Geo Conservation, Dry Sandford Pit, 16th November 2013

This was our annual geo-conservation session, held with the Oxfordshire Geology Trust and led by Denise Dane.  This year, we were back at Dry Sandford Pit - a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) close to one of our usual work-sites, Cothill Fen.  As with the fen, it is managed by the local Wildlife Trust.  The Green Gym last visited the pit a few years ago to undertake similar work, so it was interesting for those who were in attendance last time to re-visit and for those of us who hadn't been to explore this interesting location.  A total of nine Green Gymmers turned up for the occasion.

Having assembled our tools and safety equipment, we were led to the first of two exposed rock faces and given a brief introduction to the site by Denise, who was joined by two other Geology Trust volunteers.  It was explained how the area was once covered by a tropical sea and therefore we could expect to see the fossilised remains of corals and other marine life.  We were also informed that the exposed pit cliffs are now home to solitary bees and wasps. Therefore our work here keeping the cliffs free of vegetation is important to preserve this habitat as well as for the geological examination and study.

We were shown two separate cliff areas that we were to work on and the group divided to work on each simultaneously.  Overhanging plants were trimmed while the encroachment of brambles and other flora from beneath were also dealt with.  Restoration work was then performed on the rocks themselves - clearing mosses and surface growth and searching for fossils.

We succeeded in clearing the designated areas during the session and uncovered some coral and other small fossil specimens which were able to be identified by Denise and the other Geology Trust volunteers.  It made for a very interesting morning.

On the way back we were shown some other cliff faces of this former quarry that had not been maintained.  In these patches, grass had developed in a relatively short space of time, hiding the geology beneath.  It was a good indication of why the work we did here was of value and hopefully will enable visitors to fully appreciate this unique site.

The entrance to Dry Sandford Pit

En-route to the work site

Denise provides some background information

Information board

Information sheet - page 1

Information sheet - page 2

Holes in the pit wall - home to solitary bees and wasps

Taking a closer look

The second of the two work areas

Work begins to clear the rocks of overgrowing vegetation

Fossilised coral

Section of cleared rock face

Adjacent overgrown area showing what would happen if the geo conservation work was not carried out

Examining the first area, now clear of plant growth

Homeward bound


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