a small village approximately three kilometres west of Frome, sitting
on the ridge between the Fordbury and Nunney valleys. The ridge is
capped by Jurassic Fuller's Earth Formation and Inferior Oolite,
which overlie the older Carboniferous and Devonian rocks. These older
rocks are exposed in both the Nunney valley and Whatley Bottom. Here,
the steeply dipping Carboniferous Black Rock Limestone is well exposed
just north of the village where the road passes through a cutting.
This was where in 1867, the geologist Charles Moore recorded a thin
bed of fossiliferous Charmouth Mudstone sandwiched between the Carboniferous
Limestone and the overlying Inferior Oolite.
Aerial view of Whatley (click to enlarge view).
Whatley is perhaps better known for the local quarry. Whatley Quarry
is one of the two 'super quarries' on east Mendip and is located
in the belt of steeply dipping Carboniferous Limestone on the northern
limb of the Beacon Hill Pericline. Operated by Hanson Aggregates,
it produces a large range of materials for the building and construction
industries. The company employs about 100 full time staff at the
quarry and a similar number of contract hauliers. Whatley is a
working quarry, so access is only by prior arrangement.
The quarry extracts rock from almost all of the Carboniferous Limestone
sequence which here dips at around 65º–80º to the north.
The base of the quarry is currently below the natural water table.
Groundwater leaking into the quarry is used to clean the aggregate
before being recycled and discharged locally into the Whatley Brook
or pumped into the River Mells to help maintain river flow.
Up to 25 million litres per day in the winter months and 15 million
litres per day in the summer have to be pumped out. Intensive monitoring
suggests there has been very little impact locally on groundwater
resources from the de-watering of the limestone aquifer.