Sites to Visit/Worcestershire

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West Midlands Geodiversity Partnership : Site worth visiting in Worcestershire

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Abberley Hills

Grid Ref.: SO 752 672

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The Abberley Hills provide some wonderful views over NE Worcestershire, including of the famous Abberley Clock Tower. Just to the south of the Trig point there is a viewpoint over the Teme Valley and beyond. The Valley itself is underlain by red mudstones, with the high ground in the distance made up of more resistant sandstone – this is called the Bromyard Plateau. In the near distance Walsgrove Hill can be seen, which is made up of similar rock as the majority of the Abberley Hills – namely limestone and shales. It is this resistant band of limestone that makes up the ridges of Walsgrove and Abberley, alongside the sandstone of the Plateaus, which makes the River Teme to turn a 90° angle and flow southwards on the soft mudstone at Stockton-on-Teme. There are more spectacular views along the Hills, which are described in the Abberley Hill Geology and Landscape Trail Guide.

Banbury Stones on Bredon Hill

Grid Ref.: SO 958 402

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Located at the top of Bredon Hill next to Parsons Folly tower, stands the famous Banbury stones. These stones are cemented brecciated limestone. They are also called “Gull Rock” so called because they formed from the accumulation of fragments of rock falling into cracks (or gulls) opened in the limestone. These fragments were then cemented together by tufa, which formed from groundwater flowing through the gulls. When the hills were extensively quarried, it was found that this stone was of no use to them, and so they simply quarried around it, leaving it as a relict of their work.

From the vantage point atop the hill there are excellent views down the steep scarp slope, on which there has been plenty of mass movement activity, which is still continuing today. On a good day the contrast between the flat, mudstone deposits of the Severn Vale and the sharp ridge of the Malvern Hills are striking and quite beautiful. A plentiful supply of dry valleys (formed from the increase run-off of water after the last ice age) can be observed all over the hillside. This area is featured in the Bredon Hill (West) Geology and Landscape Trail Guide.

Clent Hills

Grid Ref.: SO 935 805

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From the top of this National Trust owned site, it is possible to see the ancient Malvern Hills to the SW, and the famous Wenlock Edge and Wrekin towards the NW. The Hills themselves stand up because they are made up of a rock composed of hardened angular blocks, cemented together. This is called the Clent Breccia, and its resistance to weathering compared to the surrounding rocks, has created this wonderful viewing point. The Four Stones themselves are made up of some of this rock, a pebbly sandstone called the Kidderminster Formation. The feature is not a prehistoric one, but the result of some Victorian bragging. It was supposedly erected by Lord Lyttleton of Hagley Hall to annoy the Earl of Dudley who had claimed that he could see no man-made structure from his Himley Hall estate!

Gullet Quarry

Grid Ref.: SO 762 384

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One of the most famous quarries on the Malvern Hills, and the last worked quarry (it closed in the 1970s), the main face shows a cross-section through most of the hard Pre-Cambrian rock that makes up the core of the Hills. The face itself exhibits many rock types including diorite, granite, gneiss, schist, pegmatite and dolerite. The evidence of the complex history of earth movement which formed the Hills can be seen by multiple joints, fractures, faults and shears, which make identifying changes in rock types difficult. Within these features mineral deposits such as haematite, calcite and epidote can be found. The site is featured in the Malvern Hills (2) Geology and Landscape Trail guide.

Hangman’s Hill

Grid Ref.: SO 765 389

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The crag just below Hangman’s Hill shows an excellent example of an ancient lava deposit showing that in part, the Malvern Hills were formed from volcanoes. Some parts of the crag show small holes containing crystals; these are amygdales – gas bubbles in the lava. Looking to the east from the crag, there is a fantastic view over Castlemorton Common. The free draining common owes it’s presence due to the gravel which underlies it. These are fragments of rock that have been washed down from the Hills during summer melts in the Ice Age. The ground on the common was frozen, and the waters that flowed down would have deposited the material it carried on the surface.

Hartlebury Common

Grid Ref.: SO 822 705

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The majority of the Common is underlain by loose, beach-like sand. The sand is believed to have formed as Britain was coming out of the last ice age (beginning around 10,000 years ago) during a cold tundra period (ice desert). Strong winds blew up the sand from exposed river terraces west and south-west of Stourport, and deposited spreads of it on the flanks of the Stour Valley. It is possible that the sand used to cover a wider area, however changing conditions and human activity may have played a part in restricting its spread to its present locations. The sand has created a rare inland dry dwarf scrub heathland, with many species of rare plants. In addition, an old, peat infilled channel of the River Severn has led to the development of many mosses and spores on the surface – a unique feature in the county.

Lickey Hills

Grid Ref.: SO 989 761

From atop the Lickey Hills there are views to the west to the Clent Hills, SW towards the Malvern Hills and Worcester, as well as northwards to Birmingham. The hills themselves appear as a narrow, NW-SE trending ridge. This is because the Hills are a geological inlier – a slice of older rock surrounded on all sides by younger rock. The inlier is dominated by a very hard rock called quartzite, and this is the reason for the many quarries that occur on the hills – the material was popular for use as roadstone. At the southern end of the ridge rocks made out of ash and material thrown out of a volcano and deposited in water can be found. For more information on the Lickey Hills there is a geology and landscape trail guide available.

Redstone Rock

Grid Ref.: SO 814 699

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Just south of Stourport a magnificent river cliff of fine grained red sandstone is seen. Although mainly homogenous in terms of geology, there are white streaks and thin bands of coarse material running throughout the section. The site is famous for its cave system cut into the lower half of the cliff. This was used as a hermitage as far back as the 12th century, and was said to house up to 500 men, who may have also manned the ferry crossing, which was there due to the presence of a ford until the river was dredged.

Shelsley Walsh, Teme Valley

Grid Ref.: SO 722 629 & 708 639

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St Andrew’s Church in Shelsley Walsh has been built almost entirely of tufa (a chemical deposit of calcium carbonate). The material was sourced from nearby Southstone Rock (SO708 639). Tufa may have been used as the building stone because it was local, very soft, light to transport, easy to carve and was believed to transfer the spiritual properties of the holy water from which it was formed, to all who worshipped in the church.

Southstone Rock itself is a spectacular feature, consisting of a 15m high cliff of tufa and travertine that has been forming for the last 6,700 years. Tufa forms from the precipitation of calcium carbonate from water. The adjacent stream is the source of the tufa, and is rich in calcium carbonate due to the water passing through a limestone band underground, before emerging at the spring, which can be found a little further up the path. Caves can be found in the cliff; these were used as hermitages for pilgrims who travelled to the site to take the waters, which were believed to be holy. The remains of a house can be seen atop the cliff, and prior to that a Norman Chapel stood.

Worcestershire Beacon

Grid Ref.: SO 769 453

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Standing at 425m (the highest point on the Malvern Hills) Worcestershire Beacon allows an unobscured 360° view of the surrounding landscape, and is the highest point between Malvern and the Ural Mountains in Russia. To the north and south the continuation of the line of weakness that resulted in the formation of the Hills (the Malvern Lineament) can be seen. This is revealed by the line of hills and raised ground running from the Severn Estuary up to the Black Country. On a good day, this can be seen almost in its entirety.

To the east the broad, flat, plain of the Severn Valley is underlain by mudstones and sandstones, until they meet the slightly harder Jurassic rocks, which forms a small scarp feature. Bredon Hill stands up as an island in the valley, as it is an outlier (a section of younger rock surrounded by older rock) of harder Jurassic Cotswold Limestone. Compare the relatively flat Severn Valley with the landscape to the west. This is composed of dipping rocks of mudstones, sandstones and limestones, giving the area its characteristic hummocky appearance.

The Beacon is featured in the Malvern Hills (1) Geology and Landscape Trail Guide.

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