Field Trip: The layout and plants of Stourhead are largely explained by the underlying geology

Leader: Bruce Buswell, Bath Geological Society

Entry Fee

Members: Free

Visitors: £3.00

Date and Time



Stourton, Warminster BA12 6QF

Field Trip Description

This 18th century National Trust house and landscape garden are of national importance. The landscape was developed around a lake which resulted from the damming of a valley. On the slopes above it were built Greek- and Roman-style temples in a re-creation of classical elegance, along with the continued planting of the family’s collection of trees and shrubs. It represents the culture and education of a Gentleman of the time, who had been inspired by The Grand Tour. The shape of the landscape, the lake, the soil and some of the structures derive from the underlying geology. Though sometimes one may not see the rocks for the trees, the trees themselves can tell stories of their own geological pasts.

The key to the scenery is the Upper Greensand, of Cretaceous age and immediately beneath the Chalk, it formed at a time of rising sea level before the deeper Chalk Sea. It underlies the level plateau in front of the House, where the seams of Chert influence the landscape. And because of their resistance, these seams cause the steep scarp face immediately below the plateau. We will see Chert put to use as a slightly eccentric building stone. The Greensand is underlain by Gault Clay, a more-familiar muddy deposit which floors the valley and makes possible the lake. The Greensand forms a soil which suits Rhododendrons, the sheltered site benefits other trees, as we will see. The walk should finish about 1.00 p.m.

Meet at 10.30 a.m. in front of Stourhead visitor reception, beside the car park - entry will be free to National Trust members. For non-NT members, entry to the whole property is £12.50, garden only is £7.50.

Location Map

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