Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Wren's Nest Under Threat

You will forgive me if I deviate from the usual bill of fare for this blog but, every now and then, something crops up that you have to make people aware of and do your bit – and now is one of those occasions.

The Wren’s Nest National Nature Reserve is a renowned geological site of international importance. For those of you unfamiliar with locality, the Wren’s Nest is located in Dudley, near Birmingham in the UK and has significant historical value to the disciplines of both geology and palaeontology.

The Wren’s Nest exposes rocks of Silurian age – about 420 million years old and represents coral reefs within a tropical sea with a diverse marine community that includes crinoids, brachiopods, trilobites and many other animals. Their fossils are found in the limestone exposures and are often well preserved.

Image courtesy of Ashley Dace

The importance of the site cannot be denied. More than 700 different types of fossil have been recovered, of which 186 were first found and described here and, even today, there are 86 taxa which are totally unique to the Wren’s Nest.

One of the pioneers of geology, Sir Roderick Murchison, was a frequent visitor during the 1830’s and his landmark work, The Silurian System, was published in 1839 and featured extensive descriptions and illustrations of the fossils recovered from the site.

The Wren’s Nest became the UK’s first geologic National Nature Reserve back in 1956 because of its unique geological and palaeontological features. Further protection arrived in the form of the venue being declared a Scheduled Ancient Monument in 2004 and the future of the site seemed assured.

But, as incredible as it sounds, there are now plans to build a new housing estate actually in the reserve. There are to be eighty houses in total and will be built on the exposures of the Coalbrookdale Formation which, even today, is comparatively little known or researched and underlies the limestone strata.

I do not intend to go into the politics and drama of the issue but suffice to say that money is the root cause of the problem and the fact that these plans have been put into motion for more than twelve months now without anybody being made aware is significant. Only recently have plans been put into action to mount a serious campaign of opposition.

Amazingly, this housing project has been instigated with seemingly blind ignorance of further plans to develop the Wren’s Nest as part of the Strata Project – a geotourist scheme that has gained both local and national support. The project links other geological features such as the Steps Cavern, the limestone mines and the canal tunnel that links the Nest with Dudley Castle.

A modern research centre with laboratories, a visitor centre, restaurant and even a small hotel are included in the plans that would accommodate some of the 50,000 forecasted visitors per year. It has been suggested that perhaps those planning the housing estate were unaware of the Strata Project but does anybody seriously believe that?

Only recently, top geologists from the International Subcommittee on Silurian Stratigraphy visited the Wren’s Nest and confirmed the international significance of the venue and simply described it as “…the best.”

You can help in trying to overturn this ludicrous decision by voicing your opposition to the housing scheme by doing one of the following:

Send your written objection to;

The Directorate of the Urban Environment,
Planning Services,
3, St. James’s Road
West Midlands

Alternatively you can email your objection to:

Please quote Re: Planning Application Number: P11/0652 in all correspondence

The supporters of the Wren’s Nest will be grateful for your help and a special word of thanks to geologist Chris Darmon for bringing this to our attention.


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