Fabulous fossils at Blackhouse Wood

Fabulous fossils at Blackhouse Wood

Tabulate coral by Earth Heritage Trust

Fossils were uncovered at a Worcestershire nature reserve as two local organisations joined forces to remove scrub from a rockface.

Volunteers from Worcestershire Wildlife Trust and the Herefordshire and Worcestershire Earth Heritage Trust came together to clear the face of an old quarry. Although it is now a quiet nature reserve, Blackhouse Wood once rang to the sound of stone being hand-quarried.

Dominique Cragg, Worcestershire Wildlife Trust conservation officer responsible for the management of Blackhouse Wood, explained “Blackhouse Wood and the adjacent Crews Hill Wood form a really important part in a chain of woodlands running up from the Malvern Hills to the Wyre Forest.

“We think of them now as quiet places to enjoy a walk in nature but 150 years ago, that would have been very different. Historical sources show that there were many quarries in the area and life there would have been hard as the stone was worked by hand with shovels and picks.

“The evidence can still be seen today and the quarries are of interest not just to naturalists, who explore the micro-habitats that form in them, but also to geologists who can explore the different rocks and fossils found there.”

Tropical seas

One of the quarries, designated a Local Geological Site, is home to one of just three bands of Silurian limestone that outcrop to the west and north of the Malverns.

Brachiopod fossil by the Earth Heritage Trust

Brachiopod fossil by the Earth Heritage Trust

Quarrying at this site followed a particularly desirable layer of massive limestone that quarry workers removed from underneath layers of less continuous nodular limestone that contained bentonite clay. The clay had been formed by chemical alteration of volcanic ash that fell and settled on the sea bed in the area about 425 million years ago.

Unusually, the section from where this stone was struck is still exposed in part of the quarry so the volunteers cleared the soil and vegetation from a 20 metre section in order to better understand the geology.

Dom continued “Most of us forget or just don’t realise that this part of Worcestershire used to be under a tropical sea so it’s not really surprising that we came across a block of limestone with several fossils in it.

“We found a brachiopod fossil, which is marine animal that lives on the sea-bed, as well as a tabulate coral. Both lived here more than 400 million years ago.”

Blackhouse Wood was purchased by Worcestershire Wildlife Trust following a public appeal and with help from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Severn Waste Services and several charitable trusts. Volunteers meet to help manage the wood and to record its wildlife once a month.

The Herefordshire and Worcestershire Earth Heritage Trust received funding from the Malvern Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) to undertake surveying, reporting and clearance work on a series of local geological sites from September 2017 to February 2018.