Geoconservation, geodiversity and geoheritage

BGS Cardiff has been actively involved in a range of geoconservation, geodiversity and geoheritage projects across Wales. These include projects like the three-year Aggregate Levy Sustainability Fund for Wales funded South Wales RIGS Audit and a range of interpretative projects which raise public awareness of geoenvironmental issues; such as the exhibition and interpretation panels for MoD Defence Estates on the Mynydd Epynt Military Range in mid Wales.

The BGS continues to offer ongoing support to the two designated European Geoparks in Wales — Fforest Fawr in mid-Wales and GeoMôn on Anglesey.

South Wales RIGS audit

Learning how to evaluate a potential RIGS on one of the workshop days

Regionally Important Geodiversity Sites (RIGS) are protected by local authorities through the planning system. Led and co-ordinated by BGS in Cardiff, the South Wales RIGS project draws together experts, students of geology and community volunteers through training seminars to assess sites and so contribute to our understanding and conservation of our geological heritage.

RIGS are selected according to their value for:

  • educational fieldwork in primary and secondary schools, at undergraduate level and in adult education courses
  • scientific study by both professional and amateur Earth scientists; such sites demonstrate, alone or as part of a network, the geology or geomorphology of an area
  • historical significance in terms of important advances in Earth science knowledge and human development
  • aesthetic qualities in the landscape, particularly in relation to promoting public awareness and appreciation of Earth sciences

The three-year South Wales RIGS project is funded by the Aggregate Levy Sustainability Fund administered by the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG). It started in April 2008 and will audit all geological significant sites within the region of South East Wales.

Aims of the project

South Wales RIGS project area showing geology and sites of potential interest highlighted by literature searches.
  • to carry out an audit of sites across South Wales and identify those suitable for raising to RIGS status
  • to record those sites in detail and lodge records with appropriate planning authorities and local record centres
  • to complete the RIGS database for South Wales to a standard format so creating pan-Wales dataset consistent with other ALSFW-funded RIGS audits
  • to create a database of those sites which do not achieve RIGS status, but may be of value to local authorities as Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC)
  • to create a website to highlight project progress and develop on-line resources for educational purposes
  • to inform local community and educational groups of sites which are of value for development as geotourism sites in the future

Fforest Fawr Geopark

Geology of the Fforest Fawr Geopark

What is a Geopark?

European Geoparks are a network of territories across the UK and Europe with important geological heritage, which they seek to utilise to stimulate sustainable economic development within their local community.

By drawing together geology, culture, archaeology biology and people, both residents and visitors, Geoparks tell stories rooted in the landscape.

Fforest Fawr, which covers the western half of Brecon Beacons National Park, joined the European Geoparks Network in 2005.

Fforest Fawr European Geopark seeks to:

  • promote local attractions to a wider audience and plays an active role in the economy of the area through the development of geotourism
  • work with local communities to help visitors and residents appreciate its diverse qualities and understand the need for its conservation
  • conserve and enhance the geology, geomorphology and landscape of the area
  • develop the areas potential as a superb outdoor classroom and as a place for learning and research in the earth sciences
  • contribute to the development of the European and Global Geoparks Networks through working with other Geoparks

Geology and landscape

The rocks and deposits of the Geopark range in age from Ordovician to the Quaternary. The area has been intensely studied and mapped since the early–mid nineteenth century. The Geopark area helped Murchison develop his ideas and provided the name for the Silurian system.

Ordovician and Silurian strata in the north-west of the Geopark record infilling of the Welsh Basin and subsequent uplift during the Caledonian Orogeny. The Devonian is represented by continental red beds of the Old Red Sandstone. It is these red rocks that underlie most of the Geopark and form the spectacular Fforest Fawr–Brecon Beacons escarpment for which the area is famous.

The southern edge of the Geopark is typified by the Carboniferous succession of the Dinantian Limestones, containing some of the UK's largest and best-decorated cave systems; overlaying these are the clastic deposits of the Namurian Sandstones and Westphalian Coal Measures, all folded by the Variscan Orogeny.

The landscape of the Geopark seen today was finally shaped by glaciers during the last 2.6 million years, creating over-deepened glacial valleys, moraines and spectacular cirques.

Human influence

Pen y Fan and Corn Du, Brecon Beacons National Park

Human activity has left its mark on the landscape as well; from deforestation erection of standing stones and chambered cairns, evidence of Roman occupation and roads through to the industrial activity of the last two hundred years, with quarrying and burning limestone and its use as flux for the iron industry and mining of silica, Rotton stones and coal.

Epynt range's geological story

View west from all-abilities access route looking at sandstones forming ridges in the St Maughans Formation of Mynydd Epynt. Photo © Rhian Kendall

BGS has contributed to an exhibition in the new Epynt Visitors Centre located in the middle of the ranges at Pentre Dolau Honddu, in collaboration with Countryside Council for Wales, Powys County Council and MoD Defence Estates on the Mynydd Epynt Military Range in Mid Wales.

In addition, a new series of interpretation boards entitled: Geology and Landscapes of the Epynt, will be installed along the all-abilities access route adjacent to the visitor centre. These cover topics such as glaciers, Old Red Sandstone, Townsend Tuff and Psammosteus Limestone.

Contact us

Contact us at bgswales@bgs.ac.uk for more information about geoconservation, geodiversity and geoheritage projects in Wales.

Get out and enjoy!