The loess of North-East Essex, England



A thin mantle of cover-loam over much of North-East Essex has been recognised as consisting largely of loess. The cover-loam represents the intermixing, to a varying degree, of a layer of loessial silt with a thin layer of underlying sand which is also of likely aeolian origin. The heavy mineral content of the coarse silt fraction of North-East Essex loess is generally similar to that of last glaciation age loesses elsewhere in Eastern England, Belgium and the Netherlands. This suggests the North-East Essex loess is part of a single loess sheet deposited over Eastern England and parts of Western Europe. Nevertheless, detailed examination of the heavy minerals content from all of these areas reveals slight areal variations especially in the proportion of hornblende. These differences show the coarse silt from North-East Essex loess to have closest affinities with that from Norfolk. A distant source for the loess within the present North Sea Basin is proposed on textural evidence. Loess accumulation in North-East Essex probably commenced in the few thousand years leading up to the maximum extent of Devensian ice (about 18,000 years B.P.) and may have continued to about 14,000 years B.P.