Fossil on western flanks of Pule Hill Marsden

Fossil Rocks on Marsden Moor

There are fossils to be seen on Marsden Moor. Perhaps not as dramatic as the superstar dinosaurs of the south coast or the abundant ammonites of the Yorkshire coast, but impressive enough when you stray across one.

This page is a work in progress, with the plan that one day I’ll create a bit of trail to string together some of the more impressive fossil rocks I’ve spotted. But for now, this page is a signpost to my Instagram account and the hashtag of #MarsdenFossils. And if you spot any, feel free of course to add to that bounty with the same hashtag, and thanks to a couple of compadres who have pointed out a rock or two to me since I started cataloguing the gritstone finds.

A few years ago I spotted what looked like a fossiled branch or tree trunk in a big rock just down from one of the ‘West End’ quarries between Shooters Nab and Binn Moor. Looking closer, it had the same ‘imprint’ on a couple of its faces. To my mind, as the rock is close to a trod (path), a quarryman may well have moved it there (with help, it’s about 1 metre / 3 foot square) for any passing workers and walkers to admire.

Fossil Rock Binn Moor Marsden
The rock that sits below the spoil heaps of the West End quarries and next to the path towards the old (short-lived) coal mine entrance.

You can see parts of fossiled branch or bark in the smaller pieces of rock on a few of the quarry spoil heaps, for example around the Shooters Nab area. And no doubt many more hidden inside those spoil heaps.

When you get your eye in, there are lots of surface rocks across Marsden moor with fossiled plant branches or trunks on show. The keyword here is ‘surface’ .. what we see now as a rock breaking the surface of the moors would have been anything from 1 metre to 10+ metres in the air, in and amongst trees, before the peat built up several thousand years ago.

What is gritstone?

Where I think of the rocks in the area as ‘gritstone’ there are actually a few different tyoes of rock at play in the area, with names like Huddersfield White Rock. Midgley Grit, Guisely Grit, Fletcher Bank Grit, Readycon Dean Flags, Upper Kinder Scout Grit, Lower Kinder Scout Grit and others. The exact ages of these and the exact location/s and layering of each series across the moors is beyond this lay fossil-botherer. I have a geology grad son who has tried to explain elements of this to me but the very simplified (by me) bit I retain is something like ‘vast river delta, 320 million years ago’.

I found this clear and interesting pdf linked here which focuses on the rock formations/series of Marsden.

Types of fossilised plants

I believe from some research that some of the fossils to be seen on the moor are of Lepidodendron, found in the rock which is c. 325 million years old ( see the note above about a vast river delta).

Outcrop, wall and path

Some of the fossils have been worked to fit into a dry stone wall or path, for example, this one below which is part of a path near Eastergate (at the bottom of the old lane that leads down from the Manchester Road (A62) to Redbrook Clough and Eastergate).

Fossil Rock Marsden Eastergate

When I spotted it there was only a couple of cm showing, so lucky it caught my eye, I’ve walked this path a few times and never noticed it. I dug back the turf towards the drystone wall, cleaned it up with some water from my bottle and… some tree bark. I think. From around 32 million years ago. It may be a placed flag for a step or it could be the top of a gritstone outcrop, incorporated into the path?

There will be more to add to this page when I get my act together with a ‘trail’ map and OS references to the bigger pieces spotted.