Overview

Simplified geology map of the Abberley and Malvern Hills Geopark

Simplified geology map of the Abberley and Malvern Hills Geopark

The Abberley and Malvern Hills form the backbone of an area illustrating over 500 million years of Earth history. Stratigraphy from Precambrian to Jurassic and Quaternary is represented with almost complete successions of the Silurian and Triassic periods present. A fine range of igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks exists with some nationally important exposures and outcrops. Silurian palaeontology is excellent and has formed the basis of much research. Indeed the whole area has been the centre of research and mapping from the days of Murchison through to the present day.

The underlying Precambrian basement with its associated faulting and folding runs in a north south direction and is the major influence on the geology of the geopark. Its impact can be seen from the southern margins of the Silurian May Hill inlier through the surface expression of the Precambrian of the Malvern Hills and nearby Silurian hills of Ledbury and Suckley on to the Abberley Hills themselves. The associated major faulting then continues in to the Carboniferous rocks of the Wyre Forest. This geological backbone to the area is flanked by a full Triassic succession to the east and a significant part of the Lower Devonian to the west. Furthermore the glacial and fluvial history of the Quaternary is written in the deposits and terraces of the Rivers Severn, Stour, Teme, Rea, Frome and Leadon.

The rocks tell a fascinating story of continental collision, shallow tropical  seas, hot deserts, tropical swamps, coastal lagoons, vast ice sheets and polar  deserts. These changes in ancient depositional environments and the associated  rock types have produced the diverse landscapes that can be seen in the Geopark  today.

The oldest rocks in the Geopark are found in the Malvern Hills. These igneous  rocks, formed deep within the Earth’s crust from molten material, belong  to the Precambrian period and are aged around 700 million years old.

The rocks of the Abberley Hills were formed during the Silurian period and  are aged around 440 million years old. During this period of time, the area  was covered by shallow tropical seas teaming with life, providing favourable  conditions for the formation of coral reefs.

The Wyre Forest Coalfield lies towards the north of the Abberley Hills. The  coal seams were formed during the Carboniferous period (320 million years ago)  when the area was covered in dense tropical swamps. Great rivers bought sand  and silt from surrounding mountains into the lowlands, forming sandstones which  have been used as building stones.

Map key

Map key

At the beginning of the Permian period (299 million years ago), this area  formed part of a shimmering, landlocked desert and many of the red sandstones  exposed in the Bewdley, Kidderminster and Bridgnorth area, represent fossilised  sand dunes or alluvial fans formed by the transportation of debris by flash  floods.

The rocks located at the southern boundary of the Geopark represent the change  that occurred towards the end of Triassic period (200 million years ago) from  arid, continental conditions to marine deposition within shallow seas that  covered most of Europe during the Jurassic period.

Finally, during the quaternary Period, ice age conditions prevailed and have  left behind a legacy of river terrace deposits, beautiful river valleys and  influenced the present day course of the rivers Severn, Stour, Teme, Rea, Frome  and Leadon that run through the Geopark.

Diagram showing the major divisions of geological time

From 'Geology Today', copyright Blackwell Science Ltd.

From ‘Geology Today’, copyright Blackwell Science Ltd.

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