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Wiltshire Community History

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Question Date :

Monday 4th July 2011 10:03

Question:
Where are the Wootton Bassett Mud Springs and what has caused this phenomenon?

Answer:
The mud springs in Wootton Bassett were first “discovered” back in 1974 by some local Rivers' Authority workmen. In fact the landowner says they have existed for many years, and that at times cattle have been lost into them.

The cause of the mud springs, and the reason for their existence, has led to controversy. There is no immediate explanation. W. I. Stanton had the following to say:

“In Templar's Firs, on the right bank of the stream, I found three mounds each about 10 metres long by 5 metres high. They were 'mud blisters', consisting of a more or less liquid mud core contained within a living skin created by the roots of rushes, sedges and other swampy vegetation, including shrubs and small trees. The workmen had cut into the end of one blister, allowing it partly to deflate. The liquid core was (and is) at least 2 metres deep, as I ascertained by probing with a stake that had been sharpened and left there by other investigators. Grey liquid mud oozes from splits in the skin. The ground surrounding the blisters is level; thus they must be nourished from below them…”

He goes on: “They are underlain by 10-20 metres of Kimmeridge Clay resting on the Coral Rag sub-division of the Corallian. I am inclined to rule out mud diapirism arising from a Wootton Bassett accretionary complex as the source of these mud springs and plumb instead for artesian leakage up through a weakness in the Kimmeridge Clay from the Coral Rag, which is locally a minor aquifer. But why the springs are of mud, and why the mud remains liquid instead of settling out of suspension, need to be explained.”

It should also be noted that many fossils have been found in the area. It is not suggested, however, that the two phenomena are linked - other than that the springs may have brought to the surface these finds. A 'bonus'.

Templars Firs is to the south east of Wootton Bassett, and near the course of the canal. The mud springs lie on private land and cannot be viewed up close.

Bibliography:
“Mud Springs in Britain” by W. I. Stanton, in “Geology Today” (Nov/Dec 1988)

“Mud Springs at Wootton Bassett” by Richard Gosnell, in “Geology Today” (May/June 1989)

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