Fire to Ice Trail

As you walk through Balaams Wood, travel through time and discover how Earth has changed over millions of years!

Each post represents a time period since the boulders on this trail were first created about 450 million years ago in a volcano. A brass rubbing booklet is available to download and can be printed to use as you walk through the woods – alternatively, a sheet of paper and crayon will do the same thing.

For more information on each of the posts – plus some extra images, see below.

You can print off a copy yourself by downloading the A4 version (8 pages) here. We recommend printing single sided, so that your brass rubbings are nice and clear.

These brass rubbing posts were installed as part of the Birmingham’s Erratic Boulder Project, funded through the National Lottery Heritage Fund. You can find out more about the project on this website.

Ordovician

Started 485 million years ago.

The boulders on this trail are 450 million years old (older than the dinosaurs) and they came from a volcano!

The volcano they came from is about 80 miles away in North Wales. The volcano is extinct now so it will not erupt again but would have looked similar to this volcano in Indonesia.

Credit: Photo of Mount Sinabung, Indonesia by Yosh Ginsu on Unsplash.

Volcano

Silurian

Started 443 million years ago.

In the Silurian, a lot of Earth was covered by warm, shallow seas which were full of animals. We can find fossils of these animals in the West Midlands.

A famous fossil is the “Dudley Bug” which is a type of animal called a trilobite.

Credit: Nobu Tamura This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Trilobite

Devonian

Started 419 million years ago.

During the Devonian different types of fish evolved.

It is often known as “Age of the fishes” because of how many different species there were. Some of these fish eventually evolved into the four-legged animals (tetrapods) that moved onto the land.

Credit: Nobu Tamura This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Fish

Carboniferous

Started 358 million years ago.

During the Carboniferous, swamps and forest were found on land. There were huge trees and plants with leaves that looked like the ferns we see today.

Over millions of years these turned into the coal and oil deposits we use today to run cars and make plastic.

Credit: Reconstruction of Psaronius, Illustrated by Auguste Faguet (1877), https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33471150

Psaronius

Permian

Started 298 million years ago.

During the Permian all the land on Earth was connected, creating a huge land mass (supercontinent) called Pangaea, and one giant ocean. A giant desert formed in the centre, covered in sand dunes, like these from the United Arab Emirates.

Credit: Nepenthes. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Rub al Khali

Triassic

Started 251 million years ago.

Before dinosaurs existed, large reptiles roamed the earth.

This reptile is named Bromsgroveia because its fossil vertebrae (back bones) were discovered in sandstones named after Bromsgrove, West Midlands. The red standstones were used as a building stone around Bromsgrove and the Midlands.

Bromsgrove sandstone

Jurassic

Started 201 million years ago.

While dinosaurs lived on land, large marine reptiles swam in the seas.

Ichthyosaurs (pronounced: Ik-thee-oh-sore) were one of these reptiles, with powerful tails for swimming and large eyes for seeing prey in dark water.

Credit:Fishboy86164577. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Ichthyosaur

Cretaceous

Started 145 million years ago.

Ammonites were sea creatures that had spiralling shells and long tentacles. They are extinct but were related to octopus and squid which are alive today.

We find fossils of the hard shells across the world, but it is very rare to find fossils of the soft tentacles.

Credit: Llez (H. Zell). This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Ammonite

Palaeogene

Started 66 million years ago.

There were a lot of volcanic eruptions in the North Sea 60 million years ago. Hot lava flowed out and cooled quickly forming these hexagonal pillars of basalt.

These pillars can be found at the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, and Fingal’s Cave in Scotland.

Credit: Photo by Phil Aickin on Unsplash.

Giant’s Causeway

Neogene

Started 23 million years ago.

Giant sharks called Megalodon ruled the oceans, eating whales and seals. The name Megalodon means “big tooth”.

Megalodon could grow to 20 metres long and were bigger than any living shark today.

Credit: Lonfat.

Megalodon tooth

Quaternary

Started 2.5 million years ago.

When temperatures on Earth are cold for a long time, it can cause an Ice Age.

The longest Ice Age was 450,000 years ago, when Woolly Mammoths stomped on land. Ice sheets travelled across Wales to Birmingham, picking up and dropping boulders like the ones on this trail.

Credit: Charles R. Knight  (1874–1953). https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18730414

Wooly Mamoths