Extinction – What our young people think

Funded by National Lottery Heritage fund, ‘3 intriguing fossils and the landscapes they came from’ project took Skylight’s participants on a journey of exploration around the Borough!  Research inspired a show called ‘Mammoth’  which was sadly cancelled due to the pandemic.

This page contains all the details of our fascinating research and maps for you to enjoy the fossil walks!  Below you’ll find the video which contains the  thoughts of our young people and our journey across the Borough.  




You can also read our blog posts about the different research that took place throughout the project: 

Sparth Bottoms – The scorpion trail research and photos

Syke – The woolly mammoth trail research and photos

Newhey Quarry – The seabed trail research and photos

If you would like to try the Rochdale walks, please find the walk map PDF’s below.  


The seabed at Newhey Quarry

Newhey Quarry – The Seabed Walk

A group of young people, Silver circus members, Skylight staff and volunteers ventured out on a walk up to Newhey Quarry. This was just a try out of the route, we will be organising a bigger group once the guides are published and the Covid crisis allows, possibly September or October.

Prior to our trail we asked our young people to find out some information about the Quarry, this found that: 

Newhey Quarry is located just off Huddersfield Rd in Rochdale,  it is a great place to explore for anyone interested in Fossils. The fossils that you may find in this area are from around the Permian-Triassic period (around 250 million years ago), with many Calamites (fossil stems of giant tree-like horsetails), bivalves, and brachiopods. It is known to be a great place to find plant fossils!

Though it is a great place to explore, it is advised not to go climbing on the scree slopes below the unstable high cliff faces. The quarry is now disused  and used for recreational walks by the local community. More information about visiting the quarry can be found here https://ukfossils.co.uk/tag/newhey-quarry/

A young person in the group said

The floor of the quarry is an ancient seabed. We went to see if we could find any fossils, I loved going on a little scavenger hunt trying to find fossils, it was like we were looking for treasure at the bottom of the sea, when Jim (the group leader) told us he had found one we were so excited! We think that the fossil that Jim found on the path was of a worm tube. We looked around the smooth sloping floor of the quarry, an ancient seabed. We couldn’t find the marks left by fish

HLF Funded Project - Skylight Circus Arts - Young People Research Group - Newhey Quarry - Seabed
HLF Funded Project - Skylight Circus Arts - Young People Research Group - Newhey Quarry - Seabed

A Silver Circus member gave an insight into her walk to Newhey Quarry


I went on the Sparth Bottom walk on a fairly windy, cloudy day, after a long period of rain and just before Lockdown was declared. It was a walk of varied landscapes. It took in woodlands, wide-open spaces, muddy fields, streams and nature corridor pathways between the Rochdale suburbs and beyond. Although I’ve lived in the area for over 30 years, I saw routes I’d not seen before and the experience has opened up new walking possibilities for the future.

There were many points of interest along the way, but the end of the walk culminated in the vast openness of Newhey Quarry, which I found particularly interesting.

I’d never been to the quarry before, although I had heard it was a good spot for fossil hunting. There is quite a lot of walking and exploring to do in the quarry itself. The area is a vast bowl edged with cliffs and slopes, originally cut for the local sandstone which was used for building. Apparently, underneath, lies layers of mudstones and siltstones over a marine bed where bivalves can be found. The quarry is obviously now disused and has become a place for dog walkers and picnickers. I was particularly drawn to the scree slopes (where I believe the best fossils can be found) and certainly it did not take long before I found something of interest – a rock with the slight traces of a pattern along its surface in a kind of feathery ripple effect – a definite fossil! This made my day and it has been added to my collection of fossils and geological curiosities displayed in the bathroom at home.

Our walking group had to head home, but I felt we could have explored for longer. I left promising myself I will return to search for more fossils.  I have since discovered, worm tubes and nodule type fossils are also quite commonly found on the site.

HLF Funded Project - Skylight Circus Arts - Young People Research Group - Newhey Quarry - Seabed
HLF Funded Project - Skylight Circus Arts - Young People Research Group - Newhey Quarry - Seabed

Syke Moors, when Skylight met Sue & the Mammoth fossil

Syke Moors 

Syke Moors is located in Rochdale, an area of moorland between Rochdale Town, Whitworth and Littleborough. This location was of particular importance to the group for one rather large exciting reason. Keep reading to hear about that! 

Due to the COVID – 19 pandemic, the trail with our young volunteers has been postponed, however, a few staff members and a young person ventured up to check the area out.

The walk up to the moors is in a beautiful pocket of the countryside, and during spring you often see many farm animals such as sheep, cows, horses and ducklings! It is a very hilly area with little hidden rivers. 

The route starts at Skylight Circus Arts, St Chad’s Fold, into town, up what is possibly part of the old road north, Folly Walk, to the top of Syke Common where we take a circular loop exploring the area carved out by the melting Glacial Ice.

On the rim of the valley the glacial layer of stones etc is visible, with a couple of large boulders that may have been deposited by the glacier, overlaying the shale layers.

The shale was easily carved out by flowing water and this continues today in the small stream.

There is a stone flag wall in the valley, these were common around the Rochdale area, even as back yard walls in terraced houses, as well as field boundaries. A stone obelisk in the Cemetery Trail says that they were sourced at Middle Hill, just north of Syke.

hlf funded skylight circus syke fossils
hlf funded Skylight Circus Arts - syke moors

We have found a couple of academic papers on the geology of the area which describes lakes formed in the Littleborough, Rochdale and Whitworth areas by the glacial meltwaters, what must the area have looked like then? – we think it’s too wet with rain now! They will be available for download from the website, http://skylightcircusarts.com/news/rochdale-fossils.

The Rochdale Survey, B Pearson, J Price, V Tanner and J Walker,
The Geology of the Rossendale Anticline By W. B. Wright, M.I.M.E., R. L. Sherlock,
D.Sc., A.R.C.Sc., D. A. Wray, M.Sc., W. Lloyd, B.Sc., 69 L. H, Tonks, M.Sc. 1927
(chapter X, page 131, Glacial and recent deposits.)

A description on the glacial erosion of the area, focusing on Cheesden Brook, Heywood can be found here https://www.heywoodhistory.com/2016/07/ice-age-carving-cheesden-valley.html?m=1

The walk guides will be printed and available soon, also available as a download from the above link.

Hopefully, we will be leading the 3 walks with a socially distanced group in September/October socially distanced of course.

When Skylight meets Sue & the Mammoth Fossil

The reason for this location came from a very special person named Sue. Sue is a friend of Skylight and is the proud owner of a very rare fossil found on Syke Moors. Many years ago Sue’s brother had found what he thought was a bone of an old horse, Sue then went to explain it couldn’t be a horses hoof as they do not fossilise. Sue (a lover of elephants) then began to do a little more research of the fossil in online forums, she found that it was unlikely that it would be a dinosaur due to it being so far North, so Sue decided to venture down to Touchstones Rochdale who connected her with someone who may be able to help. 

A photo of the fossil was sent to all the museums in the North West, and shortly after Sue was contacted by Dr David Gelsorp who invited her to bring her fossil into the museum. Dr David Gelsorp knew straight away what the fossil was, it turned out to be a metacarpal from a Mammoth! Dr David Gelsorp estimated that the fossil arrived in Rochdale around 10 thousand years ago in the last ice age and the fossil itself dates back to about 15 – 20 thousand years old, he confirmed it was a very rare find! 

You can hear Sue telling her story to our group of young volunteers here:

“It was really cool to meet someone so close to home who had found a historical fossil! To know the fossil I was holding had been through the ice age made me feel like I was holding a time capsule, and it was nice to share the experience with Sue and the group who were just as fascinated as I was!” – Young person

“It was really nice to meet Sue because her story was really cool to hear, the fossil was heavy and smooth, it made us think how we can put part of her story into our show because we could show a journey through time” – Young person

meeting sue - mammoth - yp - hlf - skylight circus arts

This fossil was the inspiration for a Skylight performance called Mammoth that was scheduled to be performed by Spotlight, a performing group of young people from Skylights youth circus. The performance was due to take place at Graciefields Theatre, Rochdale Feelgood Festival and Hollingworth lake. 

The performance discussed many ideas about the history of fossils and the landscape in and around Rochdale. Taking the audience on an adventure through time to learn about these stories, and how global warming is changing the shape of our land today. Unfortunately due to COVID – 19, just a few weeks before the show was due to take place, it was cancelled. 

A short trailer that gives a taste of the performance will soon be available on our website. 

skylight circus arts poster performance mammoth 2020