This study evaluated the application of surface wave methods to aggregate variability and thickness determinations. We compared the results of field assessments of sand and gravel sequences using three surface wave survey approaches. The first was a seismic refraction approach, the second, a continuous surface wave (CSW) survey approach, and the third adopted a multi-channel analysis of surface waves (MASW) technique to the original refraction field set-up and records. The sand and gravel sequences were highly heterogeneous and the shear wave profiles were not normally dispersive (i.e. did not exhibit a monotonic increase in velocity with depth), which had a significant effect upon the performance of the three field approaches. Both CSW and MASW approaches provided information over a broad spectrum from which velocity–depth profiles were produced, but the upper frequency of operation was limited in both methods because of poorer signal quality at higher frequencies. Shear wave velocity profiles obtained using vertically vibrating sources during CSW surveys were different from profiles obtained using a horizontally polarized source in the refraction survey. This was attributed to different propagation paths and modes of propagation, which were illustrated via additional tomographic inversion of the refraction travel times but could also be attributed to data inversion methods. Probing using an ultra-lightweight cone penetrometer, continuous reflection profiling using ground-penetrating radar, and also an active extraction programme at the field site provided the opportunity to directly observe the subsurface geology and verify field results. Within the sand and gravel sequence, high-velocity layers were associated with matrix-supported coarse gravel lenses, some of which were weakly cemented. Localized high- and low-velocity zones within the underlying bedrock were interpreted as being related to lithostratigraphic heterogeneity and the development of an upper, weathered zone.

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