In the heart of England are tracts of ancient woodland, rolling hills and craggy knolls. One such area is Beacon Hill Country Park. The rocks that crop out on Beacon Hill are some of the oldest rocks in England and Wales and formed when fine, volcanic ash settled in an ocean some 600 million years ago, in the Precambrian Period. Similar volcanic rocks are also seen in nearby Bradgate Park. The grey-green rocks, best exposed at the summit of the hill, are hard and resistant to erosion, which is why the hill has survived as an upland area.
There are three signposted walks from the car park in Woodhouse Eaves village. The summit walk takes you uphill through ancient woodland to heathland, with a steep climb to the summit on a made path.
At the summit, the craggy outcrops have clear horizontal lines, which are the bedding planes. They indicate the surface of deposition of the volcanic dust on the seabed millions of years ago. The rocks also show a near-vertical ‘cleavage’ and the rocks split easily along these surfaces. The cleavage was caused by metamorphism (heat and pressure) when the rocks were compressed and folded many millions of years ago.
The rocks of Beacon Hill form a geological structure called an anticline, which is a fold in the rocks where the beds slope downwards from the summit. See if you can spot crags with beds that dip away from the summit.
At the summit there are spectacular views of Leicestershire and plenty of benches to admire it from. You might also see various livestock, including English longhorn cattle, Hebridean sheep and alpacas.
At the car park, don’t miss the rhododendron labyrinth, which is a wooden boardwalk that runs through thick and twisted rhododendrons. Look out for the hand-carved sculptures. There is also a native tree collection (part of the National Forest) and a natural play area including a log train, a hazel maze, log towers and sculptures. Wooden chainsaw sculptures occur around the park and are produced locally. The car park also hosts a small café and toilets.
The lower car park is located off Breakback Road (LE12 8TA). There is also an upper car park with easy access to the summit (LE12 8SP).
- Keep dogs under control at all times and clean up after your dog
- Take all litter home
- Do not pick plants
About the author
Prof Melanie Leng
BGS Chief Scientist, environmental change, adaptation and resilience
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