ENGLISH RIVIERA GLOBAL GEOPARK
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News from the Geopark

How a Devon quarry solved a debate about the Earth's history

15 Aug 2019

A quarry in Torquay has played a small but important part in the history of the planet, Lummaton Quarry, now an industrial estate, was a source of limestone used in buildings across Torbay. The rock was formed from the skeletons of sea creatures around 400 million years ago and it was the discovery of unusual marine fossils in the quarry during the Victorian era that ended a big scientific debate.

From then on, the period when the rocks were formed was known as the Devonian, as scientists classified the eras in which the surface of the planet was formed. The limestone dug out of the quarry cliffs was made over millions of years in the ancient shallow seas which covered the region during the period. The grey rock gives modern Torbay much of its character, from the cave system at Kent’s Cavern in Torquay to the coastal outcrops at Hope’s Nose and Berry Head.

Red rocks formed as desert sandstone in the later Permian period from 300 million years ago are also visible around the coast. It is these rock formations and their influence that is recognised by Torbay’s designation as a UNESCO Global Geopark.

The discovery of prehistoric human remains at Kent’s Cavern formed in the limestone was a major step in global understanding of how humans developed. The mixture of important geology, history and culture was recognised in 2007 when Torbay was first awarded Geopark status. There are now 147 geoparks in 41 countries and the award by UNESCO - the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization - has to be renewed every four years.

Inspectors have just finished a visit to Torbay to check it still fits the aims of combining conservation with education and sustainable development.

Torbay Council cabinet member Mike Morey said:

It has been an honour to welcome the evaluators to the English Riviera and to be able to showcase to them what makes the area so special from a natural and cultural perspective the Council are fully committed to safeguarding our planet and the Bay, our UNESCO designation only strengthens that commitment for future generations.”

Torbay will be notified about the outcome of the inspection in December.