A group of enthusiastic volunteers from the Black Country Geological Society were hard at work on Portway Hill last Saturday. They did a great job clearing vegetation that was obscuring the dolerite rock exposures, and improving the footpath using eroded material from the rockface – it doesn’t get more locally sourced than that! Here are a few photos of their efforts.
On the morning of Thursday 23 June, three representatives of FORH, Julie, Bob and Mike, along with Chris Parry, Principal Ecologist for the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country, joined Graham Worton, Keeper of Geology at Dudley Museum and Art Gallery and the two scrutineers Jari Nenonen from Finland and Jin Xiaochi from China on their UNESCO Global Geopark Evaluation Mission visit to the Rowley Hills.
To give our guests a panoramic view of the surrounding Black Country, the high point at the top of Darbys Hill Road was the first port of call. From here Graham put names to the distant hills and pointed out some of the nearby sites that had been visited during the previous two days.
From here the short journey was made to the Wildlife Trust land on Portway Hill where our visitors were able to get up really close to the outstanding geological features and we were given the opportunity to talk to them about the role the Wildlife Trust and Friends of Rowley Hills played in conserving and managing this site for its wildlife and geology.
Several other Sandwell sites were to be visited as part of the evaluation mission during the remaining part of the day, so with a tight itinerary in prospect, our visitors parted company, hopefully with a lasting impression to take back home, and one that will lead to a positive outcome when the decision as to whether the Black Country becomes a UNESCO Global Geopark site is made early next year.
It’s exciting times here on the Rowley Hills at the moment. On Saturday the Black Country Geological Society held their Geoconservation Day on Portway Hill and were joined by representatives from the Wildlife Trust and Friends of Rowley Hills. The part of the old Blue Rock Quarry site now owned by the Wildlife Trust has superb examples of vertical columnar jointing and spheroidal weathering and the day was spent clearing Brambles and other vegetation from the basalt exposures and consolidating the Public Right of Way that runs through the site.
Later this summer as part of the process for the Black Country’s bid to become a UNESCO Global Geopark, assessors from China and Finland will be conducting an evaluation mission and visiting Portway Hill Quarry along with other Black Country geological sites such as Wren’s Nest National Nature Reserve and Saltwell’s Nature Reserve.
A further Geoconservation day is to be arranged on the Portway Hill site prior to their visit. We’ll keep you posted when this is to take place.
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.
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.
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!