Clements Quarry – A Geologist’s View

When he heard about the Community Council’s investigations into the feasability of putting a multi-storey car park into the site of the existing Quarry car park, Ronald L. Austin, a Senior Fellow of the Geological Society of London and retired academic, kindly produced the following report, which, having been granted his permission, we would like to share with you.

OLD QUARRY, CLEMENTS QUARRY, OYSTERMOUTH  (SS 615 884)

STATUS OF CLEMENTS QUARRY – an SSSI selected and protected by legislation for its geological importance, since it is the best outcrop of rocks collectively referred to both nationally and internationally, as the Oystermouth Beds. The rocks contain fossils, some first found at the locality, including Spirifer oystermouthensis (a brachiopod) and Triplophyllites oystermouthensis (a coral). The specific names of the fossils were given in recognition of the fact that they were first found in the village of Oystermouth. The brachiopod is illustrated on a feature map of the village that is on display outside Ostreme Hall.

LIMITS                    Quarry faces                LEGAL STATUS Mandatory Protection

OWNERSHIP Swansea City Council       ACCESS  ? Non- mandatory

BACKGROUND Geological Conservation is regarded internationally as of great importance in order to conserve features of scientific importance, which may also have educational value. The site at Clements’ Quarry has been recommended for protective status, since 1945, when it was listed as a controlled section in a publication of National Geological Resources (Chubb, 1945; see enclosure 1)

In the UK geographical conservation has been achieved by the selection of sites of Special Scientific Interest, or SSSI’s (see section 23 of the National Parks Access to Countryside Act 1949, re Sites of Special Scientific Interest).  By the middle 1970’s some 1300 geological sites, with SSSI status, were established, in the UK, each protected by legislation. In 1977 a National Geological Conservation Review was undertaken and it was the intention to publish a number of volumes at a total cost in excess of £1K. Each G.C.R. title, in the 42 volume series (see enclosure 2), describes a network of sites of national, or international importance in the context of a portion of the geographical column,, or a geological, palaeontological, geomorphological, or mineralogical topic. (Clements’ Quarry is described in volume 29 p. 444-445, see enclosure 3).  The rocks at Clements’ Quarry represent a small, but very important interval of geological time (rather like a rung on a rather long ladder). The rocks, it is stressed, are known nationally and internationally as The Oystermouth Beds. Each SSSI was selected not in isolation, but collectively and as such are fundamental to the understanding of the geological history of Great Britain (i.e. the long ladder analogy).

Post 1990 a network of Regionally Important Geological sites, or RIGS for short, have also been established, but they are not protected by legislation. In South Wales, Kendall and Humpage (2012) report on a South Wales RIGS Audit.. More recently Swansea County and City Council has requested a RIGS Audit (Trenbirth, 2016) of geological sites in the Swansea Area.

CURRENT SITUATION

  1. It is to be noted, that the Clements’ Quarry site is an SSSI due to its geological importance and significance. Nothing else (e.g. trees, birds, or wildlife) is relevant to the SSSI status.
  2. The site, being an SSSI , has mandatory protection. The fact that the site is in neglect does not in itself provide grounds for declassification. Indeed “some sites may have deteriorated and features originally used to justify their selection may not be visible at present. In such cases, provided these original features of interest still exist (i.e. the site has not been totally lost) and the site is deemed conservable, the original justification for selection still holds and the site will have been retained” (Cossey et al., 2004).
  3. It is no longer considered good practice to encourage the collection of fossils, or rocks from a site, such as Clements Quarry. There are both conservation and safety issues involved.

FUTURE OPTIONS REGARDING THE SITE

  1. Since the rocks are in the main, no longer visible, the site could be fenced off with railings and limited access being granted to responsible individuals, such as researchers, on special request to the City and County of Swansea. In so doing it is my understanding that the local authority, as owner of the site, would be acting within its rights.
  2. It could be argued that it is the responsibility of the local authority to make the rocks visible. However, if the site is cleared, in my opinion there would be an increased possibility of rock falls. Safety notices regarding the hazard of rock falls, as on the rocks in Caswell Bay, should be prominently displayed. Any potentially dangerous areas of loose rocks should be bolted and covered with wire mesh. If the site is indeed cleared to expose the rocks then there would be the need to continue with regular maintenance of the site.
  3. It may be possible to declassify the site and to give it RIGS (Regionally Important Geological Site) status. It would thus lose its protective status. The site could be cleared and maintained by volunteers and grants should be sought from a national Land -fill tax. It is likely that there would be strong opposition to this option from within the Geological Community, since the site would lose mandatory conservation status. The rocks in Clement’ Quarry and some of their contained fossils from a part of a national compilation of representative sites that have been selected (by experts, after length consideration of their merits (not in isolation, but in combination). Each selected site is fundamental to the understanding of the geological history of Britain. Thus this site should, in my opinion, retain its SSSI status.
  4. Clements Quarry has long been included as a locality to be visited by students studying Geology, as part of their education. (See Owen, 1958 and George, 2015 p.115)  It is my considered opinion that the importance of the site for geological educational purposes has declined significantly over the past sixty years. Collection of rock and fossil specimens from the site are discouraged for conservation reasons, at the present time.

PERSONAL CONCLUSION/RECOMMENDATION

  1. I see virtually no conflict of interest between the continuing existence of the geological SSSI and the possible building of a multi-storey car park at Clements Quarry.
  2. For geological education, (and also for local and visitor interest) I cannot overstate my belief in the importance of the creation of information boards – Information panels are designed and erected to explain the significance and importance of a site. Such an information board at Clements Quarry could describe and illustrate the rocks and fossils to explain why, the site has been chosen, as a geological SSSI. A likely problem is vandalism, but possibly the information boards could be located on the rock face side of the protective railings. A number of years ago Swansea Council placed information boards in the Quarry Car Park. . One panel related to Dylan Thomas and the second related to Mumbles Marble.  Both disappeared a few years ago.  It may be possible to obtain a grant, from The Curry Fund of the Geologists’ Association, to meet the costs of an information panel.
  3. I strongly favour fencing off with railings the site of geological interest, i.e. the rocks, with a gate providing access to any person for research purposes, who may apply to the Council for special permission to enter the site. (Hard hats to be worn at all times).
  4. Should a multi-storey car park be built then I strongly recommend the construction of a viewing platform to be strategically placed so that the rock sequence could be viewed from an elevated position.
  5. Tidying of the site, placement of railings and any mesh or safety measures and  safety notices together with an information board and possible viewing platform should, in my opinion, be a condition attached to the granting of  any permission to build a multi-story car park

 

Note:    Natural Resources Wales, Llansamlet, Local contact, regarding SSSI, Ceri Roger.

Contact geologists:- Geraint Owen and Hazel Trenbith, Swansea University

Planning Department City and County of Swansea, conservation section. Contact Deb Hill, ecologist.

 

SELECTED REFERENCES

Burek, C.V. and Prosser, C.D., Eds., 2008. The History of Geoconservation. Geological Society of London, Special Publication No. 300, 312pp

Chubb, L., 1945. National Geological Reserves in England and Wales. Report by the Geological Resources Subcommittee of the Nature Reserves Investigation Committee, British Museum, London, p. 1-41.

Cossey, P.J. et. al., 2004. British Lower Carboniferous Stratigraphy Geological Conservation Review Series No 29. Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Peterborough, 616 pp. (see internet)

Ellis, N.V., Bowen, D.G., Campbell, S. et al., 1996. An Introduction to the G.C.R. G.C.R. Series No 1. Joint Nature Conservations Committee (see internet)

George, G.T., 2015. The Geology of South Wales. A Field Guide Second  Edition .Geoserv Publishing, 282 pp.

Kendall, R. and Humpage , A., 2012 . South Wales Rigs Audit .1.  BGS Report CR/12/033.

Owen, T.R. ,1958 . A geological excursion to the Mumbles area. Gower, 11, p. 26-28

Trenbirth, H.E., 2016. Sites of geological and landscape interest in the City and County of Swansea. Audit of potential Regionally Important Geological and Geomorphological (Geodiversity)  Sites  (RIGS) in the Swansea area. A Swansea University Report 34pp

 

Ronald. L. Austin

Ronald. L. Austin is a retired academic (University of Southampton) and a former Chartered Geologist with expertise, especially in aspects of micropalaementology and rocks of Lower Carboniferous age. In 1994 he was elected the first Honorary Life Member of the British Micropalaentological Society for services to that society.

Currently a Senior Fellow of the Geological Society of London he has published extensively and travelled widely in Western Europe and the U.S.A. A member of the Geologists’ Association (and its South Wales Branch) and is one of the original members of the Welsh Stone Forum. He has been involved with aspects of geological conservation , since 1965 and has acted as a consultant to UK organisations concerned with geological conservation.