100 Great Geosites nomination: Widemouth Bay, North Cornwall

A 100 Great Geosites nomination from Linda Fowler…

Widemouth Bay, North Cornwall – a brilliant field skills teaching location

Widemouth Bay, N CornwallI visited this first as an Open University student in the 1980s: it is a wonderful, and safe, beach for teaching tectonic structures, sedimentary structures and basic field skills with plenty of steeply dipping and folded exposure of the shales and sandstones of the Bude Formation.

I’ve been running field days here for the last 20 years or so: the joy of it is that the rocks are well exposed and the exposures are clean, easily accessed, and plentiful: no problem spreading 20 or 30 students out along a section. Then there’s a bonus: not only can they seen the plan view of these beautiful plunging folds on the shore platform, but if they turn around, there they are in section in the cliffs! A second bonus is that a walk along the cliff path gives a great bird’s-eye view of the rocks on the foreshore… all great stuff for helping with that perpetual nightmare, 3D visualisation of structures.

Then, when the students have measured the dips, strikes, plunges, azimuths etc until they can do it in their sleep, they can go on to describe the rocks, put together graphic logs, and get masses of practice at field sketching on all scales from the beautiful little, cm-scale, folds and faults in the contorted beds up to folds as high as the cliff.

And this is all done from a sandy beach, within 10-minutes’ walk of the car park and cafe. It has to be my favourite UK geosite for teaching of all time.


Posted in 100 Great Geosites | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

A new version of Sopwith’s Buckland portrait?

Ted Nield writes: While visiting the private museum of Dorset fossil collector, preparator and author Wolfgang Grulke recently for a future article in Geoscientist, I saw a familiar image in a rather unfamiliar form.

Buckland by Thomas Sopwith

Buckland by Thomas Sopwith

Most of us have at one time or another seen Thomas Sopwith’s famous pen and ink drawing of William Buckland (1784-1856) in his remarkable field gear.  In addition to the cape and top hat, we also see the trademark goggly eyes that evidently impressed every portraitist who had met the man personally.  But what are we to make of this watercolour, clearly based on the Sopwith original?

The broad features of the Professor’s garb have been copied freehand; but the face is a poor likeness – as though copied by an inexpert draughtsman with no particular idea of the subject’s true appearance.  Also, the famous ‘blue bag’ is not coloured blue but a standard beige – which also suggests that the painter was not personally familiar with his – or her – subject.

And who is ‘APF’ of the signature?  Any ideas/opinions most welcome!

Buckalnd in Field Gear by 'AFP'

Dr Buckland, Geologist by ‘APF’

Posted in History | 3 Comments

Underground or overground?

Geological disposal of radioactive waste


Nuclear waste capsules.

A couple of weeks ago, the UK government published a White Paper, setting out a revised process for disposing of our radioactive waste. You can read our response to it here.

Of all the weird and wonderful things geologists get up to, disposing of radioactive waste may not seem the most glamorous – but it’s one of the most important. Since the UK began producing nuclear power in the 1950s, we’ve generated hundreds of thousands of cubic metres of radioactive waste, the majority of which is currently being stored at the surface.

As well as being a health threat, the waste could be used to create nuclear weapons and, if it stays at the surface, will need to be constantly managed, imposing a burden on many generations to come.

A number of solutions have been considered, from disposing of the waste in space, to placing it in subduction zones – both of which have been discounted. Geological disposal has long been the proposed solution to the problem – bury the waste in a purpose built repository deep enough and safe enough that further management won’t be needed.

So, we’re going to bury it somewhere it will be secure enough that future generations won’t have to worry about it. But where?

Earlier this year, Rebecca Lunn, who is currently a member of the Government’s Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM), gave a talk at the Society on the ins and outs of how site selection has worked so far, and why we are still looking for a suitable site for disposal. She also featured in our podcast series – you can listen to the interview here.

We also heard from Neil Chapman about the risks that need to be taken into account when disposing of the waste, from tsunamis to rock shearing, and what they mean for the future of the UK’s nuclear industry – listen to his podcast here, or watch the full lecture below.

So, what’s the solution? We’d love to hear your thoughts on what, if anything, we should do with our radioactive waste….

  • For all the ins and outs of radioactive waste disposal, and the role of geologists, visit our website, where you can find Geoscientist articles, meeting reports, position statements and other relevant information.
Posted in Science communication | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Great Schools Geobakeoff!

Buoyed by the phenomenon that was the 2014 Great Geobakeoff, we thought it was about time the schools got a look-in. And what better day to launch, than the day the Great British Bakeoff returns to our screens?

Cake is a handy, versatile way to explain a lot of geological concepts, from stratigraphy and faulting to Earth’s layers – we’ve done it before on this very blog. So it’s no surprise schools have been geobaking for far longer than we have. Since the geobakeoff began, geography and geology classes have been sending over examples of their handiwork in an impressive range of styles…




Wells Cathedral School

Wells Cathedral School

Inspired by your efforts, as part of Earth Science Week 2014, we’re holding a special Schools Geobakeoff, open to all schools from Primary to Sixth Form!


Students can enter as a class, or individually.

To enter, all you need to do is send us a picture of your creation, a paragraph (100-500 words) explaining what it represents, and the name of your school.

Entries can take any form, from globe cakes to unconformities – the only rule is that they are geologically themed. Look no further than the geobakeoff hashtag on twitter, or our summary of entries, if you’re in search of inspiration!

Send us your creations any time, from now until the end of Earth Science Week (13-19 October), and we’ll pick five winners from amongst the bunch.

prizesYou can send us your pictures via twitter, to @geolsoc using #geobakeoff, or email them to us. Please email your text to ESWUK@geolsoc.org.uk, with the subject heading ‘Schools Geobakeoff.’


Winning students/classes will all receive the traditional geobakeoff prize package of a one off, limited edition #geobakeoff wooden spoon, our much coveted rock hammer USB sticks, and a certificate confirming your geobaking prowess.

Need some inspiration?

Look no further than the Great Geobakeoff Flickr album, containing all the weird and wonderful entries from the last Great Geobakeoff! Or why not have a go at recreating Catherine Kenny’s Silurian Death Assemblage Cupcakes? Keep an eye on the blog, we’ll be posting more recipes and ideas in the build up to Earth Science Week…

Good luck!

Posted in The Great Geobake-off | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

GSL teams up with GeoScienceWorld eBooks!

publishing house booksA guest post from Dr Maxine Smith, Online Development Editor at the Geological Society Publishing House

Production staff at the Geological Society Publishing House were busy for the first half of 2014 helping GeoScienceWorld (GSW) launch their eBook Collections. The GeoScienceWorld eBook Collections, which went live on 22 July 2014, is dedicated to the study of the Earth sciences and contains books from 10 leading society publishers. There are 713 book titles available now with a total of 1050 expected by the end of summer 2014. The Geological Society of London has contributed approximately 250 books to the collection.

Currently, the Geological Society of London’s Lyell Collection includes the following book content:

  • Engineering Geology Special Publications
  • Memoirs
  • Petroleum Geology Conference series
  • Special Publications

What’s new about the GSW eBook Collections is that 14 books not currently online are included:

  • The IAVCEI series (co-published with The International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth’s Interior)
  • The TMS series (co-published with The Micropalaeontological Society)
  • The ‘Geology of’ series

And there are plans to include other GSL books that are not currently online in future releases.

Engineering geology subject area search: GSL publications alongside other geological society publications.

Engineering geology subject area search: GSL publications alongside other geological society publications.

The highlight of the GSW eBook Collections is that it is cross-searchable with GSW’s Journals Collections, which hosts 45 journals from 28 publishers. Readers can search using:

  • Subject areas
  • Publishers
  • Books

An additional feature of the GSW eBook Collections is that all books are available in whole-book PDF format rather than in the chapter-based PDF format, which makes it easier to navigate around the book and jump from chapter to chapter. Readers can also download chapters, the index, covers and table of contents from each book as a PDF.


A book’s ‘main book’ page: the table of contents and other book information occupies the left and centre of the screen while recommended reading, social sharing and download function to citation managers is on the right of the screen.

A book’s ‘main book’ page: the table of contents and other book information occupies the left and centre of the screen while recommended reading, social sharing and download function to citation managers is on the right of the screen.

When accessing a book’s ‘main book’ page readers can view the book abstract, the table of contents, and GeoRef records from AGI’s GeoRef database, along with recommended reading, downloading to a variety of citation managers and social sharing.

Title collections are available now for institutional subscription, and soon, chapters will be available for online purchasing and downloading by individual users. Non-customers may conduct searches and find detailed book information, abstracts, and tables of contents for each title. Full text content is available by institutional subscription and/or via Athens affiliation. Free trials are available to prospective institutional customers. To request a trial contact: gswinfo@geoscienceworld.org.

New books will be added on an ongoing basis so production staff at the Geological Society Publishing House will be busy again in the Autumn…


Posted in News | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

100 Great Geosites nomination: Eglwyseg Escarpment

A 100 Great Geosites nomination from Raymond Roberts, Senior Geologist at Natural Resources Wales

I could easily have chosen a dozen or so sites for my favourite geosites. In the end I chose my local one – The Eglwyseg Escarpment.

Eglwyseg Escarpment

Eglwyseg Escarpment from Dinas Bran

It doesn’t matter if you see it from the A5, the Horseshoe Pass or look across the Dee Valley from the Berwyn Mountains, every glimpse of the Eglwyseg Escarpment looks fantastic. Stretching for nearly 10 kilometres and rising high above the valley floor, it has to be one of the most dramatic landscapes in Wales. And to make it even more special it is a fantastic place for geology.

Eglwyseg Escarpment 2

Cliffs and screes dominate the landscape

The Eglwyseg has something for all. I come for walks with my family, pappose and all, some come for the view or the climbing, others for geology or geography fieldtrips, and many just pass through as they follow Offa’s Dyke. Whatever the reason, it is the geology that has brought them.

Geology students, walkers and climbers enjoy the geology

Geology students, walkers and climbers enjoy the geology

The main escarpment rises in a series of steps over 450m, and includes one of the finest exposures of late Dinantian limestones in Wales. Such a thick sequence shows the different styles of Dinantian cyclicity, whilst the 10km or so length of escarpment provides an opportunity to study the lateral variation in sedimentation.

A bonus feature of Eglwyseg are the screes – millions of limestone fragments which have collected at the foot of the cliffs since the end of the last Ice Age. One of the wonders of Wales, the Eglwyseg screes are probably the best in the UK.

eglwyseg limestone cliffs

Dramatic limestone cliffs and screes

eglwyseg oolitic limestone

Cross-bedded oolitic limestone



The geology and geomorphology of the Eglwyseg allows research at the highest level. But easily accessible exposures, both dip & strike sections, and fossils makes Eglwyseg an outdoor classroom for any age. My passion for geology started as a child when I started finding fossil plants in some of the old coal tips of South Wales, and I’m sure a visit to the Eglwyseg has fired the imagination of many children, and adults!

  • Nominations for the 100 Great Geosites project are closing on Friday 18th July – but we would still love to receive blog posts! If you would like to write a blog about your favourite geosite, write to us at 100geosites@geolsoc.org.uk.  Visit our Flickr page to see the nominations so far! And stay tuned for information about how to vote for your favourites from the list of nominations…


Posted in 100 Great Geosites | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

100 Great Geosites nomination: White Scar Cave

White_Scar_Caves_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1140760A 100 Great Geosites nomination from Idil Hassan

White Scar Cave is famous as the longest cave in the UK, and is full of interesting features that make you wonder how this magnificent structure became what it is today.

So how did these caves come to be the outstanding spectacle they are?

350 year ago, warm topical waters surrounded Britain and were home to billions of tiny marine creatures. When they died their skeletons accumulated on the sea bed, building layers and increasing weight on the lower layers, compressing the fossils which crystallised to form limestone.

The theory of continental drift explains how the environment around Britain has changed – the plate Britain lies on has drifted up north, away from the tropics. The rock floor of this ancient sea is exposed at the cave entrance.

white scar 2White Scar Cave formed during warmer periods that occurred between the ice ages. The last million years encompass the ice ages: glaciers swept over the whole region and moulded the landscape we observe today. During the warmer periods between individual glaciations, water ran through the limestone, acidic enough to dissolve the rock. Eventually this formed caves – including White Scar Cave.

The caves were discovered by Christopher Long, a Cambridge student, during his vacation in the late summer of 1923. On noticing a small fracture in the ground he decided to explore and, to his surprise, came across a large mass of rock. Long’s plan was to open up the caves by creating a passage tunnel through them. 2 years later, however, he tragically died before the task was completed.

white scar 4The job was taken over by Colonel Geoffrey Smith. The cave was fitted with lights and made safe to enter in April 1925. In 1971 the happy wanderers caving club discovered a cavern which they named battlefield cave. The first person to enter was a teenage girl, Hilda Guthrie.

In 1975 the caves were sold in an intense auction, won by Antony Bagshaw of Staffordshire. Over the last couple of decades the caves have undergone many changes making them a more pleasant place for visitors. It is one of my favourite geological sites, full of interesting features that tell the story of our geological past.

  •  If you would like to write a blog about your favourite geosite, as part of the 100 Great Geosites project, write to us at 100geosites@geolsoc.org.uk. Visit our Flickr page to see the nominations so far! Remember: the deadline for nominations is Friday 18 July…
Posted in 100 Great Geosites | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

100 Great Geosites nomination: Ingleton Falls

A 100 Great Geosites nomination from Idil Hassan

Ingleton falls has built up over millions of years, but the decision to make it more accessible to the public was made in the 1880s. In April of 1885 the trail was first opened as a tourist attraction and has continued to attract thousands of people each year mostly from Manchester, Bradford and Leeds. In the 1880s it was so popular that on one day in June a record 3,840 people visited it.

It is situated in the Yorkshire dales in north Yorkshire, England, in a quiet rural location, perfect for a peaceful day out for families or individuals. It consists of around 4 miles of waterfalls of different shapes and sizes.

Pecca Falls

Pecca Falls

Pecca falls (above) is the first of the magnificent water features you come across, and the view from the bridge that crosses the River Twiss allows a brilliant angle to see the falls up close. This waterfall, indeed the whole walk, is an amateur photographer’s dream – and great for those who like playing with exposure on their cameras.

Thornton Force

Thornton Force

Thornton Force is the most famous and spectacular of the waterfalls on the trail. Here the river plummets 14 metres over a cliff of limestone, laid down 330 million years ago in a sub-tropical sea. From here, the walk loops over the top of the Yorkshire dales and then heads back to Ingleton, this time passing River Doe (below). This ravine seems almost narrower, yet more dramatic – there are many great viewpoints to get some great pictures.

River Doe

River Doe

The next of the features on the trail is the Beezley Falls (left below), Rival Falls at one end of Baxenghyll Gorge (middle) and Snow Falls (right) at the other before the scenery starts levelling out as the descending gradient eases you towards the conclusion of the trail. The end of the trail leads you through the picturesque Ingleton village before returning to the car park where the trail began.

ingleton montage

Featuring some of Yorkshire’s oldest rocks, Ingleton Falls is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful natural geological structures in the UK, providing insights into millions of years of our planet’s history.

  •  If you would like to write a blog about your favourite geosite, as part of the 100 Great Geosites project, write to us at 100geosites@geolsoc.org.uk. Visit our Flickr page to see the nominations so far! Remember: the deadline for nominations is Friday 18 July…
Posted in 100 Great Geosites | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

A New Epoch?

Geological_time_spiralSome of the names given to periods of geological time are familiar.

The Jurassic, for example, immediately brings to mind dinosaurs and a certain film favourite of ours (let’s not quibble about how few of those dinosaurs were actually FROM the Jurassic..)

The Cretaceous says dinosaurs, chalk and lots of extinctions. The Pleistocene, wolly mammoths and glaciers. The Cambrian, a very very long time ago.

Others are more obscure. Who but the most committed of palaeontologists has ever heard of the Gelasian, the Bajocian or the Serpukhovian?

How do geologists come up with these names? Historically, the units of time were often named for the locations of key stratigraphical sequeneces. That’s why there’s a particularly British flavour to the list – the Oxfordian, the Devonian, the Cambrian.

Now, such is the influence of humans on our climate that, for the first time, geologists are considering declaring a new segment of geological time – one caused by human activity.

Anthropocene bookOur newest Special Publication, ‘A Stratigraphical Basis for the Anthropocene‘, summarises the evidence that we’re now living in a new geological epoch – one of our own making.

The word ‘Anthropocene’ was originally coined by ecologist Eugene F. Stoermer in the 1980s, and since popularised by Nobel Prize winning chemist Paul Crutzen.

“The new volume analyses the hurdles the Anthropocene will need to overcome if it is to be formalized by the geological establishment” says editor Dr Jan Zalasiewicz in a University of Leicester press release.

“There is genuine controversy here – for geologists to change the Geological Time Scale is a very, very big step.  This time scale, over 4.5 billion years long, is the backbone of the science.”

If  we are living in the Anthropocene, when did it start? Currently, we’re officially in the Holocene – an epoch which began at the end of the Pliestocene, 11,700 years ago, characterised by a stable, relatively warm climate. Some argue the Anthropocene began with the industrialisation of the nineteenth century; others, that it is a post war phenomenon, beginning not more than 70 years ago.

What do you think? Should we be establishing a new epoch? And what would you have called it?

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Great Geobakeoff – the results!

A few weeks ago, we set you a challenge. With Easter on the way, and a blog post about Silurian Death Assemblage cupcakes proving popular, we gave birth to the Great Geobakeoff. Nearly 100 entries later, what have we learned?

Well, mostly, we’ve learned that cake and geology go really, really well together.

Before we announce the results, here’s a run down of the entrants – sincere apologies if we’ve left anyone out. By the end of this, we couldn’t really move for pictures of cake. Continue reading

Posted in The Great Geobake-off | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments