Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Forest remains exposed in Cornwall

A trunk or large bough of oak washed out of peat by storms onto rocks at chyandor, St Michael's Mount
A rooted tree trunk exposed in peaty soil on the beach at Daymer Bay, north Cornwall

Stunning remains of ancient forests have been uncovered in Cornwall by recent stormy weather.

The so-called "submerged forests" can now be seen after heavy winds and rain shifted huge quantities of beach sand and shingle around the coastline.

Experts have known about the forests' existence for centuries but they are rarely uncovered to the extent now seen at low tide.

Large trunks of oak, beech and pine in peat beds are now exposed near Penzance in Mount's Bay.

Geologists have used radiocarbon dating on the peat beds and believe extensive forests extended across Mount's Bay between 4,000 and 6,000 years ago.

This period was when hunter gatherers were giving way to farming communities.

Forest beds can also be seen on Portreath beach and in Daymer Bay.

Frank Howie, Cornwall Wildlife Trustee and chair of the county's Geoconservation Group, 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."

Submerged forests are evidence of changes in the bay as sea level has risen since the end of the last glaciation, he added.

The Mount's Bay forest bed is one of the 117 County Geology Sites monitored and managed by the Cornwall Geoconservation Group in conjunction with the Trust and its volunteers.

Dave Fenwick, local wildlife photographer and marine recorder, added: "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."

Several rooted tree stumps, as well as Neolithic shell middens and fossil soils containing snails - some rare or extinct in Cornwall - have been exposed.

Tidal movements are expected to cover the exposed forests with sand deposits over the next few months.

Mr Howie added that the sites are "all very fragile" and could be damaged by further storms or trampling by onlookers.

He appealed for anyone with photographs of other exposed coasts to contact him by emailing fmp-howie@msn.com.

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Latest News

Latest Sport

Latest Showbiz