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Landscape Detective

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There is much to be understood from our natural landscape. The climate, vegetation and geology have formed the county.

Glaciation has perhaps had the most significant effect on the natural landscape. Shropshire was subjected to repeated glaciation during the course of its history. During the last Ice Age, ice sheets up to 300 metres thick in places covered the county until about 20,000 years ago.

Hills of the Long Mynd

Shown here are the hills of the Long Mynd where melt-waters from glaciers have carved out a series of valleys or batches. During the Ice Age the Long Mynd, which forms a smooth topped plateau today, would have been just visible poking through the ice sheet.

Glacial mere

When the ice sheets started to melt about 13,000 years ago large amounts of sand, clay and gravel were left behind by the retreating glaciers. Around Ellesmere, in the north of the county, hummocks and hillocks formed by dumped clay and silt, give an unusual appearance to the area. Depressions filled with water form small lakes or meres as shown here. Others silted up and became peat bogs and marshes.

The River Severn at Ironbridge Gorge

Even rivers have changed their course. The River Severn used to flow north to join the Dee by Chester. This route was blocked off during the last ice-age by glaciers creating a vast lake known as Lake Lapworth. The lake eventually overflowed at a point just south west of the Wrekin cutting a gorge to create what is now the Ironbridge Gorge. It is the Ironbridge Gorge, now a World Heritage site, that drained lake Lapworth and redirected the River Severn to it's current course.

Mammoth exhibit from Resource Centre in Ludlow

Blocks of ice left behind by the glaciers occasionally became covered by soil and debris. When the ice melted the land formed a treacherous water-filled depression.

In 1986, near Condover, just south of Shrewsbury, gravel extraction uncovered a group of mammoths which had fallen into just such a hole. They lay buried here for 13,000 years. This image shows one of the juvenile mammoths struggling to escape from the mud. This model forms part of an exhibition, along with the bones of the adult and 3 juvenile mammoths, which are on display at the new Resource Centre in Ludlow .

Mammoth mandible

This is a photograph of the lower jaw, or mandible, of one of the mammoths. The teeth of mammoths are very distinctive. They are composed of a set of thin enamel plates that are cemented together.  A mammoth has four teeth in its skull, one on each side of the upper and lower jaws. Six sets of teeth will grow over the course of its life, a worn set being pushed forward and out to make room for a new and unworn set. Once the sixth tooth is worn out the mammoth is nearing the end of its life.

The movement of the glaciers and the deposits left by the melting ice sheets would have obscured or removed any evidence of early humans, although it is quite likely that they would have hunted the herds of reindeer and even mammoths roaming the area.

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