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Pleistocene River Deposits, Quaternary Science and the Aggregates Industry

Summary of the impact

Quaternary Science research undertaken at Royal Holloway examined the environmental archives provided by ancient rivers, now preserved in part as extensive sand and gravel deposits. In so doing, the research identified the former courses of major Pleistocene river systems in England, in particular the now-extinct Bytham river, the largest in England until its obliteration by the ice sheets of the Anglian glaciation c. 450,000 years ago. The research concerned the geographical extent and quality of these Pleistocene river deposits, as well as their palaeo-environmental context, age and archaeology. The interlinked impacts of the research have been: a) economic, via the identification of resources of economic value to the aggregates industry; and b) cultural, via enhancing heritage preservation in England's sand and gravel quarries.

Firstly, then, the research has a direct economic benefit for the UK aggregates industry, which has used the results on Bytham river deposits to predict the location and viability of aggregates resources. This has resulted in new quarries, and in the extension of existing quarries, with a value of aggregate production circa £50m in the assessment period. These impacts were facilitated in part by the Department's close working relationships with a number of quarrying companies. A wider economic impact on the aggregates industry was also delivered through significant changes to the British Geological Survey maps that form an important basis for quarry development.

A second impact of the research has been the enhancing of heritage preservation. The Department's relationship with the quarrying industry has had a direct effect on the archaeological and geodiversity policy that regulates its economic activity. Royal Holloway took a leading role in the English Heritage supported National Ice Age Network (NIAN) which engaged the aggregate industry, quarry workers and members of the public in the task of recognising, recording and preserving Pleistocene remains in England's sand and gravel quarries. During the assessment period, NIAN, expert advice from Royal Holloway staff and other dissemination of research has shaped ongoing heritage policy in relation to quarrying and Pleistocene and Palaeolithic remains.

Submitting Institution

Royal Holloway, University of London

Unit of Assessment

Geography, Environmental Studies and Archaeology

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Earth Sciences: Geology
Biological Sciences: Ecology
History and Archaeology: Archaeology

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