Mendips header
 Overview maps
 Locality areas
  Cheddar Gorge
 Burrington Combe
 Shipham & Rowberrow
 Crook Peak & Axbridge
 Banwell to Churchill
 Harptree & Smitham Hill
 Draycott & Westbury-sub
 Wookey Hole & Ebbor
 Great Elm & Vallis Vale
 Mells & the Wadbury Valley
 The Vobster area
 The Whatley area
 Torr Works & Asham Wood
 Beacon Hill
 Stoke St Michael & Oakhill
 Holwell & Nunney
 Shepton Mallet & Maesbury
 Gurney Slade & Emborough
 The Nettlebridge valley
 Rocks of Mendips
 Geological timescale
 Ancient environments
 Geological structure
 Minerals and mines
  Minerals and mines
 Industrial archaeology
  Stone as a resource
 Employment & the economy
 Quarrying & geodiversity
 Quarrying & the environment
 History of quarrying
 Caves and karst
 How caves form
 Dry valleys and gorges
 Dolines and sinkholes
 Mendip caves
 Going caving
  Flora and fauna
 Typical Mendip habitats
 Special Mendip habitats
 Horseshoe bats
 Appendix of names
 Biodiversity of western
 Biodiversity of eastern
 External links
 Detailed site information
  Coal mining
  Mendip quarry companies
  East Mendip quarries
 Biodiversity of eastern
  West Mendip quarries
 Biodiversity of western
 Site map
Ancient environments
Silurian l Devonian l Carboniferous l Triassic l Jurassic

The Triassic, 251 – 200 million years ago

At the end of the Carboniferous and beginning of the Permian periods the Mendip region was transformed from a humid, tropical coal swamp into a bare, craggy upland surrounded by desert. Britain was part of a huge landmass, cut by a vast mountain chain, stretching for thousands of kilometres to the east and west. The Mendips formed part of this mountain range, and at this time were much more imposing, perhaps climbing to more than 1500 m.

In the UK, the characteristic sediments of the Permian and Triassic are red sandstone and mudstone, and very coarse-grained rocks containing angular or rounded rock fragments called breccias (predominantly angular fragments) or conglomerates (predominantly rounded fragments), that share many features with rocks formed in modern deserts

In modern deserts, debris from upland regions is channelled to surrounding lowlands through steep sided gullies called wadis. Occasional heavy rain produces flash floods that move boulders and scree to lower levels, eventually disgorging sediment at the mountain front to form a broad apron of debris. Evidence of similar processes is seen in the Triassic rocks of the Mendips, known as the Dolomitic Conglomerate and Mercia Mudstone and shows that this upland region was quickly being eroded.

Triassic paleogeography
  An artistic impression of the Triassic landscape

Towards the end of the Triassic, there is increasing evidence that the sea was beginning to encroach on the Mendip area. Evidence for this is provided by the youngest part of the Mercia Mudstone, named the Blue Anchor Formation, which are greenish-grey rocks rather than red, and contain tiny marine fossils. These rocks occur north and south of the Mendips, but thin rapidly as the Mendips are approached.

In the latest Triassic the sea finally transformed the Mendips into islands, inundating large areas of the region and depositing a thin succession of dark, organic-rich mudstones, fine-grained limestones and conglomerates, named the Penarth Group.

Deep fractures opened up in the rocks forming the exposed parts of the Mendip islands, and into these were swept the bones of late Triassic lizards, gliding reptiles and dinosaurs. Thus, by the close of the Triassic, the Mendips had been transformed into an archipelago, lapped by a shallow sub-tropical sea.
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