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Durham University

Department of Geography

Departmental Research Projects

Publication details

Bridgland, D.R., Howard, A.J., White, M.J., White, T.S. & Westaway, R. New insight into the Quaternary evolution of the River Trent, UK. Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association. 2015;126:466-479.

Author(s) from Durham


An exhaustive review of geological, palaeontological and archaeological data, coupled with selected new research and dating programmes using optically stimulated luminescence and amino acid racemization, has provided new insights into the origin and Quaternary evolution of the Trent river system. An important component of the new research was uplift/incision modelling based on the river-terrace archives from the greater Trent system, but also including dated speleothems in the southern Pennine valleys. The Trent came into existence following the Anglian (MIS 12) glaciation as a river draining the Dove, Derwent and Soar catchments via the Lincoln Gap and the newly eroded Fen Basin. Prior to that glaciation much of what is now the Trent catchment was drained by the Bytham system, which had its main axis significantly further south and flowed to the North Sea via East Anglia. Eastward Middle-Trent drainage from Derby to Nottingham only began with deglaciation of MIS 8 (Wragby glaciation) ice, which reached at least to the lower Soar and the Fen Basin. The widespread preservation of MIS 7 interglacial deposits in the Lower Trent and in Fen Basin valleys implies that no subsequent glaciation affected these areas. Late Devensian (MIS 2) ice reached the uppermost and lowermost Trent, possibly effecting diversion of the river into the Yorkshire Ouse, following overflow and subsequent emptying of Glacial Lake Humber.

Department of Geography