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The old quarry at Hope's Nose
Nose - Devonian limestone
The path eventually drops down to rejoin the Marine Drive
close to Hope's Nose. You can take a short detour here to investigate this
site of geological interest using the stile opposite.
of 350 million-year-old Devonian limestone is all round you at Hope's Nose
- the finger-like rocky tip at the northern end of Torbay.
Nearby is a great example of a raised beach, some 600 meters to the south
beside Shennell Cove. There's another raised beach at Thatcher Rock, a tiny
island inhabited by seagulls just off Hope's Nose.
The raised beach at Thatcher Rock is 25ft above today's sea level. To find
out the reason for this, you have to travel back in time to the Ice Ages
which began two million years ago.
The ice-caps never actually reached Torquay, but the effects
of the Ice Age certainly did. The melting and growth of ice caps caused
the sea levels to rise up and down.
Raised beaches are notoriously difficult to date - but there's no doubt
they were formed during one of the warm interglacial periods when sea levels
It's thought the raised beach at Shennell Cove offers some of the earliest
evidence of the formation of the English Channel.
At Thatcher Point, just along from Hope's Nose, you can clearly see the
hundreds of layers of limestone which were formed over millions of years
- it's a stunning sight.
And all around this area are fossils, together with remnants of extinct
corals which were formed when the seas were relatively shallow. The best
place to see these is on the foreshore at Hope’s Nose when the tide is low.
This is a popular fishing spot, so it's fairly accessible and safe.
It's in this area where you'll also find Devonshire cup corals (latin name
Caryophyllia smithii). These are solitary animals and can be up to 3cm across.
They're the most widespread of Britain's five corals and can be found along
all the western coast of Britain. However, South Devon is its stronghold.
They have an internal limestone skeleton, which is shaped like a cup into
which they can retract and hide. They also have see-through tentacles with
a small distinctive blob on the end. Stripes of electric blues and greens
can be seen between the tentacles.
Perhaps the most exciting discovery along these cliffs came in Victorian
times, when gold was found.
During great earth movements, hot mineral-rich fluids were
infused into the fissures of the rock, which explains the iron deposits
along this piece of coastline.
hole cut in the rock where gold could once be found. Photo:
Mick Murphy, English Nature.
But gold was also infused into the rock and in the
19th century, prospectors descended on Torquay in the hope of making a quick
Collectors used heavy duty cutting equipment to remove samples of the gold
veins which were worth large sums of money to mineral dealers.
However, the gold in this area was very fragile and crammed into narrow
fissures, so mining it was never a viable proposition. Which is why some
of the gold remains in place.
You can see samples of Hope's Nose gold at the Natural History Museum in
Today, people visit Hope's Nose to take in the sea views across to Brixham
at the southern tip of Torbay, to go fishing, or to simply walk along the
South West Coast Path.
And there's another reason to visit Hope's Nose - the array of flora and
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