GEOLOGISTS have discovered fascinating evidence of Bury’s earliest residents.

The fossils, found in rock samples under the town and nearby Haslingden by United Utilities geologists, are of prehistoric animals and plants.

The relics suggest the eastern part of historic Lancashire was once a marshy swamp, before vanishing below sea level and the prehistoric remains eventually turning into coal.

James Hamnett, an engineering geologist for Jacobs, working alongside United Utilities, said the fossils were found approximately 80m to 170m deep in a rock.

He said: “It’s not unusual to find fossils in this part of Lancashire but these are really good quality. Everyone working on the project is interested in what we discovered, I found myself showing them these fossils and explaining the interesting past they indicated.

“The area between Bury and Haslingden is in the Pennine Coal Measures and Millstone Grit Groups, dating back around 300 million years.

“At various times in the past, the environment varied from marshy swamps and forests in some periods to deep sea in others. Heat and pressure over millions and millions of years turned the remains of these plants, forests, and trees into coal seams. The remains of marine animals on what was once sea bed became fossils and help us to date the age of the rock.”

Mr Hamnett believes the fossils include two different cephalopods, namely ammonite and goniatite, relics of tiny squid-like creatures with tentacles and shells. The team also discovered a carboniferous tree fern and a lepidodendron fossil, recognised by the tightly packed diamond-shaped leaf scars of an ancient type of carboniferous tree.

The samples were taken along the proposed route of an important new section of Haweswater aqueduct, which is being upgraded.

Neil Gillespie, the firm’s strategic programmes director, said: “This is a fascinating glimpse into a world we would otherwise never see. Our new pipeline will be up to hundreds of metres underground and when it’s finished it will itself only leave the occasional marker.”