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Storms reveal ancient forests at Mounts Bay

By The Cornishman  |  Posted: February 27, 2014

The storms have uncovered relics of ancient woodland in Mount's Bay. Here a six-metre trunk or large bough of prehistoric oak has been washed out of the peat on to rocks at Chyandour, Penzance. See page 9 for story. Picture: Frank Howie

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TREE trunks exposed on beaches in Mount's Bay by the winter storms could be up to 6,000 years old.

The trunks of oak, beech and pine can be seen at both Wherrytown and Chyandour beaches in peat beds which are now visible after huge quantities of sand were displaced by the violent storm.

Geologists have used radiocarbon dating on timber from the peat beds in Mount's Bay and put their age at between 4,000 and 6,000 years old, when forests extended across the bay and hunter-gatherers were giving way to early farming communities.

Submerged forests are evidence of the changes in the bay as sea levels have risen since the end of the last glaciation.

The Mount's Bay forest bed falls into one of the 117 County Geology Sites monitored and managed by the Cornwall Geoconservation Group and by the Cornwall Wildlife Trust (CWT) and its volunteers. On the north coast forest beds have also been exposed at Portreath beach and Daymer Bay.

Frank Howie, a CWT trustee and chairman of the Geoconservation Group, said: "The forest bed at Wherrytown hasn't been exposed to this extent for 40 years or more.

"The storms have revealed 2m to 5m trunks of pine and oak as well as the remains of hazel thickets, with well- preserved cob nuts and acorns washed out by streams running across the beach.

"At Chyandour, rooted stumps are exposed in situ in peaty soils and massive trunks have been washed out on to the rocky foreshore.

"These forests were growing 4,000 or 5,000 years ago, when the climate was slightly warmer than today. They weren't flooded at the end of the last Ice Age, around 12,000 years ago."

He said these two sites and those exposed on the north coast were very fragile and could be damaged by further storms and trampling by interested onlookers, but he would welcome photographs taken by the public of similar exposed remains.

He went on: "However, great care is essential when visiting these sites; don't take risks under overhanging cliffs or during bad weather and, as these sites are intertidal, check tide times to avoid being cut off."

Photographs can be e-mailed to fmp-howie@msn.com

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