GOLDSMITHS | BA Fine Art 2019

Alice Watkins

The Wren’s Nest is a national treasure. It is a national nature reserve because of the exceptional geology, which contains some of the worlds finest and best preserved fossil evidence of a particular period of time. And it’s centred in amongst housing estates in a large urban area where it reaches out to people in possibly a unique way compared to many national nature reserves elsewhere in the UK. It’s in the heart of the UK, it’s about 7 miles, or 9 kilometres, to the West of the city of Birmingham, and it’s essentially right next to the town centre of Dudley in the heart of a region we call the Black Country. The exceptional fossil heritage is all of a time when this whole landscape was covered by a shallow, tropical sea. It’s a long time ago, it’s 428 million years ago, which is about twice as long as the oldest dinosaurs… so this is an immense, deep time window on the conditions of the planet a very long time ago. So, these fossils are exceptionally preserved. Their detail is world class, and it’s one of those windows on time and the past of the planet that are rare, and when you find them they have to be treasured and protected. So the Wren’s Nest is just this incredible green oasis and window and the ancient conditions of the planet, like no other. So it is rightly celebrated by the nation as a national treasure. In terms of what it tells us about the past, that is like any forensic site; you can view and interpret evidence locked in the rock layers of which there are many at Wren’s Nest. And if you consider the rock layers build up through time like the pages of a book. So, just like the page of a book, you start at the beginning, and you build up a story by looking at each page in order. In this case it’s more like pages in Mother Nature’s diary – she’s telling you what she did through time on these pages, on these rock layers. And the fossils are very much like the words on a page which when read together form a beautiful narrative that tells us about the origins of this incredible world we live on.