Hastings to Pett Beach SSSI - Section 1

Coastal Section: Foul Ness
Sussex RIGS number: TQ81/14

Forms part of Hastings Cliffs to Pett Beach SSSI designated for its geological and biodiversity value (Site Code 1000193)

Forms part of Hastings to Pett Level Geological Conservation Review (GCR) Site
   Block: Wealden (Site Code 2725)
Forms part of Hastings Geological Conservation Review (GCR) Site
   Block: Jurassic-Cretaceous Reptilia (Site Code 918)
   Block: Mesozoic-Tertiary Fish/Amphibia (Potential Site)

Grid Reference: TQ829940 to TQ837100

Click locations on map to view photos

Site access:
The site is accessible from the east end of the waterfront at Hastings where there is a car park.

The foreshore is only accessible at low tide and the wavecut platform has variable sand and shingle cover. Cliffs are visible from the foreshore but the access is difficult due to the height and potential for rockfalls. However there is plenty of fallen debris on the beach for examination.

Summary description 24/08/2011
(from East Sussex RIGS Survey 2011)

RIGS Designation Details:

Stratigraphy: this cliff exposes Wadhurst Clay (including the Cliff End Sandstone) and Ashdown Formations within the Hastings Group of the Lower Cretaceous. The sediments are interpreted as having been laid down in an environment of a meander plain, coastal braid plain and fan-delta.
Sedimentology: highly varied grey, white, yellow, mudstones, shales, siltstones and sandstones, with ironstones and sphaerosideritic mudstones, and iron enrichment along lamellae. Varieties of calcareous 'Tilgate Stone' from the basal Wadhurst Clay.
Sedimentary structures: a variety of structures are visible on the fallen blocks on the shore including the following; small and large scale cross bedding, ripple marks, raindrops, dewatering structures.
Palaeontology: beds with plant debris and lignite are present. Dinosaur footprints have been found. Vertical root traces are present in the Cliff End Sandstone. Trace fossils and bivalve impressions have also been found. Sections of the tree fern Tempskya are occasionally eroded out of the basal Wadhurst Clay. Conchostracans and caddis fly larval tubes have also been found.
Structural geology: the Foul Ness fault crosses the cliff top at an acute angle trending WNW-ESE with a downthrow of 17 degrees to the NE.
Geomorphology: the cliffs demonstrate coastal erosion, with slipped masses of sandstone and rock debris. On the foreshore, the more resistant blocks have been wave-sculptured.
Historical background: these cliffs have been studied for over 150 years.SSSI: this site is an SSSI for both geological and biological reasons. The beach and clifftop flora are of great importance.
Educational value: These 70m high cliffs demonstrate an excellent sequence of sediments of the upper Ashdown Formation and the junction with the Wadhurst Clay. The Wadhurst Clay sequence includes 7m of Cliff End Sandstone. These cliff sections form part of the type sequence for the Hastings Group. Although the cliffs are high and dangerous due to falls the abundant blocks on the foreshore provide ample material to examine the varied sedimentary structures, trace fossils and occasional footprints.

SSSI Reasons for Notification:

(For details see separate site description for Hastings Cliffs to Pett Levels SSSI)

GCR Site Account - edited extracts specific to Foul Ness site:

Block: Wealden (Site Code 2725)

The highest 10-15 m of the Ashdown Beds comprise broadly coarsening-upward poorly cemented sandstones and thinner silts, seen for instance between the East Hill cliffs and Ecclesbourne Glen. Rootlets, plant debris, mud-flake conglomerates and scattered sphaerosiderites (variably oxidized) are frequent. The sands display much minor channelling, cross-lamination, planar bedding, wavy bedding and slumping; and at least one channel fill is capped by a thin iron-pan. Laterally persistent rootlet horizons and iron-pans at about 20-30 m have been recognised below the top of the Ashdown Beds between East Cliff and the Foul Ness Fault (TQ 831096-833097).

At East Hill (TQ 830096) the lower part (of the Cliff End Sandstone) contains upright ?Lycopodites (possible clubmoss) stems. A rich assemblage of caddisfly cases has been found in the upper Ashdown Beds at East Cliff (TQ83000955), some constructed from conchostracan valves and molluscan shell fragments.

Extracted from Radley, D.J. and Allen, P. 2012. The Wealden (non-marine Lower Cretaceous) of the Weald Sub-basin, southern England. Proceedings of the Geologists' Association 123, 245-318.

GCR Site Account - extracts:

Block: Jurassic-Cretaceous Reptilia (Site Code 918)

The Early Cretaceous sandstones and shales that outcrop along the coast and foreshore east of Hastings have been famous for 150 years for specimens of dinosaurs, crocodilians, turtles and footprints.

The most varied faunas of Early Cretaceous dinosaurs are known from the Wealden of Europe. One of the best of these faunas is from the Hastings Beds in their type area and the fossils include skeletons and footprints. Moreover, this is the only extensive, eroding coastal setting in these non-marine strata, which therefore has considerable potential for future finds. Previous finds include a selection of terrestrial and aquatic reptiles - two genera of turtles, four genera of crocodilians, one genus of theropod, two of sauropods, three of ornithischians, one genus of pterosaur and one plesiosaur.

Extracted from the Geological Conservation Review
Volume 39: Fossil Reptiles of Great Britain (1995)

GCR Potential Site Account - edited extracts:

Block: Mesozoic-Tertiary Fish/Amphibia

The Early Cretaceous sandstones and shales that crop out along the East Sussex coast and foreshore east of Hastings have been famous for 100 years for specimens of fossil selachians and bony fishes.

Most of the fossil fish finds have been made from the Wadhurst Clay at Hastings, East Cliff and Cliff End.

Hastings is the type locality for the hybodont shark Hybodus parvidens, and two species of the pycnodont fish Coelodus, recovered from the Wadhurst Clay beds. A primitive actinopterygian has also been recovered from the Wadhurst Clay.

Extracted from the Geological Conservation Review Volume 16: Fossil Fishes of Great Britain (1999)

(See also site descriptions for Cliff End and Fairlight Cove Local Geological Sites and separate site description for Hastings Cliffs to Pett Beach SSSI)

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