People fishing from the rocks at Fall Bay on the Gower Peninsula are almost invisible in the amazing beachscape of giant sloping limestone slabs dipping into the sea.
Broughton Bay is a wide sandy expanse on the north shore of the Gower Peninsula in South Wales, facing the Loughor Estuary or Burry Inlet. A small promontory called Twlc Point at the western end of the beach has an interesting geology with an exposure of Hunts Bay Oolite from the Carboniferous Period. I have written about these strata in earlier posts such as:
On this particular visit I was content to appreciate the way that pebbles of many types and colours on the upper shore were clustered around outcrops and boulders of the limestone which were often pink-tinged and sometimes fossiliferous.
The limestone further east along the Worms Head Causeway shore, towards Tears Point, displays the results of a number of erosion agents leading to some curious formations. The clean, smooth surfaces of mounded and hollowed shapes result from mechanical abrasion where the rock is pounded by stones carried in the waves; by chemical and physical erosion caused by micro-organisms and marine invertebrates (bio-karst surfaces made by such organisms as lichens, limpets, and sea urchins); and acid dissolution by rainwater when the tide is out, especially around the edges of pools, in natural fissures like joints and bedding planes, and areas where water constantly drains – resulting in what is called karst topography. Small circular pits (image 48) of dissolved limestone readily connect with each other, soon enlarging into bigger pools that are known as kamenitzas – which in turn can interconnect with other pools as seen in the images below (particularly images 49, 50, and 51).
The Carboniferous sedimentary strata outcropping on the landward shore of the Worms Head Causeway at Rhossili show differential erosion by the sea. Some areas of the Black Rock Limestone Subgroup are clean, smooth and worn down whilst others are sharp and jagged with encrusting biofilms and barnacles. This is partly due to the varying compositions and relative hardness of the different strata, and partly to the way in which the waves with their rock-bearing loads seek lines of least resistance in the shore with each tidal ebb and flow. Areas of weakness, for example, between bedding planes and in minor faults with veins of soft white crystalline calcite and red haematite, are more vulnerable to repeated abrasion. This has led to the formation of numerous channels, gullies, and basins among other more resistant rock outcrops. Rounded pebbles and cobbles frequently lying within the hollowed areas evidencing their role in wearing the bedrock away. Mechanical abrasion allied to varying rock resistance is not the only way that the limestone is altered. Elsewhere on the causeway, limestone acid dissolution and marine organisms are the most common agents of natural change in surface texture and sculpturing, creating karstic and bio-karstic limestone topography.
Little Tor cliff at the east end of Oxwich Bay in Gower, South Wales, is made of Carboniferous Limestone of the Hunts Bay Oolite Sub Group. In common with beach outcrops of the same type of rock at Broughton on the north Gower coast, and Tenby that lies further west in Pembrokeshire, the surface is marked on a small scale with scalloped depressions and branching runnels that are the result of acid erosion and sand abrasion, giving rise to interesting textures and patterns.
The small sinuous etchings are called microrills (Ford and Williams 2007). They are typically 1 mm wide, round bottomed dissolution channels that are found close together. The pattern is reminiscent of rain running down a window pane. On gentle rock slopes they have curving paths and divide and rejoin in a network-like pattern. On steeper gradients the channels are straighter. Some microrills are made by slightly acidic water flowing down the rock surface but in other instances they are caused by the “water moving upwards, drawn by capillary tension exerted at an evaporating front. Capillary flow is believed to explain much of their characteristic sinuosity”.
Ford, D. and Williams, P. (2007) Karst Hydrogeology and Geomorphology. John Wiley & Sons, Chichester, England. Revised Edition, p324. ISBN 978-0-470-84997-2.
A further assortment of interesting rock patterns and textures in Carboniferous Limestone strata of the cliffs on the east and west sides of Threecliff Bay on the Gower Peninsula in South Wales. Of particular interest is the honey-comb texture of erosion along the bedding planes of some of the dipping layers, and the red colouring due to iron bearing minerals of other areas, on the east side of the bay. On the west side of the bay the rocks seem less weathered and are often encrusted with patches of black lichen.