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A group of young people, silver circus members, Skylight staff and volunteers ventured out on a walk through Broadfield Park, over to the site of Sparth Bottom Quarry, finally reaching Rochdale Cemetery trail to investigate the area. This was part of a project funded by The Heritage Lottery Fund to research the grounds of fossils in and around Rochdale, linking to the appearance of Dippy at Number One Riverside in Rochdale.

Broadfield Park Boulder

it was really interesting to hear about the history of Rochdale. I was amazed to hear stories about the areas of land and rocks that we pass every day, not realising their importance in history. Skylight is right next to Broadfield Park, which I go through all the time to get to Skylight, I didn’t realise that the huge rock was a boulder that came from the most recent ice age!”  – Young person

The boulder placed in Broadfield park sparked interest in some of our members who continued to research further into its history, the young people found that:
“the glacial boulder in Broadfield park is estimated to weigh five tons! It is said to have been dragged by the glacial flow all the way from the Lake District to Castleton until it was moved to Rochdale – Broadfield Park. It is made of Andesite which is a fine-grained intermediate volcanic rock and came from the most recent ice age. It was really interesting to see!” – Young person

Sparth Bottoms

As the group approached the Sparth Bottoms site, the young people were particularly interested in this site as they had previously been told about the Rochdale Scorpion which was found here (the shape and movement of the scorpion were used as some inspiration when creating their performance ‘Mammoth’). 

The young people found out more information about the Rochdale Scorpion, by later doing online research and visiting Touchstones Rochdale that had a replica of the scorpion fossil on display! (insert pic of scorpion display). 

One young person found out that:

“Eoscorpius Sparthensis, but known commonly as The Sparth Bottom Scorpion, was found in 1903 at Sparth Brickworks. Scientists believed that this scorpion was the only one of its kind that had been discovered. It was also the first fossil to represent a complete scorpion from the Permian period. The fossil is now kept at the National History Museum in London.”

They also discovered information about an even bigger fossil, a fossilised tree! By visiting Touchstones Rochdale they also found out that
“Between the ages 1890 and 1904, even more fossils were discovered such as fish, trees, ferns and land snakes, we couldn’t believe that some of them were estimated to be around 300 MILLION years old!”

The group continued to share information found about Sparth Bottoms and the fossils found in Rochdale, and one young person realised she had a family connection to one of the palaeontologists. She was so excited to share the story and information, this is what she said:
In Rochdale Sparth Bottoms, Harold Howard discovered the Rochdale scorpion with a colleague and a friend called James Maxim (my relative). The Rochdale scorpion was in the area of a fully fossilised tree with other fossils like the scorpion,  molluscs, anthropoids and fish fossils. James was mainly interested in discovering fish fossils. Once he made these discoveries and donated them to the Rochdale Museum Service, James then became a lecturer at the University of Manchester to teach students about fossils.”

Rochdale Cemetery 

The group then continued their adventure trail and reached Rochdale Cemetery, this was also a place of interest as the cemetery actually holds a Geological Trail, one of our young members describes his experience of the trail

“A while ago I went on the Sparth Bottom walk. It’s a good route and I ended up researching a bit about the area. Features of the walk like the boulder and the quarry have been mentioned already, however, so I will discuss the cemetery.

One of the main things to investigate is a geological trail, set up there in 1855, (so likely to be one of the earliest geological trails in England). It’s a series of different labelled rocks forming a trail, going from oldest to youngest rocks (with about 30 in total). As the trail is now very old, it shouldn’t be too surprising that about 4 of the very soft stones have fully eroded away. In the intervening years, the layout of the cemetery was rearranged so some of the placings of the stones have become a bit illogical, the first stone now being positioned in a ditch, behind a wall, with no path leading to it whilst the last stone of the series is right behind the lodge at the main entrance. As we entered via the front gate, we did the trail in reverse.

The first few stones are not the type to keep very well over time, with one of them being scarcely more than a small, chalky, pile (apparently also soft for a rock as my father would attest having chewed a bit that crumbled off).  The condition of the stones improves from then on, with the labels on them being more and more legible. Written on each stone is the name of the company/quarry that donated it and the type of rock, e.g. Aberdeen granite from Mc Donalds (This is a real stone and is near the start of the trail, but due to the rearrangement not near the entrance).  I tried taking an etching of one of the less legible ones but unfortunately don’t have it to hand. I think someone else has a picture of it, though it’s still quite illegible.

So yeh, it was a fun trip.

Oh, final mention – The first and last stone have some special messages on them as they aren’t part of the main trail. The first has the inscription starting with “In the beginning, God made the Heavens and the Earth”.  While the final one ends in… “Speak to the earth and it will teach Thee.”, which given what we’re looking at right now feels quite relevant.”

Directions

  • The walk began at Skylight Circus Arts, opposite St Chad’s Parish Church, originally a Saxon church,  a beautiful piece of history, with some original stones remaining. 
  • The group then exited the park onto Drake st, they crossed Manchester Road at the traffic lights and walked up to Mandale park. The group then ventured down through the paths, this was the site of Sparth Bottom Quarry, where the scorpion and trees were found.
  • Sparth fossil Observer article and pictures can be found here.
  • On the promontory to the right stood Rochdale Castle, a wooden Motte and Bailey,  it was inhabited until the 13th century. Castle Avenue and Castle Inn are nearby.
  • At the bottom of the path, there is a left turn by the sewage works and solar panel farm. To Roch Valley Way, Turn right up to Bury old road, cross at the traffic lights to the Cemetery. The Finishing Stone is to the right of the Cemetery office, just over the wall.

A online link to the trail can be found here

https://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/osmaps/route/4542471/St-Chads-Mandale-Park-and-the-rock-trail

We are also in the process of creating a physical map with information about the trail. If you are interested in receiving a copy please get in touch.

Other links and information about the trail

https://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=26279  

http://www.gmau.manchester.ac.uk/pdfs/gmac13.pdf 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rochdale_Castle

https://www.academia.edu/844994/Arthropod_types_from_Sparth_Bottoms_in_the_Howard_Collection_Rochdale_Museum_Service_

http://www.mangeolassoc.org.uk/rochdalecemeteryreport2009.htm

http://www.gatehouse-gazetteer.info/English%20sites/3023.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rochdale_Castle

https://www.academia.edu/844994/Arthropod_types_from_Sparth_Bottoms_in_the_Howard_Collection_Rochdale_Museum_Service_

https://www.pressreader.com/uk/rochdale-observer/20161119/281698319336795

An interesting insight into another person’s adventure around the cemetery can be found here. 

https://link4life.org/centres/touchstones-rochdale

https://www.visitrochdale.com/whats-on/the-dippy-experience-featured-event-p430291

https://www.heritagefund.org.uk/

 

Heritage lottery logo full colour version
This project was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund