Category Archives: Shropshire

Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery

Last year a new museum opened up in Shrewsbury, and a couple of weeks ago I decided to check the place out.  It’s a decent sized museum for a smaller county city that Shrewsbury is.  It is sited in the old theatre hall in Market Street and is worth a visit if you’ve ever got a free afternoon in the area.

The museum has three main floors dedicated to the history of Shropshire.  On the ground floor you have the entrance, gift shop, cafe and local art gallery room.  After passing through this area you have the main Ancient History room.  This holds local artifacts from the Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman Period in Shropshire.  I’m going to place a few images as a taster; I’d encourage a visit to this place if you want to see more.

The Shrewsbury Hoard (Roman coins)

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Roman swords & other artifacts

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Roman Silver Mirror

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On the second floor is a collection of Medieval, Civil War and Early Modern artifacts.

Buckler and Chain Mail

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Gold Coins (I can’t remember which king is represented…and I can’t read the inscription properly sorry).

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Civil War Era uniform & musket (that’s the English Civil Wars of the 1640’s  [or the Wars of the Three Kingdoms as it often called now] to those people reading from other countries).

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A close up of one of the seals to the right of the uniform.

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The third floor holds a wide selection of artifacts.  Part of it holds natural artifacts.  This includes samples of rock and fossils from Shropshire, including parts of the mammoths found in the county.

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Some of the fossils found in Shropshire (along with some art formed via a process called concretion)

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The third floor also has a number of 18th-20th Century artifacts; including ceramics, art work and artifacts from WWI and WWII.

For the final section there is a special exhibition room on the third floor.  This one holds (until the 24th April 2015) an Egyptian exhibit.  It is a decent sized exhibit and includes pottery, ushabti, jewellery and of course a mummy with its sarcophagus.  There is also a case containing fake items of more modern origin.

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Hope that gives you a desire to visit it next time you are in the area.  I enjoyed it and I think many others would.  Until next time.

Fenn’s, Whixall & Bettisfield Mosses

On a cold but sunny winters day I made what is my second visit this area.  The picture above is from a previous trip when the weather was a lot warmer.  It was still freezing on my visit the other day, despite it being in the middle of the day.
DSCN0641Location & Access: The Fenn’s, Whixall & Bettisfield Mosses straddles the English-Welsh border about 5 miles south-west of Whitchurch.  There is no major road to the site, so you’ll have to take one of the narrower country lanes off the A495, B5476 or B5063.  If you fancy taking a boat though the Llangollen Canal runs through the middle of the site.  The site is relatively flat and shouldn’t provide any problems, though the walk from one of the carparks can be a bit of a trek if you have mobility problems.

Geology: The geology of the area is perhaps less obvious than the hills & valleys I normally write about.  The Mosses are a rare environment, being a lowland raised bog and small areas of wetland it is a unique habitat for wildlife too.  Their formation began about 12,000 years ago as the ice sheets retreated north.  In amongst the till were depressions filled with water and melting ice.  These formed the kettle holes that dominated the north Shropshire, south Cheshire and Wrexham area.  Some of the these holes remained full of water and form the numerous kettle ponds that can be found in the area.  Good examples can be found in Ellesmere and Delamere.  In the case of the Mosses the hole filled up with layer upon layer of peat.  This has created an acidic peat bog that has made a fantastic, albeit soggy under foot, environment and a link to our country’s icy past.

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Wildlife: Besides the peat bog and its like to an ancient glacial past the Mosses is a great place for wildlife…well when its not frozen over ;).

Alongside the myriad of insects and spiders there are also adders and a wide range of birds, and according to one local I spoke to, the rarely sited water shrew.  Unfortunately due to it being winter I didn’t see most of these.  I did manage to get some pictures of the water fowl in the area.

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These are my first attempts at photographing flocks of birds in flight.  I had mixed results with many of pictures focusing on the background rather than the birds, but I don’t think they’re too bad for a first timer.  The ducks that I’ve managed to get shots of include Shovelers (Anas clypeata), Wigeons (Anas penelope), Teals (Anas crecca) and Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos).  I also saw some Pintails (Anas acuta) and Lapwings (Vanellus vanellus) but happened to be changing the battery at the time.

References: Fundamentals of the Physical Environment (3rd Edition) by P. Smithson, K. Addison & K. Atkinson (2002).  Geology (2nd Edition)by S. Chernicoff (1999).  Geology of Shropshire (2nd Edition) by P. Toghill (2006).  The Geology of Britain – An Introduction by P. Toghill (2006).   iGeology map from the BGS (2015).  Information leaflet from the site and produced by Natural England and Cyngor Cefn Gwlad Cymru (Countryside Council for Wales).

 

Lilleshall Abbey

As part of my visit to the Lilleshall area the other day I also visited Lilleshall Abbey.  The abbey is an fine ruined example of a 12th Century Augustinian abbey.

Location & Access: Lilleshall Abbey is located to the south-east of the village, along Lilyhurst Road.  The site is run by English Heritage and is one of their sites that is free to visit.

DSCN0445What’s there: Like most abbeys from the era, Lilleshall’s is in a bit of a ruinous state, partly because of its age and partly because of the disillusion of the monasteries under Henry VIII.  The information boards provide you with a good deal of info about the site.

You can walk through the main entrance of the abbey, down the nave of the main building.

DSCN0455One of the remaining towers can still be climbed, and it is a great place to view the whole abbey.  Warning: The stairs up to the abbey are narrow and winding, though in good condition.  The stair case is dark and there is only enough space at the top of the tower for one person at a time.

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Along with the red sandstone walls of the nave (did you really think I’d get through this post without a geology reference?), you also can roam the old cloisters some of the adjacent rooms.

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Overall a nice place to visit if you have half hour to spare.  The site isn’t that large so unless you are really into abbeys it won’t take you that long to walk around it.  Great place to get some photos though if you can get the light right…unfortunately on the day I went it was grey and overcast so the shots I got were average at best.  I shall have to return one day for some more.

Lilleshall Mount

About halfway between Telford and Newport, along the A518 is the lovely little village of Lilleshall.  Watching over it is the Lilleshall Hill.  At 132m high above the flat farmland it’s pretty hard to notice,  especially with a 21m high monument sitting on top of it.

Location & Access: The Hill is just to the east of the A518 and can be accessed via a small tract just off a road called Hillside East which comes off just opposite the church.  There isn’t a lot f space to park in the village so you may have to pull in to the side of the road just outside.  At just over 100m above the plain it’s hardy a struggle to climb up, though the path can be a little muddy after it has rained.  The path slopes gently and so should prove too much of a problem.

Geology: Lilleshall Hill represents the northern most exposure of the Uriconian Volcanic group and is itself made up of a mixture of rhyolite, andesite, basalt and tuff.  This would make the formation about 542-635 million years old.

DSCN0432There are a few decent exposures for anyone who wants a sample, and being the short then its relatives the Wrekin and Caradoc it takes a little less effort for those who don’t want to climb for too long.

For a modest sized hill you can get a decent view of the Wrekin to the south-west as well as the sandstone ridges that rise out of the North Shropshire and South Cheshire plains.

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Other Stuff: The Monument is dedicated to the first Duke of Sutherland and is pretty impressive.

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Dedicated to George Granville Leveson-Gower, the 1st Duke of Sutherland, it looks to be made of local sandstone.  I rather enjoy the inscription and how he is described as “the most just and generous of landlords”.  I’d like to hear what his tenants really thought of him, though I shall be very unscientific and read between the lines of the “he went down to his grave with the blessing of his tenants” as perhaps giving a hint of that.  For those who maybe unaware, this Duke of Sutherland was one of the richest men of his era and he was in part responsible for the Highland Clearances that were taking place in Scotland at the time…a fantastic example of the needs of the rich capitalist overriding those of the poor labourer…sorry went on a ‘high horse’ moment there.  But seriously if you’re unaware of the main cause for the Scottish Highlands being one of the least populated parts of Europe then I suggest you read up on it.

Anyway back to happier things.  The light scrub land around the hill, coupled with the farmers’ fields in the area makes it a good place to see wildlife (in particular birds).  Sparrowhawks, buzzards, wrens, finches and woodpeckers are common sights.

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Reference: The Geology of Britain; An Introduction by Peter Toghill (2006),  iGeology map from the BGS (2014) and the notice board from the site, Wikipedia for the Duke of Sutherland.

 

Wenlock Edge

The Wenlock Edge is a limestone escarpment that runs about 31km (19 miles) through the countryside of Shropshire.  At its northern point is the village of Much Wenlock and at the south Craven Arms.

Location & Access: Being such a long feature it isn’t that hard to miss on a map of Shropshire, basically look south of Telford and you should find it easily enough.  The road B4371 runs along the top of most of the Edge.  There are several car parks along the Edge as well as many paths to walk, so there are lots o places to visit depending upon your ability ad how long you want to be up there.  For me I like to pull in at a car park just north-east of the village of Presthope.  There is a nice walk along the top of a quarry.

Geology: The Wenlock Edge is made up of limestone and lime-muds from the Silurian Period (about 423-426ma).  The area used to be a reef and fossils are abundant along this walk.

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The fossils you can find there are mostly corals, crinoids and shell fragments.

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Above are some pictures of some of the fossils that can be found; mostly corals and fragments of shell.  It’s one of the best places in the county to go fossil hunting.  Pretty much every rock you pick up will contain something of interest.  Fossil collecting is allowed at the Edge, just try not to do too much damage as you do so and remember to leave something for those who will follow.

Along with fossils you can find places where you can see the results of sedimentation, bedding plains and folds (albeit in miniature).

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Other Stuff: Along with geology the Edge is a good place to enjoy the English countryside.  The area is a composite of mixed woodland and farmers fields full of livestock.

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It’s also a place of a lot of woodland wildlife.  Some of the birds that you’ll see include Blue, Great and Marsh Tits, all sorts of finches, Greater Spotter Woodpeckers, Nuthatches, Common Buzzards and I’ve even seen Red Kites on rare occasions.

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Reference: The Geology of Britain; An Introduction by Peter Toghill (2006),  Sedimentary Petrology (3rd Edition) by Maurice E. Tucker (2001), iGeology map from the BGS (2014) and the notice board from the site.

In Remembrance – 6th June 1944

With today being the 70th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy I thought I’d share a few pictures of some the war memorials local to my area, in remembrance of those that never came back and those who left something behind on the beaches of Normandy or the fields of Flanders.  The featured image is of the Commando memorial in the Scottish Highlands.

Wellington’s (Shropshire) War Memorial 

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Hadley’s (Shropshire) War Memorial

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Donnington’s (Shropshire) War Memorial

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Newport’s (Shropshire) War Memorial

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Madeley’s (Shropshire) War Memorial

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Ironbridge’s (Shropshire) War Memorial 

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To finish I’ll leave you with a photo of my trip to Ypres earlier this year.  Different war, same tragedy.

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Geological Time Part 2 – The Periods in Shropshire

As part of my geological time series I thought I’d have a look at where rocks/features of the periods can be found in Shropshire.  Shropshire is a very geologically diverse county and if you look hard enough you can find examples from all of the time periods except for the Cretaceous (though the Tertiary is a little dodgy) .  I will say that the examples I am giving are not the only ones to be found in the county.  There are many other formations, rock types and sites that can be used to represent the time periods, I’ve just pick a selected few.  So prepare for a few explanations and quite a lot of pictures.  Just as a remind ma stands for millions of years ago.

Shropshire’s Geological Timeline

Shropshire Geology Time 2

Shropshire Base Map 1

 

I’ve included a brief timeline and a small map giving the rough location of the sites I visited (blue circles) with the major towns in the county for reference.

Quaternary Period (2ma to present)

As we are still living in the Quaternary then many landforms can be seen to represent what has and is still going on in the county.  For a more pre-historical landform a good example would be the glacial relics, of which the kettle holes and peat bogs around Ellesmere would be a good place to start.

DSCF2941DSCF3579These features were formed after the ice of the Devensian Glaciation retreated around 11,000 years, leaving layers of sand and gravel (commonly called glacial till).  The kettle hole forms when a block of ice falls of the retreating glacier and melts, leaving a water-filled depression.

Neogene, Paleogene and Cretaceous Periods

Sadly these formations are missing from Shropshire.  There is rumour of a Tertiary (possibly Neogene) outcrop near Whitchurch, but I haven’t been able to confirm it and I can’t find it on a map, so for now it’ll have to remain a mystery.

Jurassic (200 to 145ma)

You’ll be lucky to find this one.  There is only one real outcrop of Jurassic age rock in the county and that is around the village of Prees, about 5 miles south of Whitchurch.  There is some Jurassic bedrock under the layers of glacial till, but Prees is the only place it comes to the surface.  You can see one exposure, just east of the A49.  To get to it you can follow a public footpath.  The rock is mudstone from 183-190ma and the environment was once a shallow, tropical sea.

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Triassic (252 to 200ma)

The Triassic and Permian are both present in Shropshire, but the exact boundary has caused a little confusion in the past.  This is largely down to the similarities in the formations and the fact that they rest one on top of the other in the same locations.  Personally I think the best place in the county to see both Triassic and Permian is around Bridgnorth, though there are some other impressive red-rock formations that form several ridges in the north of the county.  The Triassic rocks are to the east of Bridgnorth, further up the hill and form part of the Kidderminster Formation.  It is mostly made up of red sandstone and conglomerate.  The image below is that of an exposure on the A442 near Allscott, just north of Bridgnorth and shows a layer of conglomerate sandwiched between two layers of sandstone.  It is a good example of cross-bedding between the strata and is representative of a river running through a desert environment.

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Permian (299 to 252ma)

As I said in the Triassic section, Bridgnorth is the place to see Permian rocks, in fact most of the town is built on it and some of the older buildings are made from it.  The Permian sandstone is also red, shows cross-bedding as the result of wind-blown desert sand, but seems to be a little tougher.  My Triassic samples half crumbled as I was extracting and transporting them.  Again the ancient environment was a desert.

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Carboniferous (359 to 299ma)

For the Carboniferous Period I’ve chosen something a little special; the Tar Tunnel.  Unlike my other choices this is something of a minor tourist attraction and as such will require the parting of a couple of coins.  It’s found in the east end of the Ironbridge Gorge.  The rock in the surrounding area is a mixture of limestones, coals, sandstones, mudstones, and conglomerates from the late Carboniferous Period.  When the Industrial Revolution was in full swing in Ironbridge a tunnel was built to act as short cut between the mines and the River Severn.  Upon digging the tunnel the walls started to ooze natural bitumen.  This was then extracted for a number of years before the industry moved on.  Is there likely to be an oil rush in Shropshire?  Not likely but it is an interesting phenomenon and one that I don’t think can be seen anywhere else in the UK.  If like me you are a ‘geo-geek’ it’s worth seeing.

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If it was red you’d think you were in a cheap horror movie.  The image below shows an pool of tar in a side chamber.

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For a more mundane sample from further up the gorge (Jigger’s Bank) you can see an exposure of the Lydebrook Sandstone.  This layer is made up of a pebbly sandstone and includes layers of conglomerate, and was what I used in the geological timeline above.

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Devonian (416 to 359ma)

Devonian rock actually forms the bulk of Shropshire’s tallest hill; Brown Clee Hill (not to be confused with the neighbouring Clee Hill or Titterstone Clee Hill).

Below is an image of Brown Clee Hill taken from the Wenlock Edge.

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Silurian (443 to 416ma)

The Silurian is very well represented in Shropshire.  One of the best formations in the county (and possibly the country) to see rocks of Silurian age is the beautiful Wenlock Edge.

The Edge is an escarpment that runs for almost 20 miles in a north-east to south-west direction and is made up of of a knoll-reef limestone with lime-rich mudstones & shales surrounding it.

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There are numerous walks along the Edge and due to the old (and current) quarrying activities there are plenty of places to see the local geology.  The above picture showing some wonderfully defined bedding planes.  It is also a good place to go fossil hunting.  There are several places both on and under the Edge were you can collect some nice samples like the one shown below.

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Ordovician (488ma to 443ma)

Like the Silurian the Ordovician Period is well represented in Shropshire, but I’m going to go for a well known formation; the Stiperstones Hills.  The Stiperstones are made up of quartzite and like the Wrekin Quartzite is a misnomer as it is a hard, white sandstone and not a metamorphic rock (like true quartzite is).  The Stiperstones have the added advantage that besides the Ordovician rock, you also have the tors formed from millennia of ice/frost shattering.

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Cambrian (542ma to 488ma)

The Cambrian witnessed a massive diversification of animal lifeforms (often called the Cambrian Explosion) and there some good locations and rocks to be seen in Shropshire.  The Ercall quarry has some wonderful quartzite to sandstone formations, showing beach ripples, conglomerates and inclined strata (see my Ercall post for more)

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The Wrekin Quartzite gives way to the Comley Sandstone.  The type site is the sadly neglected Comley Quarry (located on the north-east slope of Caer Caradoc) where Shropshire’s first Cambrian trilobites were found.  Unfortunately the rock faces are now overgrown and difficult to see.  It can be seen in better condition a the Ercall.

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Precambrian (4600ma to 542ma)

Being such a long eon the Precambrian goes from the formation of the earth to around 542ma.  The Precambrian rocks in Shropshire are mostly from towards the younger end; around 570ma with the gneiss and schist of Primrose Hill possibly being older.  My choice for the Precambrian is the Uriconian Volcanic formation which makes up a number of hills, including the Wrekin, Caer Caradoc and the Lawley.

This photo was taken from the Long Mynd (itself a sedimentary formation from the Precambrian) showing Caer Caradoc (centre right), the Lawley (centre left, and a bit in the distance) and on the left horizon is the Wrekin.  These hills are made up mostly of rhyolite, andesite and basalt.

Below is a sample of basalt from the Wrekin.

IMG_1862Well there you have, a brief geological tour of Shropshire.  The county has seen volcanoes and beaches, deserts and tropical seas and now the efforts of an enthusiastic geo-geek.  Hope you enjoy.

 

The Ercall

Due to some technical issues with my computer I haven’t posted anything in a few weeks.  Now I’m back up and running I plan on posting on a more regular basis.

Today’s monologue is about a fantastic geological site next to the Wrekin; the Ercall.

Location: The Ercall (pronounced ar-cal) is just north of the Wrekin in Shropshire, at around 52*40′ North, 2*31′ West, less than 1 km south-east of Junction 7 of the M54.

Access: The Ercall is open to the public at all times and access is easy.  There is a well maintained path and for the main quarry the gradient is low.  Other areas of the hill can be a little steep so if you have any mobility issues then they may be a little difficult to reach.  You can walk or scrabble over pretty much the whole hill as there are multiple small paths coming off the main track.  There are several small quarry holes as well as the main quarry and the whole place is worth exploring.

Geology: The various quarries in the Ercall are a fantastic place to see several geological features.  WARNING: wear a hard hat if you going to get close to the cliffs as there is the risk of falling rocks.

The featured image above is in the main quarry and shows a feature called an unconformity; specifically a nonconformity.  This is were there is a break in the rock sequence.  A nonconformity is the boundary between an underlying layer of igneous or metamorphic rock and an above layer of sedimentary rock.  In this case the igneous rock to the left of the image is an orange-pink coloured granophyre.  This is related to the Uriconian volcanics and is about 560 million years old.  The rock to the right of the picture is a pale grey Wrekin Quartzite and is about 533 million years old.  It is one of only a few places in Shropshire that you can see Cambrian aged rocks.  The Wrekin Quartzite is a bit missed named as a true quartzite is a metamorphic rock not a sedimentary one as found into the Ercall.

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The above image is a close up of the nonconformity.  Mixed in amongst the quartzite are several layers of conglomerate (see below).

DSCF4925To the east of the the nonconformity the quartzite mixes with the Lower Comley Sandstone and you get some impressive examples of a sedimentary bedding planes.  These are well jointed and are an excellent example.  These bedding planes have been lifted and incline downwards to the south-south east.

DSCF4916There is one more geological gem (figuratively speaking) to be found at the Ercall; ripples.  Mixed in in the layers of conglomerate are some wonderful examples of ripples.  These can be found higher up at both the west and east sides of the main quarry.  The ones to the west are in slightly better condition.  They can best be seen on a slightly cloudy day, just after it’s rained as the light & shadows more clearly define the ripples.

DSCF3340DSCF3354Combining this with the conglomerate, sandstone and quartzite gives us the origin of these rocks; an ancient beach.

For such a small site the Ercall really does have a wide range of geological features that can be seen really easily.  They’re great examples of nonconformities, bedding planes and ancient beaches.

Other Stuff: The Ercall is a nature reserve operated by the Shropshire Wildlife Trust, and a wide range of wildlife can be seen. There is a mixed deciduous forest with a small  stream running through it.

DSCF4881In spring the forest floor is covered in bluebells.

The local animal life is typical of a British woodland.  You can see finches, woodpeckers, Nuthatches, Treecreepers, Common Buzzards and if you’re really lucky a Peregrine Falcon.  It is a great place for a casual walk and has some wonderful geological sites to see.

Reference: Geology of Shropshire (2nd Edition) by Peter Toghill (2006), Geology (2nd Edition) by Stanley Chernicoff (1999).

February’s Floods – Ironbridge

With more wet weather having come through the UK I’ve been down the world famous Ironbridge Gorge to have a look at the flooding there.  Here are some of my pictures.

DSCF4815The flood barriers are up and have done there job of protecting this section of the gorge.

DSCF4825This use to be a pub downstream from the Ironbridge.

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DSCF4850This is a good image of the various currents are flowing in the river.  In the centre is the main flow of the river (moving from right to left in this picture).  At the back you can see the strength of the water as hits the tree trunks.  Towards the foreground there are series of eddies and upwellings caused by the uneven bed of the river and changes in volume as it flows past.

 

 

 

More Images from the Floods

I know my native Shropshire hasn’t been suffering as much as some of the other areas of the UK but I thought I’d post a couple more images.  If I get a chance I will go to some of the other places in the country to record some images of the high waters.  The valley below is of the River Severn just upstream from the Ironbridge Gorge.  I’ve included an image of the valley without flooding as a comparison.

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