Whitby Rock


Richard Bell's Wild West Yorkshire nature diary, Wednesday, 16th May, 2007, North Yorkshire

KettlenessspurgeTHE PROFILE of the headland of Sandsend Ness, two miles west of Whitby, has been nibbled into by quarrying activity. The Jurassic shales of the cliff top were processed, by a complicated process that involved baking and soaking, to make alum, an essential ingredient in dying textiles and leatherworking. In the mid-nineteenth century the alum industry moved to the coalfields when a more efficient process of producing the salts was developed.

In the 1880s, long after the collapse of the local alum industry, a railway was constructed along the cliff top with the intention of transporting iron ore to Teeside but the scheme never flourished and the line closed in 1958.

Rapakivi Granite

Rapakivi graniteIn Cornish and Dartmoor granites the large fleshy-looking feldspar crystals are often rectangular, dotted around in the matrix of smaller rock crystals like a scattering of matchboxes seen edge-on. In Rapakivi granite – which is found in parts of Scandinavia – the feldspars have been remelted during the process of crystallisation, giving them rounded edges, like half-melted ice cubes. The tables at Trencher's Fish and Chip restaurant in Whitby are made of slabs of this granite.

sandstoneDinosaur Delta

noduleThere are layers of nodular ironstone in buff sandstone 100 yards west of the beach huts at Westcliff. The Jurassic sandstones around Whitby date from about 180 million years ago. They were laid down in a river delta at a time when dinosaurs such as Megalosaurus, Cetiosaurus and Camptosaurus roamed on land.