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The Origin of the Scenery of the British Islands2

Nature volume 29, pages 442443 | Download Citation



THE Plains of Britain, like those elsewhere, must be regarded as local base-levels of denudation, that is, areas where, en the whole, dei udation has ceased, or at least has become much less than deposit. Probably in all cases the areas they occupy have been levelled by denudation. Usually a greater or less depth of detrital material has been spread over them, and it is the level surface of these superficial accumulations that forms the plain. But in some instances, such as the flats of the Weald Clay and the Chalk of Salisbury Plain, there is hardly any such cover of detritus, the denuded surface of underlying rock forming the actual surface of the plain. Our plains, if classed according to the circumstances of their origin, may be conveniently regarded as (1) river plains—strips of meadow-land bordering the streams, and not infrequently rising in a succession of terraces to a considerable height above the present level of the water; (2) lake plains—tracts of arable ground occupying the sites of former lakes, and of which the number is ever on the increase; (3) marine plains—mostly flat selvages of alluvial ground, formed of materials originally laid down as a littoral marine deposit when the land lay below its present level: in the northern estuaries these up-raised sea-beds spread out as broad carse-lands, such as those of the Tay, Forth, and Clyde; (4) glacial drift plains—tracts over which the clays, sands, and gravels of the Ice Age form the existing surface; (5) submarine plains—the present floor of the North Sea and of the Irish Sea, which must be regarded as essentially part of the terrestrial area of Europe.

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