Sussex Local Geological Sites
The geodiversity information initially available on this website will be based on a survey of Regionally Important Geological and Geomorphological Sites (RIGS) in Sussex between 2010 and 2012. These sites are also called Local Geological Sites.
Suitable sites were originally identified by a voluntary group working from the Booth Museum of Natural History in Brighton from 1993 to 2006. Then, in 2010, the Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre working with West Sussex County Council, organised condition surveys for most West Sussex RIGS and updated site reports. In 2011 condition surveys of East Sussex RIGS were completed in partnership with East Sussex County Council. Most of the remaining RIGS sites in West Sussex were then surveyed in 2012. Of the 125 RIGS sites in Sussex, 120 have now been surveyed.
Initially, full information on the Local Geological Sites with public access will be made available. If possible information for other sites will be added subject to permission from the landowners.
Many of these sites are also designated as SSSI sites for their geological and/or biodiversity value by Natural England. The citations for these SSSIs, edited where appropriate, are quoted with the site descriptions.
Many are also sites designated under the Geoconservation Review (GCR) programme. Where the site accounts are available from the website they are quoted with the site descriptions. For some sites where online site accounts are not available, selected information derived from the published GCR volumes is included.
Geological Fieldwork Code (1.2 MB)
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Reproduced with the permission of the British Geological Survey ©NERC All rights reserved
Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2012
Superficial Deposits - expand to displayHolocene/Pleistocene
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Superficial deposits comprise a variety of unconsolidated sediments which overlie bedrock and show a patchy discontinuous distribution. They are mainly Pleistocene to Holocene in age and can be classified into three main categories: solifluction (periglacial) deposits, river deposits and beach deposits. Also included are sarsen stones which are isolated boulders of hard cemented sandstone often found on the Chalk and along the coast and are probably all that is left after the erosion of former Cenozoic deposits. Erratic boulders of igneous and metamorphic rocks are also found along the coast and in Pleistocene raised beach deposits. The origin of these is uncertain but they may have been deposited from icebergs or a glacier extending into the Channel.
Solent Group (SOLT) Oligocene
The Solent Group is present in the Hampshire Basin but does not extend into West Sussex. It overlies the Barton Group in the Hampshire Basin.
The Solent Group was deposited during late Eocene to early Oligocene time and is Priabonian (37 million years) to early Rupelian (33 million years) in age.
The lower boundary is drawn at the conformable upward passage from black clays of the Belton Sand at the top of the Barton Group to pale green clays of the Headon Formation.
The upper boundary is an erosion surface, overlain by Quaternary gravels.
The Solent Group in Sussex is represented by the Headon, Bembridge Limestone and Bouldnor formations totalling about 175 m in thickness.
The Headon Formation is about 65 m thick, the Bembridge Limestone Formation is 9 m thick and the Bouldnor Formation is about 100 m thick.
The Solent Group comprises marls, clays, silts and limestones with minor sands and also some lignite.
Sediments of the Solent Group were deposited in coastal plain environments ranging from marginal marine to freshwater or low-salinity lakes and lagoons and also fluvial and estuarine channels.
Headon Formation: mainly lagoonal or lacustrine bivalves and gastropods. The Brockenhurst Bed is a marine interval noted for abundant fossil corals.
Bembridge Limestone: freshwater gastropods and bivalves
Bouldnor Formation: lagoonal or lacustrine bivalves and gastropods, crustaceans, ostracods, foraminiferids. Well described insect bed. Oyster bed at base marks a marine horizon. Variety of vertebrate remains including crocodiles, turtles, fish, amphibians and mammals. Abundant plant fossils ranging from seeds, spores and fruit to fossilised tree trunks.
Bracklesham & Barton Groups (BRB/BA) (Wittering, Earnley, Marsh Farm & Selsey Formations - WTT/EA/MARF/SLSY)Eocene
The Bracklesham Group is present in the Hampshire Basin, extending into West Sussex, and the London Basin. The overlying Barton Group is confined to Hampshire.
The Bracklesham Group was deposited during early to middle Eocene time and is late Ypresian (49 million years) to middle Lutetian (43 million years) in age. The Barton Group was deposited during middle Eocene time and is late Lutetian (43 million years) to Bartonian (37 million years) in age.
The lower boundary shows a marked lithological change from interbedded fine-grained sand and silty clay above to dark grey silty clay with thin ironstones of the uppermost London Clay Formation below. The base is erosional and locally deeply channeled.
The upper boundary is marked by the `Tellina Bed' at the top of the Selsey Formation, composed of cross-bedded fine-grained sandstone. It is overlain by olive grey glauconitic sandy clays of the Barton Clay Formation.
Bracklesham group sediments are about 120 m thick.
The Bracklesham Group in Sussex is part of the Hampshire Basin and is represented by the Wittering, Earnley Sand, Marsh Farm and Selsey Sand formations. Equivalent formations of the same age but with different formation names occur in the London Basin.
The Wittering Formation varies from 40 to 53 m thick, the Earnley Sand Formation from 22 to 25 m, the Marsh Farm Formation from 12 to 14 m and the Selsey Sand Formation from 25 to 27 m.
Bracklesham Group sediments comprise interbedded laminated silts and silty clays, and sands and silty sands, some glauconitic, locally shelly.
The lower boundary is drawn at the base of clay and flint pebbles of the Barton Clay where it rests conformably on grey-brown sand of the Selsey Sand
The upper boundary is drawn at the conformable upward passage from black clays of the Becton Sand to pale green clays of the Headon Formation.
The Barton Group is about 175 m thick and is divided into the Barton Clay and Becton Sand formations.
The Barton Clay Formation comprises shelly clays of varying sand content. Fine-grained clayey, commonly glauconitic, sands and flint pebble beds occur in the lower part of the sequence.
The Becton Sand Formation comprises sandy clays, sands and a shelly clay unit.
Sediments of the Bracklesham Group were deposited in shallow marine environments ranging from estuarine and coastal to inner neritic.
The Barton Group sediments were deposited in shallow marine environments ranging from mid neritic to inner neritic and coastal. The upper part of the Becton Sand Formation represents brackish conditions.
Bracklesham Group: has a rich and diverse marine fauna and the Earnley and Marsh Farm formations are particularly well known. A wide variety of species of molluscs (bivalves and gastropods) can be found as well as a wide variety of shark species and other fish, mainly represented by isolated teeth. The large single-celled foraminifer Nummulites is common. Corals can be found occasionally. Vertebrate fossils are present at many levels, including reptiles and mammal bones and teeth.
Barton Group: the Barton Clay is highly fossiliferous but the Becton Sands have few fossils, The fossil fauna of the Barton Group is dominated by molluscs. Shark teeth are common and the beds have yielded remains of corals, fishes, mammals, reptiles and birds. Plant fossils are also abundant. Above the highly fossiliferous Barton Clay, there is a sandy series with few fossils.
Thames Group (THAM) (Harwich & London Clay Formations - HWH/LC)Eocene
The Thames Group is present in the Hampshire Basin and the London Basin. In the eastern Hampshire Basin the Thames Group extends into Sussex.
The Thames Group was deposited during early Eocene time and exposures in Sussex are early Ypresian (55 million years) to late Ypresian (49 million years) in age.
In both the Hampshire and London Basins the lower boundary is placed at the erosion surface below the glauconitic sands and sandy clays of the Harwich Formation which rests on the Woolwich and Reading Beds.
In the Hampshire Basin the upper boundary is placed at the erosion surface at the base of the Wittering Formation of the Bracklesham Group, where the London Clay gives way upwards to the glauconitic sands and silty clays of the Wittering Formation.
The Thames Group in Sussex is represented by the Harwich and London Clay formations and is about 110 m thick. The Harwich Formation is very thin and most of the group is represented by the London Clay Formation.
The Harwich Formation comprises silty clays.
The London Clay Formation comprises mainly grey clays in the London Basin but is siltier and sandier in the western London Basin and the Hampshire Basin. Calcareous concretions occur as bands or large nodules at various horizons and a shelly calcareous sandstone is developed at Bognor.
The Harwich Formation was deposited in marginal marine, brackish water environment.
In the western London Basin and the Hampshire Basin the London Clay Formation was deposited in a shallow marine, inner neritic environment.
Harwich Formation: fossils particularly include the small tube-like shells of a worm called Ditrupa plana. Pyritised fossil twigs are common and occasional sharks' teeth are found.
London Clay Formation: Fossils are common at certain horizons. The Bognor foreshore is an important site for early Eocene fossils, notably plants, insects (beetles) and birds. A diversity of marine fossils includes molluscs, brachiopods, fish remains and worm tubes.
Lambeth Group (LMBE) (Woolwich & Reading Formations - WRB)Paleocene
The Lambeth Group is present in the London Basin, Hampshire Basin and East Anglia. In the eastern Hampshire Basin extending into Sussex the Lambeth Group is is mainly represented by the Reading Formation. The Woolwich Formation is only recognised in the easternmost part of the basin and in outliers further east as at Newhaven.
The Lambeth Group was deposited during late Paleocene/early Eocene time and exposures in Sussex are late Thanetian (59 million years) to early Ypresian (56 million years) in age.
In Sussex the lower boundary of the Lambeth Group is unconformable on Chalk. The upper boundary is also an erosional surface at the base of the overlying Thames Group.
The Lambeth Group in Sussex is represented by the Woolwich and Reading Formations and is up to 27 m thick in the west of the London Basin.
The Reading beds facies comprises interleaved red and variegated clays and sands and also lignite and the Woolwich beds facies comprises grey clays and sands.
The Reading Formation was deposited in non-marine coastal plain setting while the Woolwich Formation was deposited in marginal marine low energy environments.
Reading Formation: generally unfossiliferous but lignites in the interval contain well preserved plant remains ranging from seeds to in situ palm stumps. Some fish, reptile and insect fossils have been found.
Woolwich Formation: fossil shells are typical including bivalves and gastropods. Pollen and plankton microfossils are found.
Chalk Group (CK) (Grey Chalk & White Chalk Subgroups - GYCK/WHCK)Upper Cretaceous
The Chalk Group outcrops in England from Kent, Sussex and Dorset to Yorkshire. The group is divided into provincial areas (Southern, Transitional and Northern). In South East England the Chalk underlies the South and North Downs and parts of the Isle of Wight. Many of the individual formation stratotype sections for the Southern Province are exposed in the sea-cliffs of Sussex and Kent.
The Chalk was deposited during Upper Cretaceous time and in Sussex it ranges in age from lower Cenomanian (100 million years) to upper Campanian (72 million years).
The lower boundary is generally unconformable on the underlying Lower Cretaceous strata (Upper Greensand and Gault Formations), while the upper boundary is unconformable beneath the Palaeogene or Pleistocene basal unconformity.
The thickness of the whole group is variable depending on the degree of post-Cretaceous erosion and the relative development of its constituent formations. Onshore the thickest development is within the Hampshire/Sussex area of the Southern Province, where up to about 560m of strata are preserved.
The Chalk group is divided into two subgroups. The Grey Chalk Subgroup is characterized by marly chalks and interbedded marls especially in the lower part. Overlying this is the White Chalk Subgroup characterized by soft white chalks. The lower part includes beds of harder nodular chalk and has few flints whereas the upper part includes numerous flints and widespread flint layers.
Chalk is a soft limestone that was deposited in marine environments mainly as fossil debris forming calcareous mud (ooze). The majority of the fossil debris making up the Chalk consists of the microscopic plates, which are called coccoliths, of microscopic planktonic green algae known as coccolithophores. The coccolithophores lived in the upper part of the water column. When they died, the microscopic calcium carbonate plates, which formed their shells, settled downward through the ocean water and accumulated on the ocean bottom to form a thick layer of calcareous ooze which eventually became the Chalk.
The planktonic, coccolithic origin of the sediment in the top 40 m of sea or ocean water means that the resulting carbonate rock is very widespread and not restricted, as is the case with most limestones, to stable platforms. It is now generally agreed that the Chalk formed at depths between 100 and 500 m across the UK, with the depth varying from shallower shelf sea areas where tidal channels might have been present to deeper parts of the basin. The Chalk of southern England is considered by many researchers to be a shallower water deposit than the equivalent age chalks of northern England.
Chalk occurs with or without flints and includes discrete marl (calcareous mudstone), sponge, calcarenite, phosphatic and hardground beds.
There is a rich fossil fauna but in most parts of the Chalk highly fossiliferous bands are relatively restricted. The diversity of fossils includes ammonites, belemnites, inoceramid and other bivalves, brachiopods, echinoids, crinoids, sponges and abundant trace fossils.
Selborne Group (SELB) (Upper Greensand & Gault Formations - UGS/GLT)Lower Cretaceous
The Selborne Group is known at outcrop and at depth throughout southern England, from Devon to the Weald and on the Isle of Wight, throughout the Chilterns into East Anglia and in Lincolnshire and South Yorkshire.
The Selborne Group was deposited in Lower Cretaceous time and is Albian (112 to 100 million years) in age.
The lower boundary is generally taken at the base of a phosphatic pebble bed or gritty mudstone at the base of the Gault Formation where this overlies the Carstone in East Anglia, the Monk's Bay Sandstone Formation on the Isle of Wight or the Folkestone Formation of the Weald. Elsewhere in southern England the base of the Gault Formation rests on an unconformity and oversteps onto Lower Greensand Group sandstones and ironstone, Wealden or Purbeck groups or onto various units of the Jurassic.
The upper boundary is defined at the junction between mudstones, sandstones or interbedded limestones and marls, and the basal unit of the overlying Chalk Group. The erosion surface is characterised by glauconitic sand and phosphatic nodules at the base of the Glauconitic Marl Member of the West Melbury Marly Chalk Formation.
The group is up to 110m thick in the Weald where the full succession is present. In marginal areas to the west and north the group may be a little as 5m thick.
The Selborne Group is represented by the diachronous Gault and Upper Greensand formations. The top of the Gault is a diachronous transition from mudstone into Upper Greensand facies (glauconitic sand) westward of a line from Sevenoaks (Kent) to Eastbourne (Sussex). In eastern areas the upper boundary of the formation is the unconformable junction with the basal Grey Chalk Subgroup.
The Gault Formation is up to 104 m thick in the Weald and the Upper Greensand Formation is up to 60 m thick.
The Gault Formation comprises pale to dark grey or blue-grey clay or mudstone, glauconitic in part, with a sandy base. There are discrete bands of phosphatic nodules and some pyrite and calcareous nodules.
The Upper Greensand Formation comprises thick glauconitic sandstones in Hampshire and the western Weald and passes laterally into siltstones and mudstones of the Gault facies in the Wealden area and into East Anglia.
The Gault Formation was deposited in mid to outer shelf marine environments and the Upper Greensand Formation was deposited nearer to the shore in shallower depths.
Molluscs (cephalopods, bivalves, gastropods) are the dominant fossils in both the Gault and Upper Greensand. Ammonites are common in the Gault but sparse in the Upper Greensand.
Fossils found in the Gault also include solitary corals, fish remains (including shark teeth), scattered crinoid remains, and crustaceans. Occasional fragments of fossil wood may also be found. Discrete bands of phosphatic nodules commonly preserve fossils.
The Upper Greensand also includes fossil sponges and foraminifera.
Lower Greensand Group (LGS) (Atherfield Clay, Hythe, Sandgate & Folkestone Formations - AC/HY/SAB/FO)Lower Cretaceous
In Sussex, the Lower Greensand Group outcrops around the edge of the Weald. It also outcrops in the Isle of Wight, and occurs to a lesser extent in Wiltshire to Bedfordshire, Norfolk, Dorset, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire.
The Lower Greensand Group was deposited during Lower Cretaceous time and is Aptian in age (125 to 112 million years).
In southern England there is an erosional unconformity or disconformity at base of the Lower Greensand Group (Atherfield Clay Formation). In most of the area the group overlies Weald Clay Formation. Elsewhere it oversteps onto Jurassic rocks.
The upper boundary of the Lower Greensand Group is marked by the base of the overlying Gault Clay. In the Wealden area, this is the base of a short interval of condensed facies beds at the bottom of the Gault above the sands of the Folkestone Formation.
Thickness is about 250 m in the south western Weald and varies up to a maximum of 300 m.
The group is divided into the Atherfield Clay, Hythe, Sandgate and Folkestone Formations.
In the Weald, the Atherfield Clay varies from 10 to 18m thick, the Hythe Formation from 18 to 100 m, the Sandgate Formation from 50 to 100 m and the Folkestone Formation from 0.5 to 80 m.
The group consists mainly of sands and sandstones (varying from well-sorted fine-grained to poorly sorted medium- to coarse-grained) with silts and clays in some intervals.
The Lower Greensand group was deposited in shallow marine to nearshore environments, sometimes estuarine with strong tidal currents.
The Atherfield Clay and the Sandgate formations are more fossiliferous than the sandy Hythe and Folkestone formations where the best preserved fossils are found in nodules and thin limestones.
Fossils are mainly molluscs and also brachiopods and ammonites. Sponges, polyzoa, echinoids and gastropods are also found. Transported terrestrial plant and animal remains are also recorded.
Atherfield Clay Formation: rich in fossils including ammonites, bivalves, corals, echinoids and brachiopods.
Hythe Formation: fossils locally abundant in the eastern "rag and hassock" facies but rare in the chert-rich sandstones of the western facies. Ammonites, belemnites, nautiloids, bivalves, brachiopods and echinoids are recorded together with foraminifera, radiolarian and ostracods.
Sandgate Formation: the calcareous and ferruginous intervals are rich in fossils including ammonites, bivalves, brachiopods, nautiloids, echinoids, gastropods and corals. Fossils are rare in the glauconitic silts of southern Sussex.
Folkestone Formation: fossils are rare in the main sands but some sandstone beds and phosphatic nodules have a rich fauna including ammonites, bivalves, echinoids, gastropods and annelids. Fish and reptile remains and driftwood have also been found.
Wealden Group (Weald Clay Formation - WC)Lower Cretaceous
The Weald Clay Formation crops out in the Weald. In the subcrop the formation thins and is cut-out against the Hampshire-Dieppe High in the south and the London-Brabant Ridge in the north. It disappears westward in the subcrop of the Wessex Basin.
The Weald Clay Formation was deposited during Lower Cretaceous time ranging in age from the start of Hauterevian (about 133 million years) to the end of Barremian (125 million years).
Where the full section is present the lower boundary is conformable with the underlying Tunbridge Wells Sand Formation. However, the boundary is poorly defined and gradational.
The upper boundary is unconformable and sharp at the contact between the ochre-brown mudstones of the upper part of the Weald Clay and the overlying darker mudstones of the basal Atherfield Clay Formation.
Thickness varies from 120 m to a maximum of about 500 m in the western Weald.
The formation comprises mainly dark grey shales and mudstones but also includes subordinate siltstones, fine- to medium-grained sandstones, including calcareous sandstone (e.g. Horsham Stone Member), shelly limestones (the so called "Paludina Limestones") and clay ironstones.
The Weald Clay Formation was deposited in non-marine freshwater to brackish environments. Silts and clays were deposited in meander plains, lakes, coastal lagoons and mudflats. Sandstones are associated with channels.
The Weald Clay Formation contains relatively abundant fossils and is well known for its dinosaur remains. The fossils include many ostracods, small, fresh to brackish-water molluscs and fish, together with remains of aquatic and land plants, reptiles, insects and trace fossils.
Wealden Group (Hastings Beds Subgroup - HAS)Lower Cretaceous
The Hastings Beds only outcrop in the High Weald of Sussex and Kent.
The Hastings Beds were deposited during Lower Cretaceous time ranging in age from lower Berriasian (about 141 million years) to top Valanginian (133 million years).
In Sussex the lower boundary of the Hastings Beds (Wealden Group) is conformable, where the base of non-marine sandstones and siltstones of the Ashdown Formation overlies calcareous mudstones and limestones of the Purbeck Group. The upper boundary at the top of highest sandstone of the Tunbridge Wells Sand Formation is conformable with the overlying Weald Clay Formation.
The Hastings Beds are divided into the Ashdown, Wadhurst Clay and Tunbridge Wells Sand Formations.
Thickness varies laterally up to a maximum of 400 m. The Ashdown Formation is 115 to 230 m thick, the Wadhurst Clay is 30 to 78 m thick and the Tunbridge Wells Sand Formation is 46 to122 m thick.
The Hastings Beds form a sandstone-dominated sequence of ferruginous sandstones, siltstones and clays. The Ashdown Formation and Tunbridge Wells Sand Formation are dominantly arenaceous and separated by an argillaceous unit, the Wadhurst Clay. The Ashdown Formation contains clay seams, informally known as Fairlight Clays. Within the Tunbridge Wells Sand Formation is an argillaceous unit, the Grinstead Clay member, which is up to 27 m thick.
The Hastings Beds were deposited in non-marine fluvial to lacustrine environments. In marginal areas major braided streams deposited sands in channel and possible fan deposits while towards the basin centre silts and clays were deposited in meander plains and lakes. Periods of severe flooding are represented by widespread pebble beds.
In the sandstone formations fossils tend to be sparse or localised, but include remains of land plants, freshwater molluscs, fish and dinosaurs.
The mudstone formations show relatively abundant fossils with many ostracods, small, fresh to brackish-water molluscs and fish, together with remains of aquatic and land plants, reptiles including dinosaurs, insects and trace fossils.
Dinosaur fossils have been found in all the formations of the Hastings Beds and the first remains of Iguanodon were found by Gideon Mantell in 1825 in the Cuckfield Stone, part of the Grinstead Clay.
Ashdown Formation: fossils rare in sandstones and silts except for fragmentary plant remains and poorly preserved moulds of bivalves and ostracods. Plants are well preserved in the Fairlight Clays - ferns, cycads and conifers. Dinosaur footprints are well preserved locally in the Ashdown Formation.
Wadhurst Clay Formation: bivalves and ostracods dominant but gastropods and foraminifera are recorded and also insects. There are winnowed accumulations rich in vertebrate remains - bone fragments, teeth and scales representing fish, turtles, crocodiles and dinosaurs. Plants are found sometimes in growth position.
Tunbridge Wells Sand Formation: fossils are uncommon and often poorly preserved in the sandstones. Rootlet horizons and plant-rich beds are common in the Grinstead Clay and bivalves, gastropods and ostracods are found.
Purbeck Group (PB)Lower Cretaceous
The Purbeck Group occurs in south Dorset, in the Weald and as several inliers in the Vale of Wardour and Vale of Pewsey. It outcrops only in small inliers in the core of the Weald and is mainly present in the subcrop. It occurs in the subcrop throughout the Wessex Basin as far west as Wiltshire and Dorset, and as far north as Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire.
The Purbeck Group was deposited during Lower Cretaceous time and is Berriasian in age (about 146 to 141 million years).
The lower boundary is taken at the first occurrence of finely laminated, ostracod-rich limestones above the more massive, shelly limestones of the Portland Group. The base is not seen in the small inliers in the Weald of East Sussex and is only recorded in subcrop.
The upper boundary is taken at the last occurrence of significant limestone before monotonous Wealden Group sandy mudstones.
Total thickness of the Purbeck Group varies from 77 to 186 m in the Weald.
The group is divided into the Lulworth and Durlston Formations. The outcrops in the Weald represent the upper Lulworth Formation and the Durlston Formation and represent about 80% of the total thickness of the group.
In the area of the Weald inliers the Lulworth and Durlston Formations are each about 70 m thick.
The Lulworth Formation in the Weald is characterized by interbedded mudstones and limestones and also evaporites in the lowest part.
The Durlston formation in the Weald includes sandstones, argillaceous limestones and mudstones.
The Purbeck Group was deposited in freshwater, brackish lake and hypersaline lagoon environments with occasional minor marine incursions.
Bivalves and gastropods are abundant, especially in the thin shelly limestones. Ostracods are the most abundant fossils with the greatest variety of species. Remains of primitive mammals, reptiles, fish, insects, crustaceans and plants are found. An oyster bed at the base of the Durlston Formation indicates near-marine conditions.
Identification and description of stratigraphic units is based on the British Geological Survey Lexicon of Named Rock Units (www.bgs.ac.uk/lexicon)
with additional information derived from
P.J. Brenchley and P.F. Rawson (eds) 2006. The Geology of England and Wales, 2nd edition. Geological Society, London
Local Geological Sites marked on map (above):
Important information about visiting Sussex Local Geological Sites
Sussex Local Geological Sites (LGSs) are geological sites that are important for historical, scientific research or educational reasons. The Sussex GeoDiversity Partnership, English Nature and Local Authorities work together to protect and maintain them for these purposes.
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