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Wenlock Edge

Wenlock Edge is a limestone ridge that runs SW/NE across South Shropshire. There are many limestone quarries and some limekilns along the Edge.

The limestone along the Edge provides good conditions for some rare flora as well as having ancient woodland on its slopes, together justifying it becoming an SSSI (click here to see the reasons for notification).


The two escarpments are the products of differential erosion of the hard limestone and softer shales and siltstones. The limestone has resisted erosion better than the shales so it now forms higher ground with the softer material being found in the parallel valleys of Ape Dale to the NW, Hope Dale inbetween the escarpments and Corve Dale to the SE. The cross section below shows the relationship between the different rock formations and todays landscape.

Wenlock Edge rock dip

There is a splendid view from the crest of the Wenlock Edge escarpment which enables the whole of the Palaeozoic to be seen, west from the Cambrian of the flanks of Caer Caradoc, through the Ordovician, and Silurian through to the east, onto the Devonian of Brown Clee capped with Carboniferous, and the Permian of Bridgnorth beyond. The map shows where to go (marked by the blue viewpoint symbol; there is a small roadside lay-by for parking). Click on the map to enlarge.

Wenlock Edge viewpoint map

Wenlock Edge – FOSSILS

The rocks of this area were laid down on a gently sloping shelf in sub-tropical, clear, shallow seas with the landmass to the east somewhere around Birmingham and deeper water to the west. The different rock types represent different environments of deposition and therefore the most abundant fossils they contain differ.

The nature of the reef can be readily seen along Wenlock Edge by walking east from the National Trust Car Park through the wood. On emerging at the edge of the disused Knowle Quarry the section shown in the photograph can be viewed. It shows well bedded limestone (right) lapping against the massive limestone of the coral reef (left):

Carbonate ramp

The most common fossils of the patch reefs are the reef builders themselves.  These are mostly corals such as the compound corals and rugose corals. Amongst these colonial organisms other animals such as trilobitesbrachiopodscrinoids and gastropods would have lived.  All these animals would have filtered microscopic organisms out of the water or eaten other animals.

Click image to enlarge photo of Knowle Quarry

© Photograph by Ian Stimpson, Hypocentre

Wenlock Edge – INDUSTRY

The limestone of Wenlock Edge has been exploited for many years.  The first use was for building material and for burning in small lime kilns some of which have been fully restored by the National Trust. Much larger quarries have been cut more recently for the extraction of the rock for roadstone.

Many of the disused quarries once made good sites for study but these are now generally thought to be unsafe and permission for access should always be sought.

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