WORK has started on a £1.1million improvement project to Wren’s Nest Nature Reserve in Dudley, which will allow visitors to get close and personal to some of the most important geological features in the world.
As part of the improvements, the fenced off footpath leading to the Seven Sisters limestone mines will be reopened, allowing visitors to once again witness the spectacular view of the world famous caves.
New disability friendly footpaths and single level viewing platforms featuring community artwork, will also be installed throughout the reserve, which boasts a huge variety of fossils, rocks and rare orchids.
And colour coded routes will allow visitors to easily navigate themselves from the newly built carpark in Wrens Hill Road, to the key geological aspects of the attraction - including the Coral Beds and Ripple Beds - which provide key windows to ancient earth.
Wheelchair users will also be able to get close to the ancient sea coral bed, with new zig zagged ramps being planned to allow them to take part in fossiling activities - where two new species of fossil were found this year alone.
The project, called Ripples Through Time, is being funded with a £800,000 grant from Heritage Lottery Fund and council cash, which will also fund improved signage and interactive information points around the reserve, which will include downloadable information such as podcasts.
It is hoped the initial work, which is set to take nine weeks to complete, will boost tourism figues from 12,000 to around 20,000 a year.
Speaking about the improvments, borough geologist Graham Worton, said: “A lot of people have said they couldn’t find the place. It can be easily passed by. It is not obvious at all, so we thought it was important to change that as this is one of the UK’s most important geological sites in the world and it is a fantastic outdoor field laboratory.”
He added: ”This project is about breaking the barriers down and getting people to see it, feel it and let them know the heritage is here.
“The community is so enthusiastic and proud of this area, that we wanted to give people some benefit now, instead of waiting for 10 years until we’ve got all of the money for the long term vision of opening the Seven Sisters mine to their former glory.”