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Ancient fossilised forest, exposed by winter storms, to go exhibition

By tobymeyjes  |  Posted: March 26, 2014

  • The rooted stump of a sub-fossil tree near Long Rock. Photo by Frank Howie

  • Hazel nuts, washed out of peat, on Wherry Town beach. Photo by Dave Fenwick

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An ancient fossilised forest uncovered on a beach near Penzance during the winter storms is to go on display as part of a new exhibition.

The ancient forest, which was discovered on beaches at Long Rock and Wherry Town, is estimated to be between 4,000 and 6,000 years old.

Items including a sub-fossil tree trunk, pine cones and hazel nuts will all feature in the new exhibition Penzance 400 at Penlee Gallery and Museum.

From medieval times onward the occasional exposure of the remains of the submerged forest has fuelled local mythology, including tales of the lost land of Lyonesse.

The Cornish name for nearby St Michael’s Mount, Karrek Loos y’n Koos - meaning ‘grey rock in the forest’ – is thought to possibly refer to a time when forests extended across Mounts Bay.

Frank Howie, Cornwall Wildlife Trustee and chairman of the Cornwall Geoconservation Group said: “The fossil forest exhibit was planned early this year as part of the PZ 400 celebration – before the severe winter storms re-exposed long-buried peat beds, tree stump and trunks on Wherry Town and Chyandour beaches – and newly collected specimens have been used to help explain the origin of this spectacular site.”

The exhibition carries the full title - Penzance 400: A Celebration of the History of Penzance and its Charter of Incorporation in May 1614.

It has been scheduled to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the foundation of the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall in Penzance in 1814, where early descriptions of the Mount’s Bay ‘submerged forest’ were published in its transactions.

The winter storms have also revealed a number of wartime explosives and also the remains of the SS Belem which sank near Bude in 1917.

The Royal Navy removed a number of unexploded devices from Westcountry beaches, including two at Watergate Bay near Newquay.

The exhibition is open now and will run until June 7.

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