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Turning back time in Torbay

Source: Published:Feb 23,2009

Plans for a brand new English Riviera Geopark interpretation room at the Geopark Head Office at the Seashore Centre, Paignton have been revealed. The new education room is part of a 2-year long Heritage Lottery Funded project ‘Rock-It', being led by the English Riviera Geopark Organisation to raise the profile and encourage interest in Torbay's extraordinary Geological heritage to schools and local residents in Torbay.

This follows the successful launch of a brand new Geopark website full of information about the Geopark. As well as listing events in the Geopark, the website has a clear explanation of Torbay's amazing geological story from warm tropical seas of the Devonian Period, 400 million years ago, to arid deserts of the Permian some 280 million years ago to the arrival of ancient humans as Torbay experienced successive Ice Ages.

The Heritage Lottery Fund is also supporting the re-design of one of the downstairs rooms in the Seashore Centre at Goodrington Sands which is run by Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust. Visited by approximately 2,500 school children and 12,000 members of the public, the new Geopark room will include exciting interactive displays and interpretation. With the aid of some clever lighting and appropriate sound effects, the room will be transformed into a beautiful Devonian seascape and visitors will be transported back approximately 375 million years to when Torbay was close to the equator and immersed in warm tropical water. Through hands-on experiences visitors will be able to fast-forward through time to see how the earth has changed and learn how this has affected Torbay over millions of years. In addition, a visit to the existing ‘Rockpool Zone' through a specially designed time portal will allow children the opportunity to see how familiar sea creatures might have evolved from their ancient ancestors. Geopark Coordinator Mel Border said "We are currently working with Kay Elliot Architects and are very excited by how the design is looking". Exhibition designer David Craddock, who is working on the plans for the room, said ‘The aim is to suspend disbelief for a few moments and give the visitor a sense of immersion in the tropical waters of Torbay as they probably looked millions of years ago. A micro station with large-scale images from a microscope projected on to a screen and a Time-turner which lets you wind back the millennia, complete this exciting addition to the Sea Shore Centre at Goodrington'.

Alongside this development, the Seashore Centre garden is also currently undergoing a makeover to convert it into an outdoor classroom area. This will include installing a roof on the pergola and potentially adding additional seating as well as attractive new borders and a wildlife pond. For many years the activities at the Seashore Centre have been very popular and the centre has been running at full capacity. The aim is to provide extra space for approximately 30 children that can be used as a base during school visits as well as a safe environment for messy experiments! Geopark Education and Community Officer Emily Beale said ‘Both the room and the garden will greatly assist with the delivery of activities in the new Geopark Schools' Programme. These additions are a fantastic educational asset and I hope that as many children as possible will benefit from exploring and enjoying these new facilities.'

Torbay Community Payback team have been working hard over the winter to clear the garden and install new fencing which has already tidied and improved the area dramatically. Horticulture students from South Devon College will be re-designing the layout and carefully choosing particular plants to allow the marine Devonian theme to flow from the new room to the outside. This will provide an interesting educational experience for school groups and a new environment for the public to enjoy.

Work on both the Geopark room and the garden is scheduled for completion by the start of April to coincide with the Seashore Centre opening at the beginning of the summer season. The Geopark Schools' Programme will be launched during the Geopark Festival fortnight when booking will be officially opened to all local and in-bound schools.

Watch out for the Geopark Coordinator and Project Officer who can now be easily recognised in their steel blue and black Geopark branded clothing.