Posts Tagged ‘geology’


The Indonesian volcano of Rinjani in 1994, by Oliver Spalt on Wikimedia Commons

STOP PRESS: Moments after I published this, reports came in of a volcano erupting in Sumatra – so best wishes to everyone struggling there…

Did you have an irrational fear of something when you were a child? In my case, for a while at least, I was terrified of volcanoes. You might say that’s not so crazy. But as I lived in Wales, where an eruption would be pretty near impossible, I think it was.

So this post is all about what (more…)

Read Full Post »

The red stones of Ross…


The old lock-up in Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire…

Although I had been to Ross-on-Wye many times, I had never been as impressed as I was on the Sunday between Christmas and New Year. It was a lovely sunny day and I was surprised to find how many shops were open and welcoming in this very “low” season.

As there was not much traffic, it was the first time I (more…)

Read Full Post »


View of Strumble Head Lighthouse, Pembrokeshire, from the car park...

I think this is the last post from my summer vacation and it’s a quick visit to Strumble Head, a rocky (more…)

Read Full Post »


A drawing of Mary Anning's ichthyosaur, used to illustrate a paper by Everard Home in 1814


My 1969 Hamlyn guide to Prehistoric Animals

OK, I know that’s a ridiculous headline, as an ichthyosaur was a fish-like reptile with no legs, but I wanted to draw the comparison with the BBC’s Walking with Dinosaurs and its latest Planet Dinosaur

There are so many “new” prehistoric creatures these days and I can no longer keep up with all the names. My reference guide as a child in 1969 was Prehistoric Animals by Barry Cox and I could probably still identify 80% of the species illustrated, if I spotted them in the wild. That’s a Stegosaurus and an Ankylosaurus on the cover…

In Mary Anning’s time (21 May 1799 – 9 March 1847) things were even simpler – and it must have been so exciting, naming the first fossils found.

As of last month, I have now seen Mary Anning’s ichthyosaur fossil in the flesh (if you know what I mean) – but I am so kicking myself because I didn’t take a picture!

I hadn’t realised at the time that the ichthyosaur isn’t usually at Mary’s home-town museum in Lyme Regis, Dorset, but has been brought back from the Natural History Museum in London for a couple of months to celebrate the 200th anniversary of her find – on Mary Anning Day, September 24.


A portrait of Mary Anning with her dog Tray. A landslide from the blue lias cliffs killed Tray in 1833 - and almost killed Mary, too...

Mary Anning was (more…)

Read Full Post »


The Cobb at Lyme Regis, Dorset


Meryl Streep - and the Cobb at Lyme Regis - feature on the cover of The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles...

I recently visited Lyme Regis, right on the western edge of Dorset where it meets Devon, a county Lyme seems to gravitate towards, rather than looking back through masses of green countryside towards the east of its own county.

I went there hoping to look for fossils, thinking of my childhood heroine Mary Anning, but in September 2011 it’s the 200th anniversary of her ichthyosaur find, so I will leave it until later to blog more about her and about fossils.

Instead, I will look this time at the Cobb, a harbour wall that featured in Jane Austen’s Persuasion and more recently in John Fowles’ book The French Lieutenant’s Woman – it was made even more memorable by the image of Meryl Streep standing, windswept, on the said wall in the movie.

I bought an old (more…)

Read Full Post »


Tintern Abbey, December 31, 2010

On the same dark mid-winter day that we visited Usk and Monmouth, we also went to Tintern Abbey in the lovely Wye Valley.

We are members of Cadw and get in “free”, so we always visit when we are in the area.


Tintern Abbey by the late Victorian artist Benjamin Williams Leader

It was early afternoon, but with sunset soon after 4pm at this time of year, it was already dim. It made the abbey’s stones seem more ruinous than ever but also showed up their lovely pink colour. I believe it’s the old red sandstone on which much of Monmouthshire stands and which gives the Wye its red colour.


Tintern Abbey, December 31, 2010 - the lovely soft red sandstone

Tintern Abbey was a Cistercian house founded in 1131 and rebuilt in the late 13th and early 14th centuries. It was surrendered to Henry VIII in 1536 when he dissolved the monasteries. He gave it to Henry Somerset, Earl of Worcester, who sold lead from the roof and leased parts of the area for cottages and other early industrial buildings.

The abbey regained fame in the 17th and 18th centuries when it was discovered by the Romantic poets (such as Wordsworth) and artists (such as Turner).


The arches of Tintern Abbey by JMW Turner around 1794 - the ivy seemed to be an attraction at the time but was cleared after the Crown took over the abbey in 1901

My aim for the day had been to take pictures of bare winter trees and some of these were visible from the abbey, too.


Tintern Abbey, December 31, 2010 - winter tree (beech?)

What I noticed most, though, was the hard white lichen like chewing gum patches all over the stones.


Tintern Abbey, December 31, 2010 - the white lichen on the stones looks like snow...

And the whole ruins, which have stood tall for so many centuries, looked as if they would crumble into damp rubble at any moment.


Read Full Post »


New findings suggest big flying pterosaurs took off by pole-vaulting over their wings...

I have been meaning to muse on pterosaurs, the Archaeopteryx and the hoatzin for a long time, but suddenly the subject has become topical again.

Today’s papers have a story along the lines of “Dinosaur the size of a giraffe could fly across continents” – I have linked to the Daily Telegraph version, which is as good as any, apart from the fact that it means pterosaur (Greek for “wing-lizard”), NOT dinosaur (Greek for “terrible-lizard”).

The new findings suggest that (more…)

Read Full Post »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 210 other followers