironstone and Heathstone. Above this is red brick.

Photo: Jo Pennell

Between September 2009 and March 2010 Dorsetís Environmental Record Centre has been involved in the Strategic Stone Study. This project has been organised by English Heritage and the British Geological Survey for the conservation of historic buildings.

The wonderful collection of picturesque rural villages found in Dorset is under a constant threat from deterioration and development. To preserve the characteristics of these villages new building and repairs need to use the same building stone as the original buildings. Whereas, in the past, local stone from a local quarry would have been used the majority of building stone quarries have been closed and, since the beginning of the 20th Century most building stone has been imported. In Dorset now, excluding Purbeck and Portland quarrying, there are only six other active building stone quarries remaining.

DERCís role in this study has been to identify the stone used in a sample of listed buildings in each village. The data has been collated through fieldwork, any previous research and records produced over the years. The help of many local experts in the fields of geology and history has also been invaluable. The information has then been added to three databases, geology, buildings and quarries. Once all information is acquired the British Geological Survey and English Heritage will publish this information in the EBSPits freely available website.

The collection of this data is a key component in keeping the rich characteristics of each village and conserving Dorsetís beautiful landscape and architecture.

Jo Pennell

Contact details for Dorset's Important Geological Sites Group (DIGS):

DIGS

Contact name:

Mr Alan Holiday
Chairman of DIGS

Postal address:

7 Whitecross Drive,
Weymouth,
Dorset, DT4 9PA

Tel:

01305 789643

Email:

alanholiday@btinternet.com

Purbeck Limestone Quarries Virtual Field Trip

DIGS have produced a CD of Powerpoint virtual field trips to Purbeck limestone quarries in south Dorset. The CD was produced as part of the Purbeck Keystone Project and received funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Copies are available from DIGS for £5 including P&P, payable to DIGS.