Natural England - Writhlington SSSI, Somerset

Writhlington SSSI, Somerset

Finite site, fossil collecting.

Writhlington SSSI, Somerset

The Writhlington SSSI consists of material from an old coal mine dump. In the late 1980s, through co-operation between the site owner, local geological and conservation groups and the enthusiasm of key palaeontological specialists, it was agreed to set aside 3,000 tons of Upper Carboniferous spoil in a special, fenced conservation area and the site became a geological nature reserve. The result has been one of the most successful and innovative, palaeontological site-based conservation initiatives of recent years.

After more than a decade of coordinated collecting from Writhlington, more than 1,400 insect specimens have been recovered from the site and placed in key museum collections. This collecting was not carried out by specialist researchers alone but by amateur geologists of all ages, who were given careful guidance about what to look for on the spoil heaps.

The most common insect finds have been cockroaches, including cockroach nymphs. The most exciting find has probably been the world's earliest known Damsel fly. In addition, ancestral grasshoppers and crickets, various early spiders, horseshoe crabs, bits of millipede and a single sea scorpion have also been recovered.

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