Upper Harthope Valley

On Tuesday 29th November we set out to make a more detailed study of the rocks in the upper Harthope Valley above Harthope Linn. We believe from preliminary samples that these may differ significantly from the granitic rocks of the Cheviot pluton. The day is bright and cold with a hard frost promising to make boggy ground easier to walk over. The furthest permitted parking is at the Hawsen Burn just below Langleeford. From there it is a long but easy farm track to Langleefordhope, and then about a quarter of a mile to the lower Harthope Linn close to the stell (circular sheepfold). After that, the going becomes much rougher with several potentially difficult burn crossings.

The rocks outcropping above the stell prove to be granitic Central Belt group although rather more mafic than usual. Similarly the dyke-like outcrop beside the path about 200 yards above the upper Harthope Linn, is also granitic. This rock seems to give rise to a fairly even rolling hillsides.

Looking down the Harthope Valley from near Harthope Linn.
The granitic rocks of granite/quartz-monzonite give smooth rounded slopes.

From this point onwards, the type of rock changes consistently. We checked this most of the way to the watershed. The rock appears to be a form of breccia. In many places it has obviously been severely shattered. In other places it seems more stratified and less disturbed. Because of the shattered nature of the rock, it erodes into gullies more readily giving a more irregular pattern to the slopes of the hills.

A view looking up the Harthope Valley from above Harthope Linn.
The erosion gullies formed from the breccia rocks can be clearly seen.

An outcrop of typical breccia.

An outcrop of stratified breccia.

The breccia has been cemented together by silica and red haematite. The silica occasionally has space to crystallise out into attractive quartz crystals, mostly rock crystal but a few specimens show a hint of mauve. Occasionally, veinlets of black tourmaline appear with the quartz.

The Harthope valley marks the line of a SW-NE fault almost bisecting the pluton. Lateral displacement can be detected from the plutonic/lava margins on either side of the fault, and can be measured to about a quarter of a mile. Vertical movement, if any, is unknown. The faulting begs the question whether the breccia is a product of a crush zone, or evidence for volcanic vent activity. We remain uncertain about this. However, certain conclusions can be drawn. The breccia must have been cemented together under high temperatures for crystalline silica and tourmaline to have been deposited. The flatter layers imply more stable conditions for at least some of the hydrothermal activity. The presence of haematite (ferric oxide) indicates oxidising conditions but whether these were the result of iron reacting with high temperature water vapour inside the magma chamber, or exposure to the air at a vent, is uncertain.

Severely shattered breccia outcrop