The Penlee Gallery and Museum will be featuring an exhibition about Penzance’s 4,000 year old fossil forest.

The exhibition  is part of Penzance 400: A Celebration of the History of Penzance and its Charter of Incorporation in May 1614.

Supported by Cornwall Wildlife Trust and the Cornwall Geoconservation Group it also coincides with the 200th anniversary of the foundation of the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall in Penzance in 1814 which published early descriptions of the Mount’s Bay ‘submerged forest’.

The relentless storms of January and February uncovered evidence of the most extensive submerged forest in Cornwall.

On the beaches around Penzance between Long Rock and Wherry Town, well-preserved 4000 year old sub-fossil tree trunks, rooted stumps and branches were uncovered by the waves, and pine cones and hazel nuts washed out of peat beds.

Falmouth Packet:

Hazel nuts washed out of peat on Wherry Town beach. Photo by Dave Fenwick

From medieval times onwards the occasional exposure of the remains of this submerged forest has fueled local mythology, notably tales connected with the lost land of Lyonesse.

The Cornish name for nearby St Michaels Mount, Karrek Loos y’n Koos, meaning “grey rock in the forest”, has been considered to refer to folk memory recounting the time when forests extended across Mount’s Bay or perhaps conceived during medieval times to explain the drowned forest remains seen around Penzance.

Frank Howie, chairman of the Cornwall Geocorservation Group said: "The fossil forest exhibit was planned early this year as part of the PZ 400 celebration – before the severe winter storms re-exposed long-buried peat beds, tree stump and trunks on Wherry Town and Chyandour beaches – and newly collected specimens have been used to help explain the origin of this spectacular site’’.

"This new exhibition covers the history of the discovery of the forest, the part it has played in local culture and its importance as both a geological and archaeological site. A number of sub-fossil specimens and archaeological artefacts are on display."

Falmouth Packet:

Penzance's 4000 year old Fossil Forest Exhibition. Photo by Frank Howie