Bradgate Park - a Rocking Day Out!

An ancient landscape in the heart of Leicestershire

Old John. The high point of Bradgate Park

In the winter especially it can be really difficult to motivate yourself to get out and about in the countryside. On a grey day at the centre of a concrete jungle can you even remember what green looks like?!  But the great thing about our nation is there are green spaces everywhere. Bradgate Park is one such place.

One of Leicestershire’s most popular countryside destinations, with around 830 acres of publicly accessible countryside, Bradgate Park is only six miles from Leicester city centre. But apart from a cityscape on the horizon you really wouldn’t know. Within the park gnarled old oak trees dot the landscape, deer roam freely on the hills and the River Lin winds gracefully through the valley.

The River Lin. Possibly England's shortest river.

But it was the dramatic rocky outcrops that grabbed my attention on my last visit…

 

Weird Creatures

These late Precambrian (566 mill yr.) rocks were deposited as volcanic ash and other debris on the flanks of islands similar to the modern day Caribbean. And they contain some of the oldest fossils on the planet!

At Bradgate Park there are around 50 known examples mainly taking the form of two-dimensional impressions of fronds and disks, including the following species: Charnia masoni, Bradgatia linfordensis, Charniodiscus concentricus

The fossils have been notoriously difficult to classify but are currently believed to be the remains of similar creatures to those of the Ediacaran Biota - specimens found in the Ediacaran Hills of Flinders Ranges, Australia.

A reconstruction of the Ediacaran Biota. Source: www.geol.umd.edu

Fossil Discovery and International Importance

In 1957 the schoolboy, Roger Mason, and his friends were rock-climbing in Charnwood Forest where they discovered an unusual fossil. Mason took a rubbing of the rock and with his father took it to a local geologist, Trevor Ford, who wrote up the discovery. Named Charnia masoni in Roger’s honour, it turned out to be one of the most important specimens ever found. Along with subsequent discoveries, it led to the re-evaluation of how life began on our planet!

The holotype (the actual physical example from which the species was first described) now resides, in the New Walk Museum and Art Gallery, Leicester where you can find out more information on these and other fossils.

Although Mason was credited with the discovery, it appears that a 15-year-old schoolgirl called Tina Negus actually saw this fossil a year before. But no one took her seriously. Oopsie!

 

Wonderful Winter Walking

So for a brilliant winter activity don your thermals and get to Bradgate Park. On a clear and frosty day winter is actually one of the best times to admire the landscape. Clare and I certainly enjoyed trotting about the heath, hopping between rocky knolls and admiring the views from the park’s high point ‘Old John’.

And if that’s not your cup of tea you can, well, go and get a cup of tea! There’s a couple of great eateries (mmm… caaake) in the park and a fantastic new visitor centre with knowledgeable and friendly staff. Here you can find out more on the fascinating natural and human history in warmth and comfort.

 

So come on, get those boots out and get exploring! Where will you go this week?