The Government’s Planning Policy Statement on Biodiversity and Geological Conservation (PPS 9) stated that: ‘In taking decisions, local planning authorities should ensure that appropriate weight is attached to….geological interests in the wider environment’ (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, 2005, 3). This project was developed primarily to serve as a tool for Tendring District to use in the creation of its Local Development Framework and to facilitate the development of positive approaches to the integration of geodiversity objectives into spatial planning for the District. The report characterises the geodiversity of the District, revealing its diversity, location, extent, significance and capacity for change. The report together with associated GIS information was intended to provide a strong environmental evidence base for adoption of good practice in the planning system.
Although the report is primarily about Tendring District it also contains some fascinating details about Wivenhoe.
During the early Ice Age the river Thames flowed to the north of London through central Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk and out across what is the southern North Sea; the evidence for this being a substantial thickness of what are called the Kesgrave Sands and Gravels which represent the actual bed of the river.
The Wivenhoe Gravels (part of the Kesgrave formations) were laid down by the Thames system under cold climate (glacial) conditions; they comprised two coarse grained sediments separated by an organic silky clay laid down during a more temperate (interglacial) climate. The Wivenhoe Gravel Pit (Grid Reference TM 050236) itself represents the typeset of this category of gravel and was classified as a Site of Special Interest (SSI) under Section 28 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. The interglacial sediments contain well-preserved pollen, plant macro-fossils and beetle remains. The sediments at Wivenhoe have great scientific potential for improving the record from this part of the Pleistocene in Britain and for providing valuable correlation with the much better continental sequence, particularly that in the Netherlands.
Of additional interest was the discovery of two flint flakes in the interglacial sediments that may have been worked by humans. If they represent a period of human occupation at Wivenhoe it will be the earliest evidence of humans anywhere in Essex and may be as much as 650,000 years old. They would be older than the human tools and remains discovered in Boxgrove in Sussex, which were thought to represent occupation by Homo heidelbergensis, a species of human that is probably a direct ancestor of the Neanderthals.
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