University of Leicester eBulletin

Trip to Charnwood that had world-wide implications

September 2002
No 196

Geologists Recreate Historic Trip


A trip rock climbing at Charnwood Forest that led to a transformation of scientific knowledge and understanding is to be recreated as part of the BA Festival of Science at the University of Leicester.

It will commemorate the occasion in 1957 when Roger Mason, a Leicester schoolboy, went to Charnwood Forest - and made a discovery that had worldwide implications.

Roger and two friends, on a cycling/rock climbing trip at one of Leicestershire's top attractions, investigated a quarry near Woodhouse Eaves and discovered curious impressions on the rocks.

Mr Andrew Swift, of the University of Leicester Geology Department and Chairman of the Geology Section, Leicester Literary & Philosophical Society, said: "At that time, almost nothing was known of life around the time the rocks in Charnwood were deposited, around 600 million years ago, during the Precambrian era. 

"Roger passed on his findings to Dr Trevor Ford in the Geology Department at the University of Leicester, and Dr Ford was able to establish that these impressions were in fact fossils of a type unknown, but undoubtedly representing evidence of life. Dr Ford went on to discover more examples of these exceptional fossils near the Old John Memorial in Bradgate Park.

"These fossils, scientifically named Charnia by Dr Ford, rapidly attained world-wide significance and stimulated an explosion in the study of ancient life and how it developed on our planet. 

"They are still amongst the most important fossils in the world and the best of them was removed and taken to New Walk Museum in Leicester for safe-keeping. Roger went on to make a career in geology as a result of the impetus of his momentous discoveries and now spends a large proportion of his time working and living in China, where he is a very respected figure."

45 years after his first discoveries, Roger is returning to England and Leicester expressly to lead a field excursion on Sunday September 8th for the British Association for the Advancement of Science to the famous fossil sites in Charnwood.

Mr Swift added: "Members of the University and the Geology Section of the Leicester Literary & Philosophical society will also take part in this trip. Dr Ford, still a keen and tireless researcher, can no longer undertake field work, but has monitored the planning of the excursion. 

"Dr Helen Boynton from Oadby, who became involved at an early stage in the description of the fossils, will also take part in the excursion and will take the party to a site near Shepshed where she has found yet more enigmatic fossils from the ancient Precambrian rocks. All three geologists have agreed to visit the New Walk Museum on Monday the 9th of September to be reunited with the world famous specimen and to be photographed. It is a meeting that is unlikely to be repeated."


There are photo opportunities on Sunday September 8 at Memorial Crags in Bradgate Park from around 9.30 am. The best plan would be to meet the party on their arrival by coach at around 9.20 am at the Hunt's Hill car park

There is also a photo opportunity on Monday September 9 at the New Walk Museum, 10.30am, when the geologists will be reunited with their world-famous discovery.

For more information, contact Mr Swift on 0116 2523646 (until 5 pm Friday), thereafter 07816 755858

Or at New Walk Museum: Mark Evans, the deputy curator of geology at or phone him on 0116 2473081

Roger Mason can be reached on His room telephone number while in Leicester (Saturday pm onwards) is 0870 0155597

Ather Mirza/Helen Richardson
Tel: +44 (0) 116 252 2415
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Last updated: September 2002
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