The story of the Cheshire Sandstone Ridge is written in the landscape and its rocks. It can be told by the shape and arrangement of the hills and the colours and textures of the rocks that build those hills.
The special character of the mid Cheshire Sandstone Ridge has, as its foundation, its red rocks and the geological processes which have shaped it over two hundred million years of Earth history. This history tells of a fascinating story of moving continents, earthquakes and mountains; the changing surface environments with rivers, arid deserts and sand dunes of long ago, and the more recent and quite different glacial ice sheets. All played a part in creating this landscape. With the arrival of Neolithic people in Cheshire, a new stage in the evolution of the landscape began -- one that has left both a valuable and irreplaceable legacy of heritage, but one that is continually evolving through natural processes and human activity.
Our story begins some 250 million years ago in the Triassic period of geological time. Then the area we now know as mid Cheshire lay at a latitude similar to today's Sahara Desert, and the ancient Cheshire landscape lay within a hot, generally dry desert environment. Rivers from mountains lying to the south brought in sediments which hardened to form the characteristic red sandstones of the mid Cheshire ridge. Seas advanced over this flat, arid desert, feeding temporary salt lakes, which, under hot skies, slowly evaporated leaving the salt deposits for which Cheshire is famous.
After the Triassic Period, there followed a vast time gap with no geological representation, as the rocks deposited have been eroded away and the record is lost. This erosion continues today, exposing various rock types, and leaving the hard, more resistant sandstones to stand out as the mid Cheshire Ridge.
The Ridge also owes much of its character to the last Ice Age, through the action of ice and meltwater. About 18,000 years ago, up to 400 metres of ice covered the area. It moved across the landscape, both scouring the hills, steepening the escarpments and depositing sediments from clay to boulders. Most of Cheshire is now covered by a blanket of till (boulder clay) and glacial sands and gravel deposited by retreating ice and fast flowing meltwater from the glaciers.
People arrived in the area about 10,000 years ago, defining a new stage in the evolution of the Ridge landscape. Our interaction with this landscape has allowed us to benefit from the geology and soils in so many ways, and in doing so, the landscape continues to evolve.