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The River

The Environmental Issue


The Coal Industry

The Clay industry

The Woollen industry: A History Mystery










Cross Curricular



Visit the rock gallery

Rocks of Haltwhistle Burn

More about geology

Rocks and Soils


The rocks of the Haltwhistle burn were laid down over a period of about 10 million years around 330 million years ago during the Carboniferous Period.

Northumberland, at the time, lay closer to the equator and the area was subject to repeated changes in sea level. Vast areas of marine deposits can be seen at the top of the Burn as deep layers of limestone interspersed with thinner bands of mudstone/shale. These have yielded a range of fossils and are easily accessed. Further down the burn the freshwater sequence of sandstone, coal and mudstone/shale are highly visible. These are the remains of tropical forests which were inundated by wide braided rivers which deposited sand, weathered from the mountains further north.  



Limestone was quarried and burnt to produce lime for mortar and field improvement. (The remains of lime kilns can be explored at the top of the Burn.)  Sandstone was quarried from various cliffs all up the Burn. The workings can still be seen clearly and the stone found in the buildings of the town.  Whinstone, from the Whin Sill north of the Military Road, was quarried until the 1950s and carried down a little railway alongside the Burn by a small steam train. The track bed is now the footpath. This is an exceptionally hard, igneous stone which is used for road stone.

One sandstone exposure at the northern end of the burn has been extensively weathered by the wind, exposing   the thin layers of different coloured and sized sand grains from which it is formed. These exposures are accessible and give an excellent experience of both the processes of sedimentary rock formation and erosion.

As well as visiting the rocks in the field, a sample of the various rock types will be available for hardness or porosity testing which can be carried out in the Woodland Classroom.


Curriculum Links

Rocks and Soils



Child- friendly information of coal measure formation.

Photographs illustrating various rock formations of the Burn

Practical activities to explore coal and sandstone formation (available in classroom or in field)

Coal fossils

Field trip with guide

Facilities of Woodland Classroom for “lab” work, teaching or wet weather lunch

Rock samples for testing (can be carried out in field)