• Local GAPs

Slide Show

Introduction

Herefordshire and Worcestershire Earth Heritage Trust has developed a new series of geological trails that Walking the Way to Health groups – established groups of people who are walking regularly to improve their health – can use as part of their programmes. Four self-guiding trails have been established in Bridgnorth, Alveley, Stourport and Ledbury, along sections of the ‘ Geopark Way’, a walk that traverses the Abberley and Malvern Hills Geopark. The project to develop the trails was a collaborative effort between Shropshire Geological Society, Gloucestershire Geology Trust and the Earth Heritage Trust, as well as several local Walking the Way to Health groups.

The four trails promote geology and landscape as an enjoyable and educational part of walking whilst encouraging participants to improve their lifestyle through regular exercise. Each guide contains a map of the route with detailed instructions as well as descriptions of the geological and landscape features that can be seen along the way. Additional information on public transport, tourist information, Ordnance Survey maps, other trails and the Abberley and Malvern Hills Geopark can also be found in each guide.

The guides costs £1.00 each and are available to purchase from locations near to the trails. Descriptions and online ordering of the guides can be found here.

More information about the Walking the Way to Health Initiative can be found on their website www.whi.org.uk. This project was supported by Natural England through DEFRA’s Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund.

Alveley and Severn Valley Country Park – from coal pits to parkland

Exercise your body and your mind on a healthy walk around old Alveley village and the restored landscape of 20 th century coal mining. The walk will help towards your daily exercise routine. At the same time think about how the landscape has come to look as it does, because of the rocks on which it is built, or those found in the surrounding area.

The most noticeable scenic feature of the area today is the valley of the River Severn, cut into a broad valley immediately west of the village. But rather than descending gradually, the slope clearly has a broad central step in it. 25,000 years ago this step was the flood plain of a young River Severn. The river had been following this course for only a few thousand years, since the melt-water from glaciers over the Shropshire Plain carved a new gorge through the hills at Ironbridge about 30,000 years ago. As the river flowed cleaner and faster it cut down through the earlier flood plains leaving them abandoned as terraces on the valley sides.

Only 70 years ago this terrace provided a level platform from which to exploit a much older geological feature, but one totally hidden from view: the coal seams of the Highley and Alveley Collieries. From 1936 to 1969 the colliery waste from the workings east of the river was piled up on the terrace such as to completely remodel the valley side. In the 1980s, the considerable amount of remaining spoil that had not been removed for use as aggregate elsewhere, was landscaped into the smoothly rounded contours that we see today. Much of it was seeded to grassland, some areas were planted with trees, and the larger hollows were left as pools to create the very varied habitats of the Severn Valley Country Park.

From Alveley the valley narrows downstream towards Highley Station and the prominent new buildings of the Severn Valley Railway visitor centre. This in itself occupies an important spot geologically: the old Stanley Quarry. It is the sandstone seen in that quarry that has resisted erosion and hence caused the valley narrowing. The stone from here went up and down the Severn for many of the more substantial buildings since medieval times, including Worcester Cathedral and Bridgnorth bridge. But in the last century the main product from here was aggregate for use as local roadstone.

OUT OF PRINT

Bridgnorth – Rocks beneath your feet

Exercise your body and your mind on a healthy walk from the centre of Stourport out into the surrounding countryside. The walk will help towards your daily exercise routine. At the same time think about how the landscape has come to look as it does, because of the rocks on which it is built, or those found in the surrounding area.

The man-made landscape relies heavily on aggregates – the sand, gravel and crushed rock that goes into buildings, concrete, the roads we drive on and the paths beneath your feet on this walk. In the vicinity of Bridgnorth are extensive spreads of sand and gravel that were deposited as the River Severn found a new course during the last Ice Age. Our attitude towards aggregate extraction is ambivalent: seeing it both as an essential resource and as despoiling the countryside. Alas, we cannot have the former without the latter. Perhaps this walk, in looking at the formation of the river terraces, will help you to appreciate why aggregates occur where they do, and why they had to be quarried where they are found close to the town.

Ledbury – Over coral seas and sandy deserts

Exercise your body and your mind on a healthy walk from the centre of Ledbury out into the surrounding countryside. The walk will help towards your daily exercise routine. At the same time think about how the landscape has come to look as it does, because of the rocks on which it is built, or those found in the surrounding area.

The man-made landscape relies heavily on aggregates – the sand, gravel and crushed rock that goes into building foundations, concrete and the roads we drive on. Often that aggregate comes from sand and gravel deposits in river valleys, but around Ledbury there was an alternative form of aggregate made by crushing up solid rock. In the past this was frequently the by-product of limestone that was being quarried for burning to make lime, but as local lime production ceased, so several of the quarries continued to excavate limestone purely for crushing as aggregate.

To appreciate the geological setting of Ledbury you need to imagine this piece of the Earth’s crust about 425 million years ago. You would have been in a warm, tropical sea about 30 degrees south of the Equator. To the east was continent (as seen in present day rocks of Charnwood Forest in Leicestershire). To the west was a deep ocean, now represented by the fine-grained, dull grey rock of central Wales. In a broad zone just east of the Welsh Border was the continental shelf, which supported the growth of reefs not unlike the Great Barrier Reef of Australia today. The reefs and sea floor sediments of the day became consolidated into limestone rock. Move forward 30 million years and the ocean had disappeared because the continents either side had converged and collided with each other, throwing up instead a range of high mountains through north Wales, the Lake District and Scotland. As these eroded in turn, so huge deltas of sand were spread across a vast area of South Wales, Herefordshire and Shropshire to become consolidated as the Old Red Sandstone.

Later still, perhaps about 300 million years ago, a further phase of mountain building saw much faulting of the rock around Ledbury; the most obvious feature of which was the thrusting upwards of the very ancient rocks of the Malvern Hills. Fast forward to the present day and you are left with a situation where Ledbury lies across a roughly north to south geological fault with the younger Old Red Sandstone to the west and the older Wenlock Limestone to the east.

This gives us a walk clearly divided into two parts. Starting and finishing in the town centre are fairly level sections of the walk with only a gentle rise to the east. As you leave the town eastwards the route crosses the Ledbury Fault and rises steeply up wooded slopes now concealing the remains of a once-extensive quarrying industry.

Stourport – from gravel pits to a nature reserve

Exercise your body and your mind on a healthy walk from the centre of Stourport out into the surrounding countryside. The walk will help towards your daily exercise routine. At the same time think about how the landscape has come to look as it does, because of the rocks on which it is built, or those found in the surrounding area.

The man-made landscape relies heavily on aggregates – the sand, gravel and crushed rock that goes into building foundations, concrete and the roads we drive on. Nowhere is this better seen than in the regeneration of Stourport around the canal basins, and in the rapid expansion to the south of the town. Today we often make aggregate by crushing hard rock. In the past we exploited any ready-made source: in particular the sand and gravel that was laid down across the flood plains of massive rivers carrying the melt-water of glaciers after the last Ice Age. Here at Stourport, the town’s most obvious natural feature, the River Severn, in its broad, deep valley was completely absent 100,000 years ago. The main watercourse would have been the River Stour, draining down in a shallow valley from the Birmingham Plateau. The River Severn appeared on the scene as a raging torrent when the melt-water from glaciers over the Shropshire Plain carved a new gorge through the hills at Ironbridge about 30,000 years ago.

The river has been deepening its valley ever since, but with a much-reduced volume of water. As a result the initial spreads of glacial debris: a coarse mix of sand, gravel, pebbles and small boulders, have been left as conspicuous terraces at higher levels. Today’s flood plain contains much finer silt and sand. These differences are clearly seen at various points on the walk.