At the beginning of the Carboniferous period the Malvern area was located at the edge of a landmass which extended from south-east Ireland, across central England into Belgium. By Late Carboniferous times the area formed part of a large low-lying river delta, covering much of North West Europe.
Swamps formed on the top of the deltas and the humid tropical climatic conditions encouraged a lush vegetation to flourish. As these plants gradually died they accumulated and formed thick layers of peat which would eventually form coal.
Towards the end of the late Carboniferous, the southern hemisphere continent of Gondwana finally collided with the northern hemisphere continent of Laurasia. The collision produced the major mountain period of the Variscan (Hercynian) orogeny, forming a massive mountain chain, extending from Russia, through Western Europe to North America.
The formation of the Variscan mountain belts also resulted in major changes in atmospheric circulation. The majority of Northern Europe was located in a rain shadow and the Malvern Hills were located some 5 – 10O to the north of the Equator, forming part of the arid, landlocked continent of Pangaea (Figure Twelve).
The Carboniferous period is not represented in the Malvern area and there are only a few exposures of the Carboniferous in Herefordshire and Worcestershire. However, the Variscan earth movements had a profound effect upon the structural and topographical characteristics of the Malvern Hills. Compressive forces initiated a period of uplift and the formation of a series of cross faults forming the fault controlled valleys or cols which divide the Hills into smaller units or blocks. The formation of the cross faults coincided with the folding of the Malvern Axis to form a monoclinal fold (Figure Twelve).