In 2008 the Herefordshire and Worcestershire Earth Heritage Trust (H&W EHT) received a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to fund the Community Earth Heritage Champions project, an initiative to select key geological sites in Herefordshire and Worcestershire and involve local people in their ongoing maintenance and promotion. Additional funding was also obtained from Natural England through Defra’s Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund, the Malvern Hills AONB and the Tomlinson Brown Trust. Having selected 19 suitable sites, project manager Eve Miles recruited the volunteer ‘Champions’, and along with her colleagues from the EHT has worked tirelessly throughout the three and a half years to bring this part of the project to a satisfactory conclusion at the end of August last year. But that conclusion is really just the beginning! Now it’s over to the Champions to continue, more or less unaided, to keep the ball rolling…
As volunteers we were given the opportunity to attend training days. We had an introduction to the basics of geology; training in the use of tools, vegetation clearance, health and safety, and recruitment of more volunteers. We were invited to undergo a two day first aid course, an opportunity I felt was certainly too good to miss. We also had the opportunity to attend longer courses in geology, and events where we could ‘network’ with Champions from other sites.
I am one of the Champions for the Warren Lane and Barnt Green Road Quarries in the Lickey Hills. The Warren Lane quarry is used as a depot and is not permanently open, but the Barnt Green Road Quarry is one of the ‘jewels in the crown’ of the entire Champions project. It is known that this quarry provoked some geological interest in the late 19th century for its dramatic structure, and now, its superb overfold in the Ordovician quartzite has been clearly revealed once again. Certain exposures at the southern end of the quarry have caused speculation within the professional community about a possible connection with the Barnt Green volcanics exposed to the south of the Lickey Hills. Thin sections have been taken for analysis and many questions have been raised for further research.
We were initially a group of 5, ranging from students to retired and from backgrounds as diverse as you could imagine, but we pooled our ideas to make a success of our project. Eve, noted our ideas and incorporated them into the professionally produced information panels and information booklet. Way markers bearing the Champions logo were installed, and the site was made safe for visitors. In preparation for our launch event in July, we collected rock samples of all the local rock types to be put on permanent display in the Lickey Hills Visitor Centre. We created activities for children, including a quiz to focus their minds along the trail to the quarry. We were very proud that the Lickey Hills Champions project was selected by The Geological Association as a flagship site for a fieldtrip during its meeting to discuss ‘Geoconservation for Science and Society: An agenda for the 21st Century’. The project is deemed to have been particularly successful in achieving ‘community impacts’, particularly in attracting a broad demographic of volunteers, and in achieving a high level of community cohesion.
There are currently 86 volunteer ‘Champions’ spread across the 19 sites, I can highly recommend getting involved. Since becoming a ‘Champion’, I have learned new skills, made new friends, become immersed in the geology of my site, and lots of new doors have opened. A list of the sites can be found on the Champions web site (details below).
For further information visit the H&W EHT’s web site: www.earthheritagetrust.org or the Champions web site: http://champions-earthheritagetrust.org/?cat=3
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer ‘Champion’ in your area or would like to visit one of the Champions sites, please contact the EHT on 01905 855184, email: [email protected] or contact the project manager, Eve Miles by email: [email protected]