Bar development in a fluvial sandstone (Westphalian ‘A’), Scotland



The fluvial sandstone beneath the Mill Coal in the Westphalian ‘A’ of Scotland erosively overlies a lake mudstone. Slightly erosive surfaces within the sandstone, traceable for over 200 m, are used to divide it into two types of major sedimentary units termed type A and type B.

Type A sand units are approximately 200 m wide, up to 7 m thick, convex upward, and lenticular in all directions. The constituent cosets overlap to the ENE and dip mainly at 1–2° downcurrent (NNW), but locally at 10–15°. Where thickest, type A sand units display a vertical facies sequence commencing with trough cross-bedded and massive sandstone, overlain by a thick zone of ripple cross-lamination, a thin zone of trough cross-beds, and a variably eroded silt drape up to 0.4 m thick. Attenuated lateral margins are dominated by flat bedded sandstone with primary current lineation. Type A sand units are interpreted as deposits which were accreted on to a large fluvial bar during successive flood events. The bar is thought to have had a similar topographic significance to sand waves described from the Brahmaputra and slip face bounded bars observed in the South Saskatchewan river.

Palaeocurrents measured from trough cross-bed sets 0.3–1.0 m thick within type B sand units indicate flow to the WSW, perpendicular to the palaeoflow direction measured from type A units. In sections perpendicular to the WSW flow direction type B units are lenticular, and in ENE-WSW trending sections they can be traced for over 80 m at a constant thickness. Type B sand units are interpreted as the product of low stage channels which flowed across bar fronts and tops.

The sandstone described herein is interpreted as a braided-type river deposit but is atypical, because it is fine grained and has an internal structure dominated by ripple cross-lamination and upper phase plane beds. The palaeoriver is thought to have been of low sinuosity, 7–10 m deep, with a high suspended load and large rapidly fluctuating discharge. At low stage a braided-type flow pattern developed around submerged bars. The regime of the palaeoriver was probably controlled by the fine sediment grain size and humid tropical climate.