Posted by: lensweb | July 12, 2012

Rock around the Campus

July 9th 2012.   Nottingham University – Rock around the Campus, a geological walk round University Park.

Met at the visitors’ car park on Science Road. Enter from University Boulevard, South Entrance, turn right before gate house and car park is immediately on the left (free after 4.30pm).

Grid ref. SK 546 383
Leader:  Gerry Shaw

Nottingham University has a proud history of geology, and the rock around the campus walk not only encompasses the unique fault geology with exposures at key sites but also the stones used to build, face and pave the monumental edifices of learning.

Gerry’s famous model which illustrates the role of faults in the creation of the park landscape keened our interest.  We could see how over time, the Sherwood (Bunter) sandstone which had started on top of the Lenton (lower mottled) sandstone, ended up next to it – with a band of Mercian mudstone (Keuper marl) in the middle, the lake.

Gerry Shaw fossils image

Gerry shows cannonball limestone ‘fossils’. Photo © M. Bryce

By a tarmac route we paused to admire the ‘fossils’ on the old Geology Building and were surprised that they were actually made of cannonball limestone from South Shields. Splashing through a typical mudstone feature (standing water) we looked towards Keighton Hill where archaological excavation has revealed tiles made for Lenton Abbey. Portland Copse is the site of the old clay quarry.  We were distracted for a few minutes watching a bank vole feasting on hogweed seeds but soon our eyes were feasting on an exposure of the Radcliffe formation with its pseudomorphs of salt crystals, hidden, right by the lake.

Bank vole image

A hungry bank vole. Photo © M. Bryce

The Portland and Trent Buildings loomed like huge white whales in an ocean of green.  Gerry pointed out that to prevent these fine stone constructions sliding into the lake, an elaborate parapet made of carboniferous limestone from Standcliffe made an effective buttress. At the steps we were standing on the Clifton fault next to one of the best exposures of Lenton sandstone with ancient riverside caves The yellow sandstone held together with clay is cross bedded left to right and bands of yellow precipitated iron move through the rock.

The mysterious Bassingfield stone sited in the garden on the top of the cliff is a carved glacial erratic of hornblend schist from SW Scotland.

Bassingfield Stone image

The mysterious Bassingfield Stone. Photo © M. Bryce

Hand lenses were needed to see the fine pearl structure of the oolitic limestone in the Portland stone of the Trent Building.  Strolling across echoing slabs of Derbyshire limestone we could see ancient corals and jagged cracks, stylolites which were clay bands of weakness in the rocks.

We were unable to see the towering black Belgian limestone columns with fossils in the great hall but in the botanic gardens we saw a living fossil, the Maidenhair tree, Gingko biloba.  In the UK we normally only find the male of the ‘silver apricot’ as many people cannot stand the smell of the edible fruit. For many years it was thought to be extinct in the wild but it has been preserved by monks in Eastern China. On the skyline, through a gap in the trees we could see Nottingham Castle on its cliff of Lenton sandstone which in 1996 was subject to catastrophic collapse , but has since been restored.

Cut Through Lane follows the Clifton fault line between the fine, soft, red Lenton sandstone and the harder yellower Sherwood sandstone.  Keighton Auditorium has been finely engineered to house a lens of Lenton Sandstone. Crossing the faultline we admired a red cliff before scaling the amazing Lenton Firs rock garden up to the summerhouse. The rocks were a mixture; Bulwell stone (with rhombs), Lancashire sandstone slabs and, to our surprise, some Pultiham artificial stone.

On the way back to the car park we peeped into the Physics building to see the polished slabs of dark Derbyshire crinoidal limestone which has weathered so badly on the outside of the buildings, Gerry left us with the words of the great geologist Adam Sedgewick “I cannot promise to teach you all geology, I can only fire your imaginations”. 

Well, we were amazed, not only at our adventure which had taken us through warm tropical seas, deserts and glaciers but IT HAD NOT RAINED!

Marion Bryce

Related Links;

Rock around the Campus (geological walk guide in pdf format).

East Midlands Geological Society


  1. HI Marion liked your account and pic of bank vole.I must be careful what I say as you seem to have good reporting skils. Some mixing up of Lenton sandstone with sherwood ie at caves(Sherwood or Bunter). Enjoyed the walk’ regards gerry

  2. Another highly readable article after an excellent evening. Many thanks to Gerry, Marion and all involved. It was a bonus seing the bank vole – great photo.


%d bloggers like this: