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The Group's aim is to identify, survey, protect and promote geological and geomorphological sites in the former County of Avon - the modern unitary authorities of Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire. RIGS are selected for their educational, research, historical and aesthetic value.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Box Rock Circus

Box Rock Circus

http://www.boxrockcircus.org.uk

FIG 1: The Box Rock Circus. The standing stones, from left to right around the perimeter, are Permo-Triassic New Red Sandstone, Carboniferous Limestone, the Jurassic Box Bath Stone table, Devonian Old Red Sandstone and Silurian andesite. Photo credit Charles Hiscock
A larger version of this and all the other photos can be seen here

There is the old saying that ‘The sun shines on the righteous’ and this was particularly true on Thursday 9th August 2012 when the sun blazed down for one of the few days of Summer 2012 at the village of Box, near Corsham, Wiltshire. At 11am on that very warm morning, the good and great (and righteous!) of Box gathered at the village recreation ground for the unofficial unveiling of the ‘Box Rock Circus’, carried out by the Chairman of the Box Parish Council, Pauline Lyons, to mark completion of the construction with many villagers and children and representatives of the press in attendance.
‘Box Rock Circus’, the brainchild of well-known local geologist and Earth Science Educator, Elizabeth Devon, is a circular arrangement of large stone blocks and rock sculptures designed to tell the history of the rocks that we can see in our environment, enabling people to touch, examine, climb on and over or just admire the originality of thought that has produced this superb feature.

FIG 2: Elizabeth Devon, who had the original idea and designed the Box Rock Circus, stands beside the Bath Stone obelisk. Photo credit: Charles Hiscock 
The circular array contains 5 large blocks of rock donated from quarries in differing geological areas. The Carboniferous Limestone block, packed with fossil corals, came from Wickwar Quarry while the volcanic Silurian andesite originates from Moon’s Hill Quarry at Stoke St Michael on Mendip. Two large blocks of red sandstone represent the Devonian Old Red Sandstone, from Black Mountain Quarries of Herefordshire, and the Permo-Triassic New Red Sandstone from Capton Quarry near Williton, Somerset. Local rocks are used for the ‘table,’ cut from the Jurassic Hartham Stone, and the beautifully carved obelisk (fig. 2) from Jurassic Box Ground Bath Stone Quarry, the latter illustrating the importance of this fine rock in the history of Box. The quarry has supplied fine Bath Stone for 1000 years but was closed for 60 years until it was recently reopened. Inset in the top of the ‘table’ rock are moulds of a range of fossils (fig. 3) – Silurian trilobites, Jurassic ammonites, a Carboniferous dragonfly, the first Cretaceous bird Archaeopteryx, starfish, a fossil worm trail and a fish - that children (of all ages!) can reproduce in the same way as brass rubbings. Also on the table is the badge of the Geologists’ Association which sponsored the fossil rubbings through the Curry Fund. 
FIG 3: Inset in the top of the 'table' rock. Moulds of a range of fossils including Silurian trilobites, Jurassic ammonites, a Carboniferous dragonfly, the first Cretaceous bird Archaeopteryx, starfish, a fossil worm trail and a fish. Photo credit: Charles Hiscock 

The sculpted blocks are built up from specimens of different rocks and are intended to be climbed over by children as well as examined for their content of rock types. One is composed of sedimentary rocks and fossils sourced locally and from further afield, topped by a polished block of Purbeck Marble sitting on a specimen of fossil ripples (fig. 4).

FIG 4: The sedimentary rocks and fossils sculpture, topped by a block of Purbeck Marble. Photo credit: Charles Hiscock

The crystalline block contains specimens of igneous and metamorphic rocks, many as polished slabs as used for kitchen worktops and, completing the top, a sculpture of a tiny house built from slates, surrounded by pieces of lavas and a volcanic bomb (fig. 5).
FIG 5: The crystalline rock sculpture, including  slates, pieces of lavas and a volcanic bomb . Photo credit: Charles Hiscock

The rocks, obelisk and sculptured blocks are set in concrete, pinned with steel rods to the base and surrounded by a greenish rubbery matrix made from recycled tyres providing a soft play area for children. Made from the same material are two sets of dinosaur footprints, coloured black which cross the circular area (fig. 6). The outside perimeter is made from granite setts which will, in due course, be painted with red marks to show the geological timeline and how life only evolved very recently. In fig 01, the sculpted blocks stand either side of the obelisk, the sedimentary rocks and fossils on the left while the crystalline rocks stand on the right. The standing stones, from left to right around the perimeter, are Permo-Triassic New Red Sandstone, Carboniferous Limestone, the Jurassic Box Bath Stone table, Devonian Old Red Sandstone and Silurian andesite.
FIG 6: Dinosaur footprints across the Circus. Photo credit: Charles Hiscock

The project has received the backing of Box Parish Council and local organisations and been funded by a Landfill Communities Fund grant from the Hills Group Ltd. Construction of the Circus was carried out by a team of skilled craftsmen managed by stonemason Marcus Mitchell. The celebration on that sunny Thursday morning marked the completion of the construction work but there is more to be done such as the red ‘timeline’ to be painted, with one year representing the age of the earth and an interpretation board is to be set up. 

The website - http://www.boxrockcircus.org.uk is to be updated to give information about the rocks and fossils and fact sheets and a childrens’ quiz will be downloadable and also available in the village. 

Elizabeth Devon will be very happy to explain the Rock Circus and can be contacted on the Earth Learning website elizabeth@earthlearningidea.com. The official opening is to be held later in the year on a date yet to be agreed.

Charles Hiscock

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