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Northumberland Rocks

16 September 2021

Cuddy’s Crags © Ian Jackson

2021 is the 50th anniversary of Northumberland Wildlife Trust. To celebrate, and inspired by the Geological Society’s 100 greatest geo-sites event in 2014, we’re running a virtual Rock Festival focused on the old county of Northumberland. Until March 2022, web pages, trail guides and video hikes will showcase 50 great rock sites across the county.

Why is a wildlife trust taking an initiative in geology, you might ask? Well, back in the days of the Trust’s formation, some far-sighted soul (long before the words were in general use) recognised that biodiversity depended on geodiversity, and so included the conservation and promotion of geology in the Trust’s legal articles.

In any case, it’s not easy to ignore rocks in a place like Northumberland; they make a massive contribution to its tourist industry, and previously to its economy and culture. Just think, without the Whin Sill, Hadrian would have had nowhere to site his Wall, the saints their priories and the barons their many castles. Few, if any, counties have a heritage with a closer association with coal and mining than this one.

This Rock Festival, unashamedly, targets non-geologists.

The aim is to engage and encourage the general public to look at their county through different eyes, and better understand its origins and habitats. And perhaps, just as importantly, appreciate how changing climates and environments over time have created this precious landscape… and continue to change it.

As well as unravelling the secrets of the Whin Sill and coal mining, the Rock Festival helps teach people about less well-known places where they can visit a 400-million-year-old volcano, see where earthquakes have bent solid rock, or walk over a border mire that started when the last ice sheet retreated 15,000 years ago. The information provided is an eclectic and attractive blend of geology, biology and history.



Curious about what’s on offer? Maybe we can tempt you to visit a few of these special rock sites when you’re in the region? Here is the link to the Rock Festival web site: https://www.nwt.org.uk/rock-festival-sites

Should you like a taster of the Northumberland landscape before you go, there are 10 videos available. Try a virtual hike along Hadrian’s Wall, the Northumberland coast, or through the Cheviots hills. View the full playlist here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLjwznYV1Sm0iNMnh0702TDoLbQCMn0Y_2

The Northumberland Rock Festival also features in the 5 December 2021 episode of the BBC’s Countryfile: https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m00129l8/countryfile-kielder-forest


The Northumberland Wildlife Trust Rock Festival is being coordinated by Ian Jackson, supported by Angus Lunn. Ian worked with the British Geological Survey for 38 years, as a field geologist and ultimately as Chief of Operations, before retiring to Northumberland in 2011. Angus Lunn is a geologist and ecologist who, prior to retirement, worked at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. He was a co-founder of the Northumberland Wildlife Trust.

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