Abberley and Malvern Hills Geopark – 20th Anniversary

Geopark 20th Anniversary
Top Left: Georgina Lockham (right) with Peter Oliver (left) and Chris Darmon (middle).
Top Right: Ed Andrews explaining about the conservation work undergone at the Severn Valley Country Park.
Bottom Left: Peter Oliver explaining about the sandstone mining history of the site in front of two millstones made from local Alveley Sandstone.
Bottom Right: Ed Andrews giving his talk to the forum members.

The Abberley and Malvern Hills Geopark (AMHG) celebrated their 20th Anniversary at the Severn Valley Country Park earlier this year. The Geopark covers five counties; Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire and Worcestershire, an area which has a wide variety of interesting landscapes, geology, history and wildlife. Made up of a number of member organisations including museums, landowners and conservation groups, the aim of the Geopark is to showcase the area and provide free and accessible events to educate and engage the public.

Merlin Energy Resources is a main sponsor of the Geopark and so Georgina Lockham went along for the day to hear about the fantastic work the Geopark do within the community. Over the morning three interesting talks were given by forum members.

The first was given by Chris Darmon, the Geopark President and Principal. He gave an enthusiastic talk praising the geopark. The group of volunteers has a remarkable outreach, engaging the public in geology, science and the arts across hundreds of community access points. Last year, for example, over 40,000 people got involved with the Geopark’s GeoFest programme. One key concern Chris highlighted however is the lack of opportunity young people have to study geology at GSCE and A-level in the local area. He identified that without increased funding for Geology at this stage, take up in geoscience degrees will inevitably suffer. The uncertain future of our society’s energy supply is going to rely on new geoscientists, therefore we need to engage young people in geology early to make sure we have a full and skilled workforce to steer us through this changing and evolving landscape.

Mike Brooks followed with an interesting talk on the new Geopark Way app he has developed. The Geopark Way is a long distance trail which stretches 109 miles from Bridgenorth to Gloucester. The app (which is free to download) splits the route into 17 sections all achievable to walk in a day. Mike has re-walked all of the Geopark Way to ensure the route descriptions are clear, and has even included labelled photographs at various points to ease navigation. Additional content includes the geological and historical past of the area, 3D maps, information screens and a geological timescale. The Geopark app is an invaluable resource made freely available to the public to enable them to safely explore the Geopark way and engage with geology and local history along the way. Helen Bone, our Chartered Geologist, has enjoyed walking a number of sections of the Geopark way. Read her blog post about the section between Colwall and Ledbury.

The final talk was given by Ed Andrews, the Manager of the Severn Valley Country Park. He focussed on the reclamation of the site and ongoing conservation work which has included installing drainage ditches, planting trees, reducing the frequency of grass cutting, keeping large areas of species rich grassland as well as nutrient poor areas. Despite the importance of the sites return to nature, the need to preserve its historical past as a colliery has also been stressed and it is something that is carefully managed. Ed also spoke about how the site is currently used in various ways by the public. Rock and fossil hunts on the old spoil heap are popular for children’s parties, the local Parkrun (a weekly, timed 5km run), is hosted every Saturday, and a textile art group meet regularly and make geologically themed artwork.

After lunch, Ed took the group on a field session around the parkland. One of the members, who used to be a miner at the site, gave interesting snippets about the site’s history, whist Ed talked about the conservation work and the wildlife that has made its home there. As we walked, we saw various species of butterfly, orchids and even a green woodpecker.

Overall, the day was a huge success, showcasing the wonderful work the Geopark do on a day to day basis. What was striking was the difference being an active member of the Geopark makes to the groups involved. By having an easily accessible network, individual organisations spoke about how they could achieve so much more than they could do alone. The Geoparks commitment to educating the public is also commendable, and everyone at Merlin is pleased to be a part of sponsoring this organisation which has and continues to achieve so much.