The Geology of the Parish
For its size, the parish of Kippen presents a considerable variety of geological structure. Speaking generally, it consists of a series of low hills, bounded on the north by the flat plain of the Carse of Stirling, and on the south by the Endrick Valley and the hollow which lies at the northern base of Stronend and the Gargunnock Hills.
These low hills are formed of abraded sandstone of various formations. The greater portion consists of Old Red Sandstone, part of the great belt of that formation which stretches across Scotland, from Stonehaven on the north-east to Rothesay on the south-west. The south-eastern boundary of the formation goes right through the parish of Kippen, passing behind the village a few yards south of the main street. No trace of this great fault, representing the junction of two important geological formations, appears at the surface. The Old Red Sandstone rocks in Kippen parish consist of dull red and grey sandstones, which are exposed at various points in the courses of small streams. These are succeeded on the south-east, on the other side of the line of junction, by a band of bright red stone belonging to the Calciferous Sandstone series, the lowest members of the great Carboniferous formation. The brilliant colour of this stone is most noticeable, and the rock is quarried at different parts of the parish, most of the houses in the locality being built of it. Its red colour has caused it to be associated with the Old Red Sandstone, which it immediately adjoins, and Hugh Miller and other geologists have reckoned it as the highest member of the last-mentioned formation, but it is generally considered now as the lowest member of the Carboniferous formation. Towards the base of the Gargunnock Hills, the shales and grey sandstones of the Cement-stone group of the Calciferous Sandstone appear.
The most noticeable feature in the landscape of the parish is the steep slope of Stronend and the adjoining hills. Although these are beyond the boundary of the parish, no account of its geology would be complete without some mention of them. These hills form the northern edge of the extensive plateau which at its various parts is known as the Campsie Fells, Kilsyth Hills, Touch Hills, Gargunnock and Fintry Hills. The plateau consists of a series of sheets of porphyrite, a volcanic rock of Carboniferous age. Associated with the porphyrite are bands of tuff agglomerate, which prove that this was a region of great volcanic activity in ancient times. The porphyrite, which is an ancient lava, appears in a series of flows one upon the other, and this is the cause of those parallel horizontal lines which are such a striking feature of the ridge. Each lava flow ends in a vertical face, at the base of which a talus of weathered rock has accumulated, assuming a steep slope. Each successive lava flow is marked by a vertical cliff with its sloping talus, and thus has arisen the peculiar appearance of successive cliff and slope on the northern face of the hill.
In the parish of Kippen there is abundant evidence of glaciation. The whole of the central portion of the parish presents that abraded appearance resulting from the prolonged action of the ice sheet in glacial times. The surface is worn into hummocks and ridges, and on this, glacial striae or scratches can be distinctly seen at places. The direction of the ridges and of the striae is identical, and by the compass reads 75 degrees W.N.W. by E.S.E. On Gribloch Moor the rock crops out repeatedly at the surface, among peat and heather. It has an exceedingly rough appearance, and is so covered with grey lichens that it is only on examination that we see that the rock is a sandstone of brilliant red colour. The sandstone is so soft as not to have retained very clearly the finer markings of the ice, as a harder rock would have done; but its ridged appearance and the general contour of the district give clear evidence of extreme glaciation.
The whole water-shed between the Forth and the Endrick is a succession of low, rounded hills, with peat moss, and occasionally a small loch in the hollows — a characteristic ice-worn region. All the lower ground is covered with sheets of boulder clay, the material resulting from the wearing action of the ice. The long valley south of Wright Park is a true glacial valley, the result of the greater impact there of the ice, owing to the resistance of the hard porphyritic rock of Stronend. Travelled boulders, consisting chiefly of fragments of Highland rocks from the north-west, may be seen here and there in the parish, but these are not very plentiful compared with other neighbouring districts.
One of the principal natural features of the parish is the flat portion of the Carse of Stirling, which is a "raised beach," or old ocean floor, relic of a time when the salt waters of the Forth estuary rolled westward as far as Gartmore. Had there been no change since then in the relative levels of land and sea, Kippen would now have been a seaside village, on the southern margin of the Firth of Forth. The old coast line can be distinctly traced throughout its whole length in the parish of Kippen, following a winding course. Near Port of Menteith Station a long promontory stretches out to the north, between which and Cardross the ancient estuary must have been reduced to a narrow strait. Between the station and Arnprior village was a well-marked bay, from which the coast line passes east-ward underneath where the village of Kippen now stands. The old coast line can still be seen at any point on the southern margin of the carse, where the land rises with a steep slope, at some places even with a precipitous cliff, which looks as if the waters of the ancient ocean had just receded. It can also be very well studied at many points in the immediate vicinity of Kippen. All over the carse are beds of marine shells, chiefly oysters, at a depth of several feet below the surface. There are at least fourteen well-authenticated cases of the remains of whales being found embedded in the carse clays, none of them, however, in the parish of Kippen. Along with several of the whale remains were human implements, proving that man was contemporary with the old Forth estuary now marked by the fifty feet raised beach. There are evidences of a still older coast line, forming the boundary of the 100 feet raised beach, an older and higher ocean floor, which in the parish of Kippen cannot be so clearly traced.
The most recent geological formation in the parish is the peat moss overlying the clays of the carse, and known as Flanders Moss. This has been entirely formed since the human race inhabited this country. The moss would begin to form whenever the sea retired, leaving a flat and stagnant swamp, very imperfectly drained by the river Forth, which had not had time to carve its winding course out of the carse clays. The moss must have continued to grow down to historical times, though reclamation and drainage have now stopped its growth.