Science Snap (#11): The Stiperstones

Originally posted on the EGU blog network. Image reproduced with the kind permission of @ShropshireWalks

The Stiperstones is a famous geological landmark in Shropshire, a county known for its geological diversity. Rising majestically out of the heather and bracken-draped hills, the Stiperstones Quartzite forms jagged tors up to 20m high, features visible on the skyline for miles around. The orthoquartzite was deposited as beach sands ~480 million years ago and is steeply tilted, boasting an impressive set of jointing. This resistant sediment was subject to extreme rock-shattering freeze-thaw action during the last Ice Age, creating the ridge’s distinctive geomorphology and inspiring numerous local myths and folk tales.

Stiperstones tor
One of the quartzite tors of The Stiperstones looking SW towards Corndon Hill. Credit: Twitter.com/@ShropshireWalks

The 10km long ridge is closely associated with evil doings. Legend has it that the jagged line of rocks was dropped by the Devil, either on his way back from Ireland or during a fight with a giantess. One of the tors is named “The Devil’s Chair”, a seat for Satan himself, and reputedly smells of brimstone (sulphur). It is claimed that during the midwinter solstice, ghosts of witches dance around the armchair. Another myth with perhaps a firmer footing in history is that of Wild Edric, a Saxon nobleman, famed for drowning his foes in bogs and burning enemies in heather fires. It is said he lies in waiting, ready to retaliate anybody who attacks the Stiperstones. A comforting thought for those brave enough to walk along the ridge in the misty twilight…

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About Charly Stamper

I’m an ex-experimental petrologist.
I used to make pretend volcanoes; now I work in renewable energy

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