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The Stones of Ruthin—a Closer Look

The word “heritage” takes on a hole new meaning during this year’s Open Doors Weekend. We normally refer to buildings from previous centuries—in Ruthin, mostly no earlier than the Castle ruins (12th century). GeoIogically speaking, however, that’s very recent indeed; our heritage from this perspective runs to billions of years. This are taking this seriously. Dr Jacqui Malpas, Geodiversity Officer for the Clwydian Range Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is taking us for a walk—not in her normal workplaces such as quarries and hillsides, but around the town. “Geologists normally like quarrie” she told me, “because they enable us to look more closely at the rocks; but we also have a cultural function, to show how rocks have been used for buildings, walls, even kerbstones”. Kerbstones? Well, yes, according to a leaflet ‘Walking through the Past: A Geological Trail around Ruthin’, one of a series on the towns of North East Wales, which Jacqui has written. I you look at the kerbstones under the Peers Monument in St Peter’s Square, “you will see some excellent fossil crinoids which are part of an animal (’sea lily’) which once lived attached to the sea-floor in warm tropical areas when Lower Carboniferous limestone was deposited”. That’s the kind of detail which you can expect to learn more about if you join Jacqui's tour. Unquestionably, you will be looking at the
plentiful sandstone which underlies Ruthin, and has been much used in our buildings, from St Peter’s Church, to Bathafarn Chapel, from the Castle bakehouse to the Library. But, more unexpectedly, you might find yourself looking at the supermarket wall in Station Road where there is a dark greenish boulder, probably a volcanic rock carried here by glaciers during the Ice Age. Jacqui’s enthusiasm for her eject promises participants us a really interesting and original walk. She has not always been a geologist: “I was a nurse and a mother, until, in my 40s, l felt the urge to folIow an entirely new path in life. I enrolled for the Open University Science Foundation course, which allowed me to discover that my real passion was geology”. The OU awarded her 1st class hnours, and later, when she was 51, she obtained a PhD at Manchester University. Based at Loggerheads, Jacqui’s job includes public education on “the rich variety of rocks, minerals, landforms, soils and natural processes that form our planet” or at least those which underlie the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. She also advises the authorities in appropriate materials, not only for buildings, but for exampled pathways and pavements. She may sometimes play a part in the assessment of planning applications. So what she does is useful as well as interesting.
DEREK JONES met geodiversity officer Jaqui Malpas in July 2009