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Durham University

Department of Geography

Departmental Research Projects

Publication details

Davies, B.J., Roberts, D.H., Bridgland, D.R., Ó Cofaigh, C., Riding, J.B., Demarchi, B., Penkman, K.E.H & Pawley, S.M. Timing and depositional environments of a Middle Pleistocene glaciation of northeast England: New evidence from Warren House Gill, County Durham. Quaternary Science Reviews. 2010.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

At various times during the Quaternary, north-eastern England was a zone of confluence between dynamic ice lobes sourced from the Pennines, northern Scotland, the Cheviots, and Scandinavia. The region thus has some of the most complex exposures of Middle to Late Pleistocene sediments in Britain, with both interglacial and glacial sediments deposited in terrestrial and marine settings. We investigated sedimentary sequences exposed on the coastline of County Durham at Warren House Gill, and present a new model of British and Fennoscandian Ice Sheet interaction in the North Sea Basin during the Middle Pleistocene.

The stratigraphy at Warren House Gill consists of a lower diamicton and upper estuarine sediments, both part of the Warren House Formation. They are separated from the overlying Weichselian Blackhall and Horden tills by a substantial unconformity. The lower diamicton of the Warren House Formation is re-interpreted here as an MIS 8 to 12 glaciomarine deposit containing ice-rafted lithics from north-eastern Scotland and the northeast North Sea, and is renamed the ‘Ash Gill Member’. It is dated by lithological comparison to the Easington Raised Beach, Middle Pleistocene Amino Acid Racemisation values, and indirectly by optically stimulated luminescence. The overlying shallow subaqueous sediments were deposited in an estuarine environment by suspension settling and bottom current activity. They are named the ‘Whitesides Member’, and form the uppermost member of the Warren House Formation. During glaciation, ice-rafted material was deposited in a marine embayment. There is no evidence of a grounded, onshore Scandinavian ice sheet in County Durham during MIS 6, which has long been held as the accepted stratigraphy. This has major implications for the currently accepted British Quaternary Stratigraphy. Combined with recent work on the Middle Pleistocene North Sea Drift from Norfolk, which is now suggested to have been deposited by a Scottish ice sheet, the presence of a Scandinavian ice sheet in eastern England at any time during the Quaternary is becoming increasingly doubtful.

Department of Geography