Hastings to Pett Beach SSSI - Section 2

Coastal section: Ecclesbourne Glen to Fairlight Cove

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

Grid Reference: TQ837100 to TQ880119

Click locations on map to view photos

Site access:
The western part of the site is accessible along the foreshore from the eastern end of the waterfront at Hastings where there is a car park. Access to the eastern part of the site is along the foreshore from Pett Beach where there is a small car park and parking by the road. The foreshore along the central part of the site is also accessible from the footpath down Fairlight Glen but care must be taken through the lower section which is affected by landslipping.

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. Extreme care should be taken if approaching cliffs. However there is plenty of fallen debris on the beach for examination.

Summary description 16/04/2011 & 24/08/2011
(from East Sussex RIGS Survey 2011)

Interest Feature(s)

Bedrock: 5 km of cliffs and foreshore exposing Ashdown Formation sandstones and mudstones and the overlying lower Wadhurst Clay Formation (including the Cliff End Sandstone). Cliffs are up to 100 m high and undefended. The exposures cut across the Fairlight Anticline.
Stratigraphy: Ashdown and Wadhurst Clay Formations, Hastings Beds Subgroup, Wealden Group, Lower Cretaceous (Berriasian to Valanginian) in age.
Sedimentology: The lower Ashdown Formation comprises silty mudstones with thin sandstones, including the conspicuous Lee Ness Sandstone. The mudstones are variously mottled and oxidized while the siltstones are often iron-stained and relatively massive.
The upper Ashdown Formation comprises mostly siltstones and sandstones, with subordinate varicoloured or lignitic mudstone units.
The Wadhurst Clay Formation comprises mudstones, siltstones and sandstones including the conspicuous Cliff End Sandstone.
Sedimentary structures: Sedimentary structures on all scales are superbly displayed, the largest visible for long distances. Examples in the Ashdown are upward-fining, low-angle point bar sequences and various types of channel and cross-bedded sandstone (up to 10 m thick and traceable for up to 0.5 km). In the Wadhurst Formation, pro-fandelta to top-fan delta sequences are seen in the lower and upper divisions respectively of the Cliff End Sandstone Member (10 m).
Structural geology: the exposures cut across the Fairlight Anticline. The oldest Ashdown strata (lower Ashdown mudstones) are preserved in the core of the anticline between Lee Ness and Goldbury Point. Accordingly, sections of the youngest beds are best seen towards the south-western end of this section and to the northeast beyond Fairlight Cove.
Palaeontology: The cliffs between Covehurst Wood and Lee Ness Ledge provide the best known and most productive site for the "Fairlight Clay" (lower Ashdown) flora. This flora is the most important of those found in the British Wealden deposits, containing a wide variety of algae, mosses, pteridophytes and gymnosperms. The fossils are exceptionally well preserved, and include more or less whole cycad and bennettitite fronds.
Sandstone bed tops in the lower Ashdown sometimes contain upright plant stems (Lycopodites). Four such occurrences have been recorded at Ecclesbourne Glen.
Mudstone/sandstone interfaces near the base of the Ashdown succession preserve tracks of iguanodontid and theropod dinosaurs, well seen on the underside of the Lee Ness Sandstone.
Locally, as at Ecclesbourne Glen, the lower beds of the Wadhurst Clay are penetrated by rootlets. Rock debris on the shore between Ecclesbourne Glen and the Covehurst Wood landslips includes clay-ironstone packed with compacted, disarticulated Neomiodon as well as a variety of 'Tilgate stone' containing scattered Viviparus cf. cariniferus and fully articulated spar-filled Neomiodon in inferred life position.

SSSI Reasons for Notification - edited extracts relevant to Ecclesbourne Glen to Fairlight Cove section:

The cliffs between Covehurst Wood and Lee Ness Ledge provide the best known and most productive site for the Fairlight Clay flora. This flora is the most important of those found in the British Wealden deposits, containing a wide variety of algae, mosses, pteridophytes and gymnosperms. The fossils are exceptionally well preserved, and include more or less whole cycad and bennettitite fronds. Cuticles are also often present. Their flora is comparable with the famous Wealden floras found in Belgium and north west Germany. In Britain it is unique for its abundance and diversity, and is without doubt our most important Cretaceous fossil plant site.

Animal fossils, entirely non-marine, include trace fossils, estherids, insects, molluscs, fish, reptile (crocodile, turtles, dinosaurs, pterosaurs) and early mammals. The Cliff End Pebble Bed (Telham Pebble Bed) which is a rich repository of these, lies in the lower Wadhurst Clay above the Cliff End Sandstone Member. Dinosaur footprints are abundant in the Covehurst (Lee Ness) Sandstone Member at the base of the Ashdown Group).

GCR Site Account - edited extracts relevant to Ecclesbourne - Fairlight section:

Block: Wealden (Site Code 2725)
Ashdown Formation

The oldest Ashdown strata (erstwhile 'Fairlight Clays') are preserved in the core of the anticline between Lee Ness and Goldbury Point. The mudstones are variously mottled and oxidized. Many display in situ rootlet traces and sometimes thin upright stems, mudcracks, lenses of intraformational breccia , and sphaerosiderite concretions. More rarely, darker plant-rich units occur. These beds presumably yielded the celebrated 'Fairlight flora' dominated by diverse pteridophytes and gymnosperms. Hughes (1975) rediscovered certain elements (including well-preserved benettitalean fronds, Araucarites cones and other leaves), principally in rock falls between Warren Glen (TQ 858108) and Lee Ness. Plant debris beds yield abundant cuticle assemblages and the muds and silts contain humic debris, fungal remains, freshwater algae, megaspores, miospores and freshwater bivalves.

Approximately 10 m above the base of the lower Ashdown succession, the Lee Ness Sandstone (traceable for 1 km east of Lee Ness Ledge) is a coarsening-upward unit, 2 m thick. Cross lamination, 'rib and furrow' structure, load casting and bioturbation are common. Mudstone/sandstone interfaces near the base of the Ashdown succession preserve tracks of iguanodontid and theropod dinosaurs, well seen on the underside of the Lee Ness Sandstone.

The middle and upper Ashdown Beds are mostly siltstones and sandstones, with subordinate varicoloured or lignitic mudstone units. Many fill scours and channels of a wide range of sizes. Mud-flake intraformational conglomerates, nodular sphaerosiderite and large tridactyl footprints and trackways occur at numerous levels. Sparse bivalves (Neomiodon, 'Unio'), gastropod operculae, ostracods, conchostracans, insects and fish debris occur locally. Palynomorphs are often abundant, including freshwater algae, miospores and megaspores. Fragments of plant cuticle feature in the scattered plant debris beds. Black wood fragments in oxidized lithologies are classified as inertinite. The sand bodies include erosionally based trough cross-bedded units of widely variable size, some floored by lag-conglomerate. Occasionally they are seen to fill channels up to 10 m deep, for example 500 m east of Ecclesbourne Glen (TQ 841100).

The highest 10-15 m of the Ashdown Beds comprise 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 are frequent. The sands display much minor channelling, cross-lamination, planar bedding, wavy bedding and slumping. Eastwards across Ecclesbourne Glen a lateral transition is traceable from a massive planar cross-bedded lithofacies to thinner-bedded sandstones and minor silts which are much cross-bedded in the lower part.

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 - edited extracts relevant to Ecclesbourne - Fairlight section:

Block: Wealden (Site Code 2725)
Wadhurst Clay Formation

Above the Top Ashdown pebble bed, the bulk of the Wadhurst Clay Formation is dominated by mudstones, siltstones and sandstones; the latter including the conspicuous Cliff End Sandstone Member.

The basal 1-3 m comprise 'typical' Wadhurst dark shaly mudstone and siltstone with ostracods and occasional burrows.

The Cliff End Sandstone (up to 10 m thick) rests on an erosion surface with marked relief, cutting down in places to within 1 m of the Top Ashdown Pebble Bed . Thus the characteristic Basal Wadhurst Passage Beds are locally incomplete as at the Winchelsea site; the Brede Equisetites lyellii Soil Bed being known only at Ecclesbourne.

Laminated Wadhurst mudstones with lenticular siltstones and nodular sideritic clay-ironstone overlie the Cliff End Sandstone. These contain plant and vertebrate debris, bivalves (Neomiodon) and ostracods. Bioturbated horizons include small bivalve traces probably attributable to Neomiodon. Locally, as at Ecclesbourne Glen, the lower beds are penetrated by rootlets. Rock debris on the shore between Ecclesbourne Glen and the Covehurst Wood landslips (TQ 838099-TQ 848102) includes clay-ironstone packed with compacted, disarticulated Neomiodon as well as a variety of 'Tilgate stone' containing scattered Viviparus and fully articulated spar-filled Neomiodon in inferred life position.

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 - edited extracts relevant to Ecclesbourne - Fairlight section:

Block: Jurassic-Cretaceous Reptilia (Site Code 918)
The cliff sections east of Hastings have been renowned for 150 years for finds of fossil reptile bones and footprints. Bones and footprints seem to have been found at all levels in the section and from several sites including Ecclesbourne Glen (crocodilian and dinosaur bones from detached blocks).

Casts of footprints of Iguanodon have been recorded from the undersurface of blocks of Lee Ness Sandstone at Lee Ness Ledge.

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

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

GCR Potential Site Account:

Block: Mesozoic-Tertiary Fish/Amphibia

(See site descriptions for Foul Ness, Fairlight Cove and Cliff End Local Geological Sites and site overview description for Hastings Cliffs to Pett Beach SSSI)

« Site Overview
« Previous Section | Next Section »


  :Link to this page

 

Copyright Sussex Biodiversity Records Centre © 2020