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A school field trip in 1930

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: February 15, 2014

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WREN'S NEST National Nature Reserve in Dudley is a geological site of exceptional importance and one of the most notable geological locations in the British Isles.

Every year geologists from all over the world come to visit this unique mound of Black Country rock that has revealed in the past an exceptional collection of fossils, 86 of which have never been found anywhere else on earth.

In 1930 a group of children from the Rowley Regis Central School were inquisitive visitors to the Wren's Nest, and courtesy of a copy of the school's magazine called 'The Centralian' that was published the following year, we can enjoy the same visit that took place 84 years ago through the experiences of Form 4 pupil Margaret Bell, who wrote all about her day of adventure.

"During the past term many of the geography lessons have been devoted to the study of rocks, their formation, uses, etc.

"One of our most fascinating lessons was about fossils, but we found that it was necessary to see the real rocks and soils to obtain a proper conception of them, and so, towards the end of August, Forms 4 and 3A paid a visit to Wren's Nest Hill near Dudley which is noted for the profusion of fossilised remains in its composition.

"We reached Dudley at about 1.45pm and, by way of sundry pretty lanes and paths, we arrived at the Hill at 2pm. Looking around us we counted as many as six disused coal mines, proof of the one-time prosperity of this area, when coal, iron and limestone were found close to each other. But now the iron is nearly exhausted, and the coal is either too hard to reach or consists of seams too much broken to be profitably mined.

"While walking up the approach to the hill, a lorry passed us loaded with limestone, which was probably on its way to some building contractor or farmer in the district.

"At the bottom of the hill we found two kilns, but only one of them was being used. At one time these limestone mines were very prosperous, but during the past few years a greater quantity of stone has been brought from Much Wenlock, a few miles away, and only enough lime is mined at Wren's Nest to give employment to two or three men.

"Passing round from the kilns, we came upon a high wall of limestone, its sheer face being covered in fossils. The next half hour was one of the happiest spent on the hill, and some good fossils were found, each fresh specimen being acclaimed with joyous exclamations.

"The next move was made back to the kilns. The kiln is a cylindrical shaft with a round hole at the top, and two oven-like apertures at the base. Coal and limestone are shovelled in together at the top, and burn slowly down and down until the lime is extracted at the bottom, ready to be taken to the various purchasers.

"When the limestone was mined here, the excavators left natural columns of rock. These columns and the inclined strata give the caves a grotesque and tilted aspect. There are two wooded hills with a deep valley between them, and from the slope of the one a magnificent view of the caves in the other can be obtained. Tall trees, small bushes, and all manner of quickly growing vegetation have clothed the outside with a tangle of greenery. But inside, where the rays of the sun pick out and light up a massive pillar here and there, the velvet darkness hides the mysterious interior from prying eyes, and we could only guess how far these caves extend beneath the surface of the earth.

"The most adventurous and spirited among our party suggested exploring these exciting-looking caves, but the proposition was immediately squashed by Mr. Willetts, the geography master of the upper school who was leading the expedition. He told us that although the caves appeared so fascinating when viewed from the sunlit hill outside, they were far from safe and the roofs were liable to collapse at any moment.

"The enthusiasm of the Forms on the journey to the hill was as nothing compared with the satisfaction displayed on our return. We were all rather tired, but everyone agreed that it had been a jolly afternoon, in spite of the mud, which was very much in evidence. We had collected various examples of fossil specimens, and had certainly acquired a whole fund of knowledge to use in our geography lessons."

If you have any memories of school field trips from years ago please phone 01384 567678 or email jworkman@blackcountrybugle.co.uk.

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