4 Weston Cliff to Beer



66 to 89 million years ago (MYA).

Upper chalk. The Chalk Group exposed within the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site (WHS) comprises up to 400 metres of chalks composed dominantly of calcareous nannofossils. Traditionally, the succession is divided into the Lower, Middle and Upper Chalk, although this classification is inappropriate in east Devon. On the coast of Purbeck the Chalk forms spectacular cliffs at Bat’s Head and White Nothe between Worbarrow Bay and Lulworth Cove and at Ballard Head. In East Devon it is about 100 metres thick, and is seen within the cliffs between Lyme Regis and Branscombe, and occurs as isolated outliers between Branscombe and Sidmouth. The Upper Chalk consists of variously nodular, flinty, slightly marly and smooth white chalks which display conspicuous bedding that is picked out by lines of flints, marls and beds of harder chalk. Diverse calcitic faunas of bivalves, brachiopods, belemnites, corals, echinoderms, bryozoans, serpulid worms, fish and a few reptiles have been found in the Upper Chalk within the Jurassic Coast WHS. The sections in the vicinity of Beer, and between White Nothe and Ballard are particularly valuable as reference sections for the chalks of southern England.

90 to 94 MYA.

Middle chalk. The Middle Chalk is present throughout the area, the lower part comprising very fossiliferous hard nodular limestone. In east Devon this yields important ammonite faunas of the latest Cenomanian and earliest Turonian age that are not found elsewhere in the UK, in addition to abundant bivalves of the genus Mytiloides. The Chalk in the Beer area includes the famous Beer Stone, a soft inoceramid-rich chalk that hardens into a fine ornamental building stone on exposure to the air. The overlying, softer, New Pit Formation is locally flinty in east Devon and while poorly fossiliferous in the field, nevertheless contains an highly diagnostic and abundant fauna of planktonic foraminifera, ostracods and calcareous nannofossils, all of which can be used for regional and international


95 to 100 MYA.

The Lower Chalk comprises marly chalks, often rhythmically bedded, which are rather sparsely fossiliferous in the field, but which contain abundant microfossils typical of the Cenomanian Stage. The basal bed of the Lower Chalk (also known as the Basement Bed or Glauconitic Marl) locally contains an abundant macrofauna of beautifully preserved phosphatised ammonites and other molluscs which are very important for inter-regional correlation. The Lower Chalk shows progressive onlap to the west with a basal conglomerate of the chalk facies younging from West Purbeck (Middle Cenomanian) westwards to Devon (late Cenomanian). The Lower Chalk is absent in west Dorset and east Devon, where it is replaced by a succession of thin, fossiliferous, sandy limestones called the Beer Head or Cenomanian Limestones.

101 to 109 MYA.

The Upper Greensand Formation within the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site (WHS) is a glauconite-rich succession of sandstones and calcarenites, with thin sandy limestones (usually concentrations of shell debris) and dark brown splintery cherts. In east Devon the chert-rich sandstones reach their maximum thickness (c. 25 metres). In this area, the cherts are characterised by the presence of sedimentary bedding. Trace fossils and other macrofauna visible within the silica concentrations confirm that the cherts are replacement features within the diagenetic history of the sediment. The uppermost sandstones in west Dorset and east Devon are characterised by glauconite-rich cross-bedded sandstones that form a quite distinctive building stone. The macrofauna is dominated by the bivalves, especially Exogyra spp., although gastropods and echinoids are also well known. The Perinflatum Subzone is an important phosphatised horizon at the top of the formation in Punfield Cove. The microfauna is quite restricted due to preservational problems, although the sandstones of east Devon have yielded Orbitolina sefini.


209 to 237 MYA

Mercia Mudstone. Exposed between Sidmouth and Branscombe, between Seaton Hole and Culverhole Point, and at Charton Bay; it succeeds the Otter Sandstone conformably. It is overlain, above an angular unconformity, by westward overstepping Cretaceous rocks; continuity of exposure of the group is broken between Branscombe and Seaton by a combination of faulting and the effect of this unconformity. Between Weston Mouth and Branscombe, and at Charton Bay, exposure is affected by landslip. The group consists largely of red-brown mudstones, with some grey-green or silty beds. Fossiliferous dolomitic sandstones and grey-green mudstones (Weston Mouth Sandstone Member) are exposed around Weston Mouth, and higher beds near Branscombe contain large amounts of gypsum. The highest unit in the group, seen east of Seaton, comprises mainly grey-green sediments (Blue Anchor Formation). The dominant sediments of the group accumulated in playas and sabkhas under subaerial and subaqueous conditions; water was of mixed continental and marine origin, and evaporitic conditions resulted in the formation of gypsum and, elsewhere in the Wessex Basin, halite. The Weston Mouth Sandstone represents a brief estuarine episode. The Blue Anchor Formation represents a transition from dominantly continental to dominantly marine influences. Magnetostratigraphic work indicates that the base of the group is Ladinian (Late-Mid Triassic) in age. Carnian-Rhaetian ages are indicated by palynomorphs from the middle and upper parts of the Group.