The Black Country Global Geopark

On the 14th December, attendees enjoyed a superb talk organised by the Friends of Rowley Hills entitled ‘The Black Country UNESCO Global Geopark Project – Paving the way to the heritage future of the Black Country‘. Presented by Graham Worton, Keeper of Geology at Dudley Museum & Art Gallery, this talk described the very exciting plans to get the Black Country globally recognised for its unique geological, industrial and cultural heritage.

The Black Country during the Industrial Revolution

The Black Country during the Industrial Revolution

When people think of the Black Country, often the image that first springs to mind is a concrete jungle of seemingly endless roads and urban development, far from other sites in the UNESCO Geoparks Network such as the North West Highlands in Scotland, or the English Riviera on the south Devon Coast. However dig a little deeper and the Black Country reveals itself to be a treasure trove of geological gems! There is an incredible variety of different types of rocks crammed into this small area, including important deposits of limestone, ironstone, fireclay and coal, which helped to drive the Industrial Revolution. This brought about experimentation and innovation, leading to many technological advances and geological discoveries. Inventions such as the Newcomen Engine and the Watt Beam Engine emerged, and a diverse range of rare fossils were found and catalogued, including 63 species found nowhere else in the world! Today, you can see and learn about the Black Country’s amazing geology for yourself at many locations, including Dudley Museum and Art Gallery, Wren’s Nest National Nature Reserve, Barr Beacon Local Nature Reserve, Saltwells Local Nature Reserve, Barrow Hill and Tansey Green, Moorcroft Wood Local Nature Reserve, Cotwall End Valley and Sedgley Beacon and Beacon Hill Quarries.

A fossil trilobite known as Calymene blumenbachii, a.k.a. the Dudley bug!

A fossil trilobite known as Calymene blumenbachii, a.k.a. the Dudley bug!

This is just a small range of the Black Country’s geosites though; the team leading the Global Geopark bid have identified many more, which can be viewed on this map. These of course include the Rowley Hills, which are important due to their exposures of dolerite, a rock which solidified from molten magma within the Earth’s crust. Due to its hardness, this rock was resistant to erosion when the Black Country area was glaciated; surrounding softer rocks were removed to leave the Rowley Hills standing tall above the rest of the landscape.

The Black Country Geopark team have put together an application dossier which has now been submitted to UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). The aim of the bid is to get the Black Country designated by UNESCO as a Global Geopark, which will substantially raise the area’s profile and bring many benefits via increased tourism, including improved economic performance, wellbeing of residents, quality of environment and inward investment potential. You can read the full application dossier here: http://www.blackcountrygeopark.org.uk/sites-to-see/ The Friends of Rowley Hills wish the team every success with the Black Country Global Geopark bid!

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