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In the 18th and 19th centuries most Essex towns and villages obtained their fresh water from wells, many sunk into the Chalk aquifer. Sometimes a disused well reveals its presence in a spectacular way, such as this one in Chelmsford in 2007.
Photo G. Lucy

A boulder weighing almost a ton sits outside Essex Wildlife Trust's Visitor Centre at Bedfords Park in the London Borough of Havering. It was found in a gravel pit at Marks Warren Farm, near Romford and was moved to the visitor centre by the quarry company. It is made of dolerite and originates in Northumberland. It was transported 300 miles to Romford by the Anglian Ice Sheet some 450,000 years ago. Its size demonstrates the power of glaciers to transport large boulders from their place of origin. Photo G. Lucy

During the construction of the M25 motorway between 1979 and 1981 many important discoveries were made, shedding new light on the climate and wildlife of south Essex during the Ice Age. Here at the cutting at Belhus Park, Aveley, sediments and fossils dating from a previously unrecognised interglacial stage were found. It is now known as the 'Purfleet Interglacial' (Marine Isotope Stage 9) after the interglacial sediments at Purfleet Chalk Pits SSSI, and thought to be about 300,000 years old. Most fossils were obtained by hand picking and sieving in very muddy conditions. The site also produced some of the finest flint handaxes found in Essex indicating that early humans were here during this interglacial stage. Photo G.R.Ward

Blackweir Pond in Epping Forest. As the glaciers at the edge of the Anglian ice sheet slowly melted they dumped great quantities of glacial moraine at their margins. These mounds are called kames, or more accurately kame terraces, and one of these is preserved as a patch of gravel nearly a kilometre long that follows the contour of the valley south of Great Monk Wood in Epping Forest. Blackweir pond is one of the former gravel pits that worked this gravel. It has been described as the most picturesque of all the Epping Forest ponds. Photo G. Lucy

Teeth of the shark Cretoxyrhina preserved in a block of chalk from Grays, Thurrock. It was found in about 1850 when the chalk was worked by hand and many fossils came to light. The specimen is in the Natural History Museum, London. Photo G. Lucy

Lower jaw of a rhinoceros, collected in the nineteenth century from the former brick pits at Ilford. This animal lived in an interglacial stage about 200,000 years ago (Marine Isotope Stage 7) and shared the Thames Valley with other large mammals such as straight-tusked elephants and mammoths. This specimen was collected by Richard Payne Cotton (1820-1877) and is in the British Geological Survey Collection at Keyworth in Nottinghamshire. Photo W.H.George

Horn core of an aurochs (Bos primigenius) from the River Chelmer at Little Baddow. Aurochs were ancestors of our present day domestic cattle but were considerably larger, and with their large horns they must have been a formidable sight, especially in large herds. Bulls were over 1.8 metres (6 feet) high at the shoulder and with a horn-spread of up to about 1.2 metres (4 feet). Aurochs were very common during the latter part of the Ice Age and feature prominently in the world-famous 17,000 year-old cave paintings of Lascaux, France. They are thought to have died out in England towards the end of the Bronze Age. This specimen is on display in Colchester Natural History Museum. Photo G. Lucy

A group from the Essex Rock and Mineral Society at the giant Bulls Lodge Gravel Quarry at Boreham. The Kesgrave Sands and Gravels exposed here were laid down by the Thames before the Anglian Glaciation. The gravel contains boulders and pebbles from far to the west, some even from Snowdonia and Cornwall. The Thames was then a much larger river and flowed across what is now central Essex in a wide flood plain. On top of the gravel is a great thickness of buff-coloured boulder clay (till) which was laid down by the Anglian Ice Sheet which diverted the Thames to its present course. It contains rocks and fossils from the north of England and even Scotland. Photo G. Lucy

Jewellery made from banded flint from the Kesgrave (Thames) Gravels near Colchester. These old Thames gravels contain a number of decorative stones, most of which have been brought to Essex from the west. The items were made by local amateur geologist and lapidary Bob Burton. Photo G. Lucy

Boulder of Hertfordshire Puddingstone in the churchyard wall at Roxwell, near Chelmsford. This rock occurs throughout Essex as isolated boulders and some pieces are highly attractive. They were brought here from Hertfordshire by the early Thames and can often be seen in the walls of early churches. Photo G. Lucy

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