Quarry Workings
Public access
Employment need
Development plan

How long has there been a quarry at Wicklesham?

The first evidence of a quarry at Wicklesham appears in maps dating back to 1899. For decades, the site occupied no more than an acre – about the size of a football pitch. In 1987, Grundon took on the lease of the quarry and gradually expanded it to cover the 20-acre site it now occupies.

What was the land like before excavation?

The soil type was sand over gravel, which meant it was very prone to drought. It was in a conventional arable cropping rotation, but crop yields were frequently poor, especially in dry years. There were never any natural water sources on the site nor that ran through or near it.

It has always been a featureless site, devoid of trees. At one time, there was a small golf course that occupied part of the land, and historical maps name the field as Woad Ground, suggesting that one crop that successfully grew was the hardy woad plant, grown for its indigo dye up until the 20th century.

Why is it a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)?

Around 150 million years ago, Oxfordshire lay under the sea. At the beginning of the Cretaceous times, the waters receded, depositing sand rich in calcareous sponge fossils – a deposit for which Faringdon is world famous.

It was during excavation that the site yielded up its secrets and has literally shaped our understanding of sea life during that period. Anyone who has bought gravel from Wicklesham Quarry will likely have some of its fascinating fossils.

Although most of the gravel has now been extracted, the fossils remain embedded in the walls of the quarry, which also show how the deposits were made through the strata that are now exposed. It’s these quarry walls which, in geological and palaeontological terms, make this a site of international importance. So it’s been designated as an SSSI, and there are very strict guidelines as to how the walls should be managed, both during its excavation and now that the quarry is no longer in active use.

Specific lengths of the quarry walls have been identified, and these representative sections must be left exposed. Natural England, that oversees the SSSI, also requests that any use or development that takes place in the quarry maintains this exposure. You can see the plan to preserve these unique features, drawn up by Natural England, here.