I'm learning geology to understand the processes behind the formation of my local landscape.

I understand the processes behind big features, such as mountains. But I'm struggling to understand the processes behind small local features, such as hills.

I live in Reading, Berkshire, South-East England, with a typical landscape of rolling of grassy hills and clay strata. Similar to this image below.

What geological processes would be responsible for the formation of this landscape?

enter image description here

Additional Information


I dug a hole in my garden and found there is a thin layer of soil, then a large amount of clay with a variety of rocks and pebbles.

enter image description here


The main features are a landscape of rolling-hills and grassy plains.


What geologic processes are responsible for the formation of these low-hills and clay strata?

Were the hills once mountains, now eroded?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Being in England, the birthplace of modern geology, I'm pretty sure there are books and maps about the local geology. Did you try having a look? $\endgroup$
    – Gimelist
    Commented May 4, 2016 at 5:10
  • $\begingroup$ Take a look at this geological map of Britain from the British Geological Survey. Take a look at your local area and maybe edit your question to provide us more detail. $\endgroup$
    – bon
    Commented May 4, 2016 at 12:54
  • $\begingroup$ The BGS also have some excellent regional handbooks. They're currently going through republishing them.I don't know the age of the one for your area, but anything in the past 20 or so years is probably good! (some of the recently replaced ones were from the 1940s-60s). $\endgroup$
    – winwaed
    Commented May 5, 2016 at 12:52

1 Answer 1


(this is consciously the start of the answer - my regional geology books -cf. above comment, are packed away due to a house move).

The rolling hills are very distinctive of the English Jurassic & Cretaceous. Relatively low dipping rocks - long wavelength folds. The ridges are due to rocks that are more resistant to erosion. For example, the English chalk forms the North Downs and South Downs (and the Yorkshire & Lincolnshire Wolds). Chalk is actually more resistant to erosion that some of the surrounding rocks (don't believe me? Have a look at Beachy Head or Flamborough Point!). These ridges have influenced pre-Roman history - eg. the Ridgeway follows a series of these ridges.

I may be out of date on this, but the folding is usually blamed on the formation of the Alps. The Alps are a long way off, but their influence can be felt as mild folding. The cause must be after the youngest Cretaceous that is present (which I think is the chalk?) - and there was only really the Alps, the Paleogene North Atlantic Volcanism (eg. Skye, Arran, Mull), and opening of the North Atlantic to choose from.

As for your soils: This is where the Regional guide will help. The soils are much more recent. A decent explanation will probably involve at least one ice age, and river courses which have since changed (eg. the proto-Thames used to flow from the North!)

  • $\begingroup$ I've been reading up on this and I wanted to see if my understanding is correct. If ancient river courses are responsible for the soils, does that mean I live on an ancient delta? $\endgroup$
    – G. Gip
    Commented Jun 1, 2016 at 13:04
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Probably not. But water flow may be an important part of the explanation (as ice might be) $\endgroup$
    – winwaed
    Commented Jun 1, 2016 at 13:16

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