• Local GAPs

Slide Show

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.

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