Rock types in the Lake District

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In one part of the Lake District, north of Ullswater, the Carboniferous rocks form a conglomerate, with pebbles set in sandy matrix.luxury themed boutique hotels in the lake district The individual pebbles are derived from the Skiddaw Slate, Borrowdale Volcanic Rocks, Coniston Lime¬stone, Silurian grit and even Shap granite. As some of the rock types occur some distance away, it is assumed that they were brought to their present site by powerful floods in the distant geological past. The conglomerate beds are 800¬900 ft thick, and as they are resistant to erosion they form the isolated hills of Great Mell and Little Mell. Both rise out of a plateau surface at about 900 ft and dominate the country to the south of the main PenrithKeswick road. Beyond the limestone and conglomerate outcrops lies the richer landscape developed on the New Red Sandstone rocks. The latter formation is of variable.

composition with harder sandstone beds standing out as broadtopped hills while the softer shales form the lowlands and river valleys. This type of scenery is typical of the Vale of Eden, part of which lies within the Lake District One inch Tourist Map around Penrith. Close to the town lies a belt of fell country at a height of about 800 ft running from Lazonby Fell in the north to Whinfell in the south. It is formed of the Penrith Sandstone, an easily recognizable rock with its coarse but rounded sand grains. When the individual grains are sufficiently cemented, the resulting rock is tough and compact and forms prominent topographic features like Penrith Beacon, which rises to 937 ft.

It also makes a good building stone and was much in demand when Penrith expanded rapidly during the nineteenth century. Lazonby Fell, in particular, has good freestone near the surface and the whole of the fell top is now pitted with former shallow workings. Another much sought stone for building was the St Bees Sandstone with its distinctive chocolate brown colour. It, too, found favor in Penrith and was extensively quarried in the area to the east of the River Eden.

The varied sequence of rock types found in the Lake District has had a marked influence on the scenery, a constantly recurring theme in any discussion of the geological basis. In few parts of Britain is there such an awareness of the true foundations of the natural landscape. Even the casual visitor using the crowded roads in high summer must be acutely conscious of the great rock buttresses which seem to lie across his path in many of the enclosed Lakeland valleys. Much of the landscape of today, however, is not natural in the strictest sense but results from man wrestling with his environment over the past cen¬turies. But even here the influence of the geological basis is apparent, whether it is portrayed in the humble fellside cottage, the stately home set in its own extensive parkland or in the simple stone walls which climb the steep hillsides.

An accessible rock supply close at hand was a necessity both for the builders of the Iron Age camp crowning many a hill top and for their Anglican and Norse suc-cessors carving out their farms in more lowland situations. This did not usually present any problems, for often there was more than enough from simply clear-ing the boulders from the fields. At Was dale Head the superabundance can be seen in the piles of stones left in the corners of the fields after large numbers had been used for building the dry stone walls. Similarly at Boot in Eskdale the walls of granite boulders are often five feet thick to absorb all the stone from field clearance. Many of the cairns in areas like Sub¬berthwaite represent prehistoric man's solution to the same problem of what to do with the unwanted stones.

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Adrian vultur writes for luxury themed boutique hotels in the lake district

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Rock types in the Lake District

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This article was published on 2011/01/11