Posts Tagged ‘geology’


Glamorgan Heritage Coast at Southerndown, seen from the viewing point in Dunraven Park on the clifftop

When I visited Dunraven at Southerndown on Christmas Day (see blog post here) I did say I would tell you some more about the cliffs of the Heritage Coast itself. So here goes. (more…)

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Yellow lichen and broken red rock on the wall of Porthcawl Pier

This time last year I took lots of pictures of Porthcawl on the Glamorgan coast, one of my favourite places, but somehow I never got around to “processing” the photographs and blogging about them. Now I have put together many Porthcawl pictures into a gallery or two, but I decided to pick out in particular the images of lichen and rock on the pier. (more…)

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Face to face with William Smith – a bust of the man by Joseph Brogden Baker of Scarborough and a portrait painted in 1837 by Hughes Forau

Have you heard of William “Strata” Smith? Well I hadn’t until 2001, when I read a review in a weekend magazine and bought Simon Winchester’s book about him, called The Map that Changed the World. He has been one of my heroes ever since. (more…)

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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…)

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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…)

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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…)

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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…)

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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…)

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My lovely flint hand axe knapped by Bruce Bradley in the early 1970s at Cambridge

These musings on the stone called flint and its poorer-quality relation chert are prompted by the recent discovery of 120,000-year-old stone tools in the United Arab Emirates. Read more about that here.


This 120,000-year-old chert hand axe was discovered in the United Arab Emirates

Those tools are made of chert, a fine-grained silica-rich microcrystalline sedimentary rock found in limestone. But when it is of fine quality and found in chalk, it is called flint.

Worked flint is beautiful – hard, glassy, grey, touchable. I first held it in my hands when studying prehistoric archaeology in the early 1970s.

At the time Bruce Bradley (now Professor) was studying for his PhD in experimental archaeology at Cambridge University. He was famous even then for his flint-knapping technique – it was said that it was lucky he wore spectacles as they were covered in tiny chips from the flying fragments of stone and he would otherwise have been blinded.

When he left he sold off many of his pieces. I have to admit I didn’t go to the sale myself, but my fellow student Matthew Spriggs picked up some flint tools for me. Thus I acquired the large hand axe, an arrowhead and a small sickle, all of which are pictured here.

And thanks to the miracle of Google, I find Matt is now an archaeology professor in Australia. I wondered what had happened to him!


A close-up of the beautiful flint-knapping on this hand axe by Bruce Bradley


Excellent flint arrowhead knapped by Bruce Bradley at Cambridge, England, in the early 1970s


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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. (more…)

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