Reception: 01235 520173

Admissions: 01235 530593

Executive Assistant to the Headmistress: 01235 546502

Bursary: 01235 520657

Joint Bus Service: 01235 546565

St Helen and St Katharine, Faringdon Road, Abingdon, Oxfordshire, OX14 1BE

How to find us

Geography photography prize winner

Winning the Year 10–13 Geography Association photography competition was such a huge highlight of my year! I was absolutely speechless! I first heard about the competition just before the summer holidays and I decided to enter it, but I did not know what to take a picture of. I was looking for something that spoke out ‘physical geography’, but which was unassuming and different, and where the story behind it was not what first appeared on the outside.

I went to the Ashdown Estate in the summer. On other occasions I had overlooked the sarsen stones in the car park, but on that day I learnt more about them – that they weren’t just normal stones that you see every day. I was eager to take a photo of these stones, as I saw that there was something special about them (the different physical aspects, like holes from palm trees and that they were covered in lichens and bryophytes). When I researched the sarsen stones, I was extremely fascinated by how they had formed and got to where they are today. I have realised that something quite ordinary like a boulder may have a wonderful geographical story to tell.

Annabelle 10J


Annabelle's winning entry

The Forest Foreigners

Ashdown Estate, Lambourn, RG17 8RE.
51.5362°N 1.5963°W.

These large boulders on the Ashdown Estate are sarsen stones. The name sarsen comes from the word ‘Saracen’, or ‘foreigner’. Sarsen stones are also called ‘greywethers’ as when they appear in fields far away they look like sheep, which are known as ‘wethers’.

These sarsens are the remains of a sandstone layer that once covered the chalk layer seen in the area today. The sandstone layer was composed of hard quartz sand and was glued together with silica. The sandstone layer was broken up by weathering and erosion. The stones were then carried downwards by meltwater in the peri-glacial period and they now lie in the bottom of the valley.

Looking closer, the sarsen stones have holes in them, and these holes may have been formed by the roots of palm trees, millions of years ago.  Indeed, similar materials occur today in some tropical areas, eg the Kalahari Desert. These warmer conditions were a feature of the British Isles before the Ice Ages two to three million years ago. Today, the sarsen stones are carpeted with lichens and bryophytes.

I have been to the Ashdown Estate on several occasions and overlooked these rocks near the car park, anxious to explore the woods and beyond. However, after learning their extremely fascinating physical geographical history I now realize that every rock, stone and boulder is a wonderful piece of geography with an amazing story to tell.

Latest news