Thurlestone Rock

18/09/2014 - 19:09



It intrigued me why I had photographed the Thurlestone in its tidal isolation on a few occasions yet, quietly fascinated, yet I had not previously made the walk at low tide to get up close to study it.


The atmosphere on this day seemed to beckon my inquisitiveness and at low tide I made the pilgrimage, as many do, to observe it at first hand.


Standing on a lofty nearby boulder beneath a louring sky, the Thurlestone ancient monolithic aura seemed to grow in a moment of hazy transient light. As I sat perched there in its penumbral shadow, I felt a strange metaphysical connection to it. A moment in which I could imagine the resonant boom of winter storm waves lashing pebbles & sand at its sides over the aeons, slowly wearing the archway wider… yet the rock itself intent on defying the tumult through its tough anthropomorphic legs.





 In our temporal existence we see a plethora of things develop in our society and our technological endeavours, yet here I stood before something that will change little maybe in my own fleeting lifespan.


This mighty barnacle and limpet crusted rock is composed of Permian red sandstone (a Breccio-conglomerate to be specific) formed around 250-300 million years ago, by sand and gravel carried in flash floods in equatorial desert conditions. An iron oxide rich cement gives the rock its characteristic reddish hues. The rock itself is sat on the slates of the Lower Devonian Meadfoot Beds. These were formed around 359-416 million years ago when the area was a coastal plain with shallow seas.


The Devonian rocks, which can be seen on the neighbouring reef and cliffs, have a twisted and folded appearance. This warping is due to tectonic plate collision, during the Variscan Orogeny (which built an Alpine-like mountain range stretching across from Dartmoor - to what are now the Appalachian Mountains in Eastern North America). The Permian rock (e.g. the Thurlestone) had not been subject to the same pressures, as it lay on top of the Devonian.




There are several pebble worn pools carved into the rocks of varying diameter and depth on the outlying boulders that are rather fascinating to observe and to consider the forces & motions involved over unimaginable time. Rock pools within the reef abound - for the opportunity to explore with your children or to make colourful photographs with interesting form and textures, littered as they are with myriad hues of the gravels and sand deposits.





The Thurlestone seems to have a quiet grandeur about it, nobility for want of a word, standing resolute in it earnest defiance of the attacking forces of erosion, as time and tide flow by. If you have the chance to do so, I recommend a walk out there at low tide to experience its intriguing charm.





*Thurlestone Rock was originally known as the 'thirled stone', from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning 'hole'.





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