Old gravel pits with a story of life in the last ice age.
Zoom in to the Google Map to find the points of interest.
Lackford Lakes is a former sand and gravel quarry. It is now a Suffolk Wildlife Trust nature reserve with many waterside paths and bird watching hides. 40,000 years ago it was a very different place. Palaeolithic flint tools and fossil remains of Ice Age wildlife have been recovered from the valley floor, giving insights into life during the last Ice Age. We hope this story will add an extra dimension to your visit.
Suffolk Mammoth Trail Panel.
Under foot: thin, dry, sandy soils developed on ice age sands and gravels.
The floor of the River Lark valley is wide here, and is underlain by thick layers of sand and gravel washed down the floodplain by seasonal meltwaters in cold conditions. Beetle fossils preserved in peaty deposits uncovered by quarrying include the tiny rove beetle Boreaphilus henningianus, found today in the mountains of Scandinavia and northernmost parts of Eurasia. There were also cold climate molluscs. See the Suffolk Mammoth Trail panel for more wildlife information (map site A).
A scene in the Lark valley about 40,000 years ago. [Image courtesy Beverly Curl]
Boreaphilus henningianus (length 3.3mm) on a leaf of dwarf birch Betula nana. [Image courtesy Beverly Curl]
Greenshank, goldeneye and whooper swan are species that journey to northern Europe to breed. They visit Lackford Lakes in winter, bringing a whiff of the places where the ice age still lingers. They may have bred here during at least some of the Devensian, when conditions were right. The polar climatic front lay further south at this time.
Goldeneye Bucephala clangula [Image courtesy Jill Pakenham / BTO]
Fossils of woolly mammoth, bison and red deer have been found in the large pit (see map). Plant remains indicate an open marshy environment, with a few Scots pine, spruce and alder trees. Mosses have been radiocarbon dated to about 29,000 years old. Palaeolithic flint tools are evidence that early humans hunted here, probably Neanderthals visiting in summer.
A scene in the Lark Valley 40,000 years ago. [Image courtesy Beverly Curl]
A woolley mammoth tusk in Ipswich museum. [Image TD Holt-Wilson courtesy of Ipswich Borough Council (IPSMG: R.1989.93)]
The site is marked as ‘Lackford Wildfowl Nature Reserve’ on Ordnance Survey Explorer map no.229 ‘Thetford Forest in The Brecks’ (c. TL 800 706). It is signposted from the A1101, and managed by the Suffolk Wildlife Trust, with a visitor centre and wildlife trails.