Scarborough Strata: A room with a view

By Roger Osborne

May has been a month of contrasts for me. The brilliant weather and the Tour de Yorkshire was off-set by a horrible attack of appendicitis and a week in Scarborough hospital having the blighter removed. Two positives to this tale of woe; well actually three. First, the care I received was brilliant – so thanks to everyone from the ambulance crews to the surgeons and expert nurses. Second, and most surprising, the food in Scarborough hospital is excellent. Somehow they have managed to crack the problem of giving several hundred people three good meals a day. Third, I had a lovely view of the long escarpment of Row Brow, a beautiful mix of pastures, hills and forests – which naturally got me thinking about landscapes and geology.

Scarborough is essentially a triple-deck layer cake with a chunk eaten out. Down at sea level is the Scarborough Limestone, a Middle Jurassic rock that forms the scar visible at low tide below the Spa on South Bay. Then above that is a low sloping plateau on which sits most of modern Scarborough town. This plateau is made of a nearly flat bed of Middle Jurassic sandstones called the Long Nab Member, and slopes gently upwards from the Town Hall and the Esplanade as far as Scalby Road. 

The third layer of the cake sits above the town. Oliver’s Mount, Jacob’s Mount, Irton Moor and Row Brow all sit on top of a stack of Upper Jurassic rocks. The seaward slopes of these hills form a series of escarpments that, together with the twin curved bays, give Scarborough the finest natural setting of any seaside town in Britain.

From my window in Lilac ward, I could see the woods on the top of Row Brow following the hard infertile Calcareous Grits, while the lower pasture slopes trace the long outcrop of Oxford Clay, and the small hills in the foreground are made of hard lumps of Cornbrash and Osgodby sandstone. All of which makes a beautiful mixed landscape – not a bad thing to look at while recovering from an operation.