Sites to Visit/Birmingham and Black Country

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West Midlands Geodiversity Partnership : Sites worth visiting in the Black Country


Wrens Nest National Nature Reserve, Dudley

Grid Ref.: SO 937 920


The first ever geological NNR for ancient rocks, structures and fossils declared September 1956. The premier West Midlands geological site for palaeontology and education relating to fossils, palaeoecology, Structural Geology and limestone mining. Rocks here are of middle Silurian period age (Much Wenlock Limestone Formation). They comprise the definitive marine shelf sequence and the most complete faunal assemblage of the UK. A superb selection of fossils from this spectacular site are on display in the local Dudley Town centre museum and the Lapworth museum in the school of Earth Sciences at the University of Birmingham.

There are lots of written resources available for this site and online information (for example visit Dudley MBC web site)

There are accompanying leaflets about the general natural history of this site which are available through the wardens service (01384 812785) or Dudley Museum and Art Gallery 01384 815575

Saltwells Local Nature Reserve, Dudley

Grid Ref.: SO 934 870

The best exposures of Carboniferous, Coal Measures strata in the West Midlands County. Rocks here are of middle Coal Measures (Westphalian b) age. They comprise an exposed section through a cycle within the Coal measures strata and sections through Marine Silurian Period deposits (Elton Formation (formerly known as the Ludlow Series) and an unconformity at the canalside between the two with about 100 million years time gap.

There are interpretive signs at key locations within the site but there is currently only limited written resources available for this site but more is planned for 2009. Some useful online information exists (for example visit Dudley MBC we site)

There are accompanying leaflets and trail guides to the site which are available through the wardens service (01384 812795) or Dudley Museum and Art Gallery 01384 815575

Barrow Hill Local Nature Reserve, Dudley

Grid Ref.: SO 917 896

The ‘Dudley Volcano Site’ providing an insight into the late-stage basaltic volcanism of the West Midlands and the only known example of Carboniferous extrusive volcanic activity in the West Midlands County. Rocks here are hard crystalline basalts of middle Coal Measures (Westphalian c – also known as Etruria Formation) age. Old abandoned quarries around the hill to the rear of the church show typical intrusive molten rock features including xenoliths, baked contact zones and weak columnar jointing. The adjacent Tansey Green claypit has extensive exposures of grey volcanic ash with lapilli and occasional larger volcanic ejecta and in sections now buried contained the earliest anatomically preserved conifer fossils in life position known in the world.

There are interpretive signs at some locations within the site and a reasonable written resource available for this site including downloadable educational resources( for example . Some useful online information exists (for example visit Dudley MBC website)

There are accompanying leaflets and trail guides to the site which are available through the wardens service (01384 812780) or Dudley Museum and Art Gallery 01384 815575

Singing Cavern Limestone Mine Experience, Dudley

Grid Ref.: SO 948 917


At this location you can get aboard a canal narrow boat and take a spectacular 45 minute journey in the underground labyrinth of tunnels and limestone mines beneath Castle Hill in Dudley. The journey includes audio visual displays and live commentary about the geology, mining and canal history at the site of the world’s first ever geological map ( Dud Dudley, Metallum Martis 1665, Castle Hill ) and features the oldest canal tunnel in the world ( Lord Wards tunnel 1785).

The operations here are run by Dudley Canal trust and their times and programme are available on 01384 236275 and detailed at Dudley Canal Trust)

Barr Beacon & Pinfold Lane Quarries, Walsall

Grid Ref.: SP 061 973

Barr Beacon is a prominent North-South trending ridge midway between Walsall and Sutton Coldfield. It is the most significant topographical feature on the eastern side of the Black Country and rising to 225m (740ft) is second only to Turners Hill at Rowley in height. Magnificent views, in all directions, are afforded over the surrounding country and it is a natural “beacon” site for the proposed Black Country Geopark.

The rocks comprising Barr Beacon are made from sediments deposited during the Early Triassic Period (241-248 million years ago). The rocks are assigned to the Kidderminster Formation which is the lowest part of the Sherwood Sandstone Group.

Pinfold Lane Quarry is the only accessible site in the West Midlands County where the junction of the Hopwas Breccia and Kidderminster Conglomerate may be seen. It is invaluable for scientific and educational use and is a key component in understanding the complex geological history of the Black Country and the English midlands.

Additional resources about this site can be obtained from the warden service at barr beacon ( 01922 654370) or at the local authority website. There is an earth science on site edication pack available for this site at ( ) and a new icy wastes and scorching deserts leaflet planned for 2009.

Shire Oak Quarries, Walsall

Grid Ref.: SP 059 038


Shire Oak LNR is based on the former Chester Road Quarry which was worked by ARC for building sand and gravel. There are three distinct rock formations present at Shire Oak LNR each from different geological periods (ages). In descending order (youngest first) these are:-

  • Quaternary - Glaciofluvial sands and gravel
  • Triassic - Kidderminster Formation
  • Carboniferous - Keele Formation

The Quaternary and Triassic rocks outcrop in the area occupied by the Chester Road quarry and the Carboniferous rocks outcrop in a very limited manner in the former brick claypit in the southwest corner of the reserve. The site as a whole is importance for science, and education. The variability of the Kidderminster formation is displayed together with the contact with glacial sands and gravel.

Outcrops of Keele Formation clays are uncommon so despite its indifferent appearance, the occurrence of this rock is significant.

For more information about the site visit Walsall MBC website

Warrens Hall Country Park and the Rowley Hills, Sandwell

Grid Ref.: SO 957 888


A classic mined and quarried landscape of the former Black Country (South Staffordshire Coalfield). At the junction of the Dudley No 2 canal and the Netherton tunnel linking to the Birmingham canal navigation stands the abandoned Cobb’s engine house – a large pumping engine mine building that once drove the winding gear and pumps to dewater the Warrens Hall collieiries. Mounds of colliery spoil rise behind the building which contain occasional fossils from the Coal Measures spoil including freshwater mussels and plant remains. From the top of the largest of these known locally as ‘Black bonk’ good views across the River Stour valley and the southern part of the coalfield are available. On the near horizon rise the Rowley Hills (basaltic lopolith intrusion) which makes a bold landscape ridge. Below the mine buildings the canal enters the 2km long Netherton canal tunnel.

Additional information is available from Sandwell MBC

Sandy Hollow and Whitwick Bank Compton, Wolverhampton

Grid Ref.: SO 880 988


This is a sandstone quarrying area in which geologically influenced local distinctiveness is everywhere. A steep southeasterly facing escarpment makes a dramatic landscape feature and contains that junction between the overlying Keuper Sandstones and the underlying Bunter Upper Mottled Sandstone. The landscape here contains a fabulous assembly of old quarrying features along the ridge at Compton. These include the larger quarries at Marsham Drive and their rock faces, Natural Stone walls featuring local cut stone and many glacial erratics. A stunning line of erratics sporting brass plaques with details is present in the National Trust’s Wightwick manor garden here. Similarly erratics can be found all along the ridge as curbstones, ripplemarked blocks of Triassic sandstone are also present at the roadsides as curbstones. The geological nature of the area is even embedded in local street names such as ‘Sandy Hollow. This is a classic geocultural area.

A leaflet interpreting the landscape and geology of this area is planned for 2009


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