Newlands Valley and Dale Head
Looking south down Newlands Valley towards Dale Head
Purpose: The beautiful Newlands valley is a good place to explore features of the Skiddaw Group sediments, the overlying Borrowdale Volcanic Group, and extensive evidence of past mining activity, including what is arguably the most remote and inaccessible mine in the Lake District.
Practical details: There is a carpark 500 m southwest of Little Town (Satnav postcode CA12 5TU), approached either from Portinscale or The Newlands Pass. From the carpark walk west over the pack-horse bridge, then immediately left. When you reach the tiny Newlands Church, take the track left up Newlands valley to Low Snab Farm. Map: OS Explorer OL 4.
Geological background: Around 460 million years ago, tectonic disturbances caused large-scale gravity-driven slumping of a huge pile of Skiddaw Group sediments that had been accumulating on the southern edge of the Iapetus Ocean. This chaotic mass of disturbed sediment is known as the Buttermere Formation, well exposed in the Buttermere and Newlands area. These sedimentary rocks are overlain by the Borrowdale Volcanic Group, outcropping at the head of the valley (see accompanying map). The valley is particularly rich in mineral veins which have been worked since at least the 16th century. The veins run along fault lines and fall into two categories: east-west (or northeast-southwest) copper veins, probably of Ordovician age, and north-south lead/zinc veins which are thought to have formed much later, in the Carboniferous. However, the unusual presence of cobalt, bismuth, and nickel minerals in the east-west copper vein at Dale Head North may indicate there was also a pulse of mineralization during the Devonian (around 400 million years ago) driven by heat from a hidden body of granite known as the Crummock Water intrusion. This granite is the same age as the Shap and Skiddaw Granites, and though it is not seen at the surface, its presence has been established using geophysical and geochemical investigation.
Most recently, the last glacial period has produced landscape features typical of glacial erosion, as well as a large post-glacial rock-slope failure.
Goldscope, Dale Head North, and Dale Head mines are all scheduled monuments of considerable historical importance. Please do not hammer, or remove material.
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