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Wren's Nest - a geological gem
Wren's Nest
Wren's Nest was declared the UK's first urban national nature reserve in 1956

Wren's Nest is one of England's geological treasures, recognised internationally as a site of important geological heritage.

It has the finest record of ancient sea beds from the Silurian Period.

The limestone-rich rocks known as Much Wenlock or Dudley Limestone Formation date back 425 to 420 million years ago.

In 2010 a range of special exhibits will be put on display in Dudley Museum to showcase recent finds.

Dudley-on-sea

Graham inspecting a cave
One trilobite fossil was so common that is was nicknamed the Dudley Bug

Dudley is about as far away from the sea as you can be in this country, yet the area was once lapped by warm tropical seas, with coral reefs inhabited by trilobites and many other creatures.

Although that was over 420 million years ago, the ripples in the sand of those ancient sea beds and the fossilised remains of the animals can be found in the limestone rocks at Wren's Nest.

Wren's Nest was first recognised by Sir Roderick Murchison in 1839, and is now visited by scientists from all over the world.

Industrial development

Inside one of the tunnels
Conservation work has already uncovered new discoveries

Wren's Nest played an important part in the very development of the Black Country. Abraham Darby, one of the fathers of the Industrial Revolution, was born on Wren's Nest in 1678.

Darby's great-uncle, Dud Dudley, had developed a process to smelt iron with coke, which Darby perfected.

During the height of the Industrial Revolution, up to 20,000 tons of limestone was removed annually from the site and used in local blast furnaces. This ceased in 1924, leaving the area honeycombed with quarries and caverns - some like the Seven Sisters descended 100 metres below the hill to canal basins.

Finding fossils

Fossil
In 2010 a range of special exhibits will be put on display

During this period many of the best fossils were found, the most famous being the Trilobites.

One trilobite was so common that is was nicknamed the Dudley Bug and featured on the town's coat of arms until 1974.

After the mining stopped the hill was left to nature.

Now the limestone supports plants and woodlands and is home to an array of wildlife. Numerous bats also use the caverns to roost.

Site management

Wren's Nest is managed by a team of wardens and volunteers.

During the summer they provide guided walks, educational visits and undertake wildlife surveys.

In winter the work is more physical; maintaining views of key geological exposures, tree management and hedge laying, as well as estate maintenance such as repairing fences and footpaths.

The site was declared the UK's first ever urban national nature reserve in 1956.

Conservation work

Rock face moulding
Radiometric dating of the rocks will accurately date the site

A major roof collapse in October 2001 could have resulted in the loss of the one of the caverns, the Seven Sisters. However a project developed between Dudley Council and its partners temporarily stabilised the cavern.

More recently work began to infill the huge Cathedral Gallery with loose sand. This mine and the adjacent vast underground canal basin contain some of the world's most important geology and mining heritage.

The project was designed to ensure it is preserved for future generations and also safeguard future geo-tourism, science and conservation.

Dudley Museum

The infilling programme was completed by August 2009. Images and samples from the project are being analysed in the new lab facilities at Dudley Museum, and already many new discoveries are coming to light.

Inside a cavern
At regular intervals the public will be able to see scientists at work

In 2010 radiometric dating of the rocks will take place by testing some of the tiny mineral grains that have been collected. This provided the first ever accurate date of the rocks of the Wren's Nest.

Also in 2010 a range of special exhibits will be put on display in Dudley Museum and Art Gallery from these works, including:

• casts of some of the finest sections of the underground rock surfaces covered with fossils
• a selection of fine fossils from the works
• and microscope pictures and samples showing the small scale wonders of the site

At regular intervals the museum lab will be open while the geo-team and associated scientists are actually carrying out the research work for the public to see and have their chance to ask the scientists about this work.

For further details visit Dudley Museum and Art Gallery website .




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