Research reveals ancient valleys buried beneath Scotland

The Kelpies Image copyright PA
Image caption Among the locations of buried palaeo-valleys is near Falkirk

New research has provided further insights into ancient valleys that lie beneath the Scottish landscape.

Buried palaeo-valley systems have been studied in parts of England, Wales and the North Sea, but those in Scotland are less well understood.

The new study by British Geological Survey (BGS) has identified 18 systems in central Scotland.

Created by glacial processes, the valleys are up to 22 miles (36km) in length and 162m (531ft) deep.

The deeper valleys were created many tens of thousands of years ago, while shallower ones were formed by retreating ice towards the end of the last ice age.

The valleys were later filled in by sediment.

Image copyright British Geological Survey
Image caption An image showing the buried valley at Grangemouth. Copyright British Geological Survey

It was known that there were buried palaeo-valleys in Scotland, including beneath Alva in Clackmannanshire, under the River Kelvin north west of Glasgow and near Falkirk below Grangemouth, well-known for a massive petrochemical plant and The Kelpies sculptures.

However, the age and extent of these systems and how they were formed was poorly understood.

The BGS research team examined data from more than 100,000 boreholes from its national borehole archive.

A better understanding of the systems helps to provide insights into the behaviour of groundwater, and guide the laying of foundations for construction projects and potential for tapping into geothermal heat.

The researchers have now started work on a UK-wide map of buried palaeo-valleys.

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