What's on: The Story of an Ice Age Landscape - or the mysteries of Tunbridge Wells' rocky past.
8th March 2010
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I've always been fascinated by the mystique and eeriness of the rock formations in and around Tunbridge Wells.

From watching cricket as a child to the backdrop of Wellington Rocks, family picnics both there and at Toad Rocks in Rusthall, and exploring Happy Valley, the rocks were a constant feature, solid. Well, of course they are. Solid they may be, unchanging they're not. Sandstone being what it is, you can see years of rounded footholds, hand grips, smoothed by the passage of a million little pairs of hands and feet, slithering and jumping in these extraordinary playgrounds.

I've delighted at taking my own children to play at 'the rocks', and seeing their trepidation at leaping a "Ginormous!" chasm and the thrill as they land scuffingly onto the other side brings back many of my own happy memories.

The Tunbridge Wells Museum is currently running an exhibition on the Tunbridge Wells Rocks, charting their formation, history, and place amongst the people who have lived in the area through the ages. Running throughout March and April, the exhibition is a fascinating insight into something many locals take for granted.

As part of this major exhibition, the Museum's expert Ian Beavis is conducting a guided walk through Rusthall Common and Happy Valley, exploring the stunning outcrops with a fresh insight.

'The Story of an Ice Age Landscape' takes place on Saturday 13 March from 11am - 12.30pm, and reveals "the rocks' prehistoric origins, their natural history, and their place in the life of the local people and visitors."

"The walk will show how the rocks were laid down on the floor of a freshwater sea in the age of the dinosaurs and eroded into their present form during the last Ice Age as well.  It will also look at the human story of the rocks, including the prehistoric hunter gatherers who used them as shelters for their campsites, and the Georgian and Victorian tourists who were so impressed by the rocks’ grandeur and strangeness."

The exhibition has been supported by funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of the Weald Forest Ridge Landscape Partnership Scheme, and from the High Weald AONB Joint Advisory Committee. The walk is open to anyone aged 11 or over.  Places are free but must be booked in advance by contacting the Museum on 01892 554171.


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Natelie Fitzroy is a freelance writer and photographer with The Little White Studio.

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