GEOLOGY of the MALVERN HILLS
The Malvern Hills
Some Geological and Nature Notes
The hard core of the Malvern hills is 600 million years old igneous, metamorphic rock, thrust up from the east to up-lift millions of years deposit of limestone. This limestone was formed at the bottom of the Silurian sea which covered the area 350 - 400 million years ago. Layer upon layer of it can be seen in the quarry exposures between the Malverns and Ledbury. Eastward in the Severn plain are younger rocks laid down in the later Triassic times. These skirt the hills on the eastern side.
The rocks give their character to the soil above them, so the lime rich soil to the west grows lime loving plants. On the higher slopes grow many plants of acid soils such as are not found until the mountains of Wales are reached some 50 miles to the West.
The hills then are like an ecological island with habitats ranging from low level marshland to acid grassland along the ridge. Much of the land is scheduled as a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) and contains a wide variety of plants, some quite rare.
The lower slopes are clothed in woodlands which in recent years have spread up the hillsides. This spread is due to a reduction in grazing stock. Commoners with grazing rights have found it increasingly uneconomical to keep animals on the hills as they suffer losses through more fast road traffic and also from worrying by those visitors' dogs not kept under proper control. Less grazing means more scrub and consequently more trees.
There is a rich variety of butterflies. Some species, dying out in other parts of the country, are being encouraged here through special management by the Malvern Hills Conservators.
Of birds there are over 100 species recorded from year to year. Ravens nest on the hills. Buzzards live locally and many birds of passage pass along the hills in spring and autumn. Snow Buntings, Ring Ousels and others can be seen. Some Wheatears have recently nested on the hills.
For the naturalist a visit to the Malvern Hills can offer an exciting and rewarding experience.
Click here to send an
e-mail to Dudley
(Dudley Brook is Chairman of the Malvern Hills Conservators Natural History Advisory Group)
A few of the birds seen on the hills
Stonechat Ring Ouzel Raven