The fossil tree at Stanhope

News of a fossil forest uncovered by marine erosion on the coast of Spain, brought to mind the fossil trees of Weardale, County Durham.

Fossil Tree, Stanhope by Andrewdrew-Curtis

Fossil Tree, Stanhope
© Copyright Andrew Curtis and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

At Stanhope, the main settlement in upper Weardale, there is a magnificent specimen of a fossil tree built into the wall of the churchyard. The tree grew in the Carboniferous Period, some 320 million years ago. At that time, the area was covered in equatorial rainforest and, in fact, lay almost astride the equator. The tree is a Sigillaria species, a 30 metre high ancestor of today’s club mosses.

The fossil was discovered in a sandstone quarry near Stanhope in 1915 and had to be transported in large pieces to be reassembled in the churchyard in 1964. The sandstone has formed a perfect cast of the tree so that even the detail of the bark can appreciated. The fossil tree is well worth a visit.

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