Westaway, R., Bridgland, D.R., White, T.S., Howard, A.J. & White, M.J.
(2015). The use of uplift modelling in the reconstruction of drainage development and landscape evolution in the repeatedly glaciated Trent catchment, English Midlands, UK. Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association 126
Author(s) from Durham
The Trent Valley Palaeolithic Project has recently investigated the Quaternary evolution of the River Trent, the northernmost river system in western Europe with a documented long-timescale terrace staircase. The uppermost and lowermost reaches of the Trent, which drains the English Midlands, were glaciated during Marine oxygen Isotope Stage (MIS) 2, but older fluvial terraces dating back to MIS 8 are preserved in the remainder of the catchment, delineating the former course through the Lincoln Gap and across the Fen Basin (the modern course to the Humber estuary dating only from the latest Pleistocene). Numerical modelling enables lateral variations in uplift across the catchment to be deduced from differences in height of these fluvial terraces above the modern valley floor. Uplift rates thus indicated over the last two climate cycles attain values of ∼0.08 mm a−1 around Nottingham and Derby in the middle reach of the Trent, but are significantly lower elsewhere in the catchment; these variations are shown to relate to lateral variations in crustal properties, primarily variations in radioactive heat production in the underlying continental crust. Glaciation during the late Middle Pleistocene (MIS 8) caused significant changes to the Trent catchment, including the integration of the modern Upper Trent with the rest of the system. Older sedimentary evidence is much more fragmentary, but is used along with the results of the uplift modelling to reconstruct the earlier drainage. It is thus inferred that between the Anglian (MIS 12) and Wragby (MIS 8) glaciations the Trent already flowed into the Fen Basin via the Lincoln Gap, but the smaller-than-present catchment, indicated by gravel lithology, resulted in a much steeper longitudinal gradient, such that during interglacials (MIS 11 and 9) an elongated estuary would have developed, extending inland almost to the present location of Newark. Prior to the Anglian, much of the modern Trent catchment, including the rivers Derwent and Dove, drained into the former Bytham River. The modern Middle Trent catchment downstream of Nottingham was drained by a relatively small ‘Ancaster Trent’ river, which flowed above the Ancaster Gap; analysis of gravel lithology suggests that it probably joined the Bytham in the area that now forms the Fen Basin.