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Cornwall's Ancient Forests Exposed

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8:01am 23rd February 2014


The storms uncover a four thousand year old forest which once covered Mounts Bay.

Below you can see the tree stumps at low tide just off Penzance.

Geology experts are researching the peaty ground and wood before they get swallowed up by sand and stones again.

it is just one of several sites uncovered by the rough seas.

Frank Howie from Cornwall Wildlife Trust said: "The forest bed at Wherry Town on the west side of Penzance has not been exposed to this extent for 40 years or more. The storms have revealed two to five metre trunks of pine and oak as well as the remains of hazel thickets with well-preserved cob nuts and acorns washed out by streams running across the beach.

"At Chyandour to the east of Penzance rooted stumps are exposed in situ in peaty soils and massive trunks have been washed out onto the rocky foreshore. These forests were growing four or five thousand years when climate was slightly warmer than today. They were not flooded at the end of the last ice age which happened around 12,000 years ago.'  
 
Dave Fenwick, local wildlife photographer and marine recorder said: "The tree stumps and trunks now exposed illustrate merged biodiversity and geodiversity with colonies of recent and sub-fossil wood boring molluscs, some now rare in Cornwall."

 Frank Howie also said: "At Daymer Bay, north Cornwall, as well as several rooted tree stumps, Neolithic shell middens and fossil soils containing snails, some now rare or extinct in Cornwall are exposed. This is an important exposure and research is underway on what it tells us about the climate and environment of the recent past in Cornwall.  

'The storms have washed away parts of this exposure although it is expected that tidal movements will again cover the deposit with sand over the next few months'.

These sites are all very fragile and it is likely that any further storms and trampling by interested onlookers may damage the deposits. But Frank told Pirate FM as long as we are careful there is no reason to stay away: "Watch the weather, watch the tide. There are lovely exposures all around Cornwall at various other places. Don't take spadefuls of stuff you might pick up the odd hazlenut or piece of wood but you're not going to damage much. The storms are far worse."

It is expected that a number of these ancient forests have been exposed around our coast and it would very useful if people can send photographs of what they see and report locations to Frank Howie (Tel: 01736 331007; Email: fmp-howie@msn.com).

Great care is essential when visiting these sites; do not take risks under overhanging cliffs, during bad weather and, as these sites are intertidal, check tide times to avoid being cut off.

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8:01am 23rd February 2014

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