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TREE-MENDOUS!

by Frank Howie

Valentine’s Day Storms that wreaked havoc across the Duchy have uncovered an archeological treasure off the Cornish coast.

Large trunks of oak, beech and pine in peat beds have been exposed near Penzance in Mount’s Bay.

Although the ‘submerged forests’ of Mount’s Bay have been known for centuries they are rarely uncovered to the extent now seen at low tide on the beaches at Wherry Town and Chyandour.

Geologists have used radiocarbon dating on timber from the peat beds in Mount’s Bay and it is thought that extensive forests extended across the bay between 4000 and 6000 years ago.

It was around this time in human history that hunter gatherers were giving way to early farming communities.

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

On the north coast forest beds have also been exposed on Portreath beach and in Daymer Bay.

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.’

‘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.

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 me on 01736 331007 or email me at 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.



Posted by on February 21, 2014. Filed under NEWS,WILD. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

One Response to TREE-MENDOUS!

  1. Luci Isaacson

    February 21, 2014 at 10:40 am

    Chuffed I wrote this Jan 6th!
    THE CORNISH BATHOLITH – THANK GOODNESS!

    Posted by luciisaacson on Jan 06, 2014 in Blog
    Thank God for the Variscan Orogeny and our Granite intrusions!
    It sounds soooo naughty, but luckily here in Cornwall around 280-290 million years ago a volcanic intrusion produced the backbone of Cornwall and provided us with mostly a good hard coastal face, currently taking a pasting.
    If we were on sandstone…Cornwall could be a new age lost Atlantis!

    Talking of Atlantis…..We wonder if the sea will dredge up even more clues to the past and reveal the hidden tree stumps at St. Michael’s Mount that hold the stories of Lyoness. They were last seen in the 50s, at lowest astronomical tide. There are probably only a few people living thinking the same thing as the story fades with time. They came down due to a significant wave…

    “The Rev. William Borlase, who “cleared the British Antiquities from the obscurity they were immersed in” (Pool, 1986), had made a great discovery by drawing together strands of myth and legend to eventually, in Borlase’s eyes, becoming a factual sudden event. This was conveyed in a letter to the Dean of Exeter, Dr. Charles Lyttleton. His letter describes three-foot wide oaks found lying horizontally, with roots buried deeper than they could dig, lying in an easterly direction. On further inspection the afternoon walk revealed hazel and willow, from 300 yards below the high water mark (Borlase, 1756).
    At this stage Borlase was already committed to informing Lyttleton that the tree stumps confirmed an ancient tradition that St. Michaels mount, was formerly situated in a wood. This backed up his theory, also written to Lyttleton, that a subsidence had occurred in that place.”

    from

    The historical geography of the submerged forest in Mount’s Bay, Cornwall.

    Luci Isaacson 2009
    http://climatevision.co.uk/the-cornish-batholith-thank-goodness

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