South Queensferry-Cramond, Paraffin Young Heritage Trail - an excursion

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O.S. 1:50000 Sheet 65 Falkirk and West Lothian

B.G.S. 1:50000 Sheet 32W Livingston


THE object of this group of excursions is to study the Dinantian oil-shale bearing sediments of West Lothian, as exposed along the coast from South Oueensferry to Cramond, and to look at relics of the vast industry based on exploitation of the oil-shale. Also well displayed are teschenite sills of Namurian age and quartz-dolerite sills of Stephanian age, and their intrusive relationships to the sediments.

The area lies near the centre of the basin in which the oil-shale bearing beds were deposited. The basin was open to the north-cast, from which direction sediment was derived, and cut off by Lower Palaeozoic rocks of the Southern Uplands to the south-east. In other directions it was enclosed by volcanic piles. In the cyclical sediments the lagoonal oil-shales are underlain by marine or freshwater limestones and mudstones and succeeded by thick mudstone-siltstone-sandstone sequences of f1uvio-deltaic origin. Coals are rarely developed. The strata are divided into the Lower and the Upper Oil-Shale groups (Carruthers et al. 1927). the boundary being taken at the base of the freshwater Burdiehouse Limestone. The rocks belong to the Asbian and Brigantian Stages of the Visean. The main marine marker band is the lowest widespread marine horizon in the local Carboniferous, the Pumpherston Shell Bed. It is found throughout West Lothian and is recognised in Midlothian and East Lothian as the Macgregor Marine Bands and Cove Marine Bands (Wilson 1974). Beds below and including the Pumpherston Shell Bed belong to the TC miospore zone, higher beds to the NM zone.

Four half-day excursions are listed, which can be combined to make one or two day excursions.

While the sections are seen best when the tide is low, most exposures on the coastal excursions are near High Water Mark (HWM).

Paraffin Young Heritage Trail[edit]

The trail was first established by Lothian Regional Council and BP Oil Grangemouth Refinery Ltd to depict the story of this remarkable man and the West Lothian shale oil industry. The trail starts at the former BP Oil Grangemouth site and winds for 60km along the side roads of West Lothian by seven information notice boards.

INEOS Grangemouth Exhibition Centre (Location of former BP Oil Grangemouth Information Centre) (NS 941 814)[edit]

Travel by the M9 Motorway to Grangemouth. Turn off at Junction 5 and follow the B9143 (Grangemouth Industry). Turn left at the first roundabout, right at the second roundabout, then after 50 m right into the BP car park. The Information Centre (open Monday to Friday, 0900 to 1700) houses an exhibition of the shale industry, a contemporary documentary film of mining in the 1920's and an exhibition of the modern oil industry.

1. Bathgate (NS 966 673): An Industry is Born, the Secret Works[edit]

This house on the road south of Bathgate, once his secret laboratory, is all that remains of Young's original oil-works. It opened in 1851 using torbanite, and only later was attention turned to using oil-shale.

2. Five Sisters (NT 005 641): The Story of a Bing[edit]

The Westwood Bing, viewed from the B7015, is typical of the massive red spent shale spoil-heaps, produced from retorting the oil-shale. The substantial remains of the Westwood Works are still occupied by other enterprises. The five 'peaks' of the bing result from the method of tipping, green swards being from recent restoration.

3. Limefield House (NT 034 643): Paraffin Young, his Life and Times[edit]

James Young lived in this pleasant mansion, now a private home, just south of the A71 at Polbeth. The miniature Victoria Falls across the nearby stream commemorates his lifelong friendship with the missionary. David Livingstone.

4. Pumpherston (NT 071 695): A Central Refinery[edit]

Pumpherston is a shale village built by the Pumpherston Oil Company. The company retorts and refinery, below the bings east of the village, are still the site of oil-related manufacture and the production of bricks from spent shale. In contrast along the banks of the River Almond nearby lies the beautiful wooded Almondell Country Park.

5. Middleton Hall (NT 061 716): Former Scottish Oils Headquarters[edit]

Just south of the A89 in Uphall, the Hall, now a care home, stands surrounded by housing. originally built for oil company technical and managerial staff.

6. Broxburn (NT 080 722): Shaleopolis[edit]

The story of how the shale industry transformed Broxburn from a small rural village to an industrial boom town with rows of brick-built houses is detailed on the trail noticeboard in the centre of the town on the A899.

7. Winchburgh (NT 088 748): A Shale Company Village[edit]

The B8020 passes through one of the largest shale bings and by the road the final trail point describes this typical mining village with its high quality brick-built miners' rows.

At all times follow: The Scottish Access Codeand Code of conduct for geological field work