Blackwell Publishing Journal Backfiles 1879-2005
In the northern parts of the Needwood and Stafford/Eccleshall Basins, England, the Pebble Beds of the Sherwood Sandstone Group contain thick successions of texturally mature, fluvial pebble/cobble conglomerates which are organized into either horizontal or cross-stratified sets. The horizontally lying sets, generally coarser grained and more poorly sorted than the cross-bedded sets, are usually disorganized and either matrix- or clast-supported, although thin lenses of well-sorted, occasionally openwork units, interpreted as falling stage phenomena, are often present. The cross-stratified conglomerates have foresets exhibiting remarkable textural organization, with a coarse, bimodal (sometimes matrix-supported) part grading upwards or being abruptly overlain by a finer, well-sorted (occasionally openwork) part and finally capped by sandstone. These rhythmic textural changes are attributed partly to an avalanche process at high stage and partly to falling stage conditions. The most common types of vertical association are thick successions of horizontally bedded conglomerates (up to 20 m) and sequences of an upwards coarsening nature (2-12 m) in which cross-stratified sets are overlain by flat-lying sets.The environment of deposition of the gravels is interpreted as one in which water depths at high stage were greater than depths in most modern braided stream plains (proglacial or alluvial fan) but shallower than depths associated with the Pleistocene catastrophic floods from which texturally mature, giant gravel bars have been recorded. Recent braided streams with relatively confined channels and considerable bar/channel relief are better analogues. In particular, medial or mid-channel bars with a two-tier structure (subaqueous and partly emergent portions) may explain the upward-coarsening sequences in which horizontally lying conglomerates overlie cross-stratified conglomerates. The thicker sequences of horizontally stratified conglomerates represent proximal, longitudinal bar deposits.Sheets of pebbly sandstone and argillaceous sandstone lying between the conglomerates, and commonly occurring towards the top of the succession, largely represent deposition from sandwaves and dunes. Finer, interbedded, argillaceous sandstones, siltstones and mudstones are interpreted as overbank and waning-flood deposits.Basin-forming tectonism of increasing intensity probably caused the initial coarsening upwards of the lower part of the succession, whilst more stable tectonic conditions and decreasing relief on the margins of the basins and in the areas of provenance in the Midlands and the Hercynides, account for the upwards-fining of the upper part of the succession.
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