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Abstract

In 1949, nature conservation legislation was passed in Great Britain which enabled areas of land to be declared as National Nature Reserves (NNRs). In 1956, the Wren's Nest, Dudley, a Silurian (Wenlock) limestone hill, internationally famous for its geology and fossil reef faunas, was declared a geological NNR. The combination of internationally important geology, abandoned, unstable and dangerous quarries and mines, and a large adjacent urban population have provided continual conservation challenges. This paper uses contemporary correspondence to describe the deliberations that led to the Wren's Nest being declared as one of the first NNRs in England. It goes on to describe the major management challenges which have arisen. These include instability and collapse of mine workings, fly-tipping, vandalism and heavy recreational use by the local community. It highlights the conservation solutions that have been developed during the 50 year history of the reserve. These have included management of unstable and dangerous ground, cutting of new geological sections, establishment of geology trails, use of volunteers and the strengthening of local community links. The Wren's Nest has also played an important role in raising awareness of the geological heritage within the local planning authority. This has led to the adoption of geoconservation policies and to the development of projects using the area's geological heritage to attract visitors. Today the Wren's Nest remains important for its geology and is also one of the most significant geological reserves in the world for demonstrating the challenges of geoconservation and how they may be overcome. This historical perspective on 50 years in the life of a reserve provides an insight into the innovative geoconservation solutions developed at the Wren's Nest that can be applied elsewhere. Although the Wren's Nest NNR is internationally known for its geology, and has a very high profile in geoconservation, this paper is the first to attempt to explore the thinking and process that led to this abandoned industrial site, in an urban setting, being declared as one of the first NNRs in the UK.

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