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…


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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…
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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…
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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?

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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

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100 Great Geosites nomination: Afon Cwm Llan and the Watkin Path, Snowdon

A 100 Great Geosites nomination from the Geological Society’s President, David Shilston.


Llyn Llydaw, the largest and deepest lake on Snowdon

I discovered the hidden and diverse delights of this valley and its route up/down Snowdon only a few years ago. It has so many interesting features – geology, history, politics and ecology. Continue reading

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Let’s talk about fracking

Last month, Professor Richard Davies of the ReFINE (Researching Fracking In Europe) project at Durham University gave a GSL Lecture entitled ‘Fracked or Fiction: What are the risks associated with shale gas production?’ In this guest post, Richard and his ReFINE colleague Liam Herringshaw explain a bit more about and the challenges faced in researching the contentious topic of shale gas.

ReFINE_Carboniferous_shales Continue reading

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A Geological History Tour of the British Overseas Territories


Location of some of the British Overseas Territories

The geosites blog is off to warmer climes this week to look at the geology of more sites further afield in the British Overseas Territories. But first, an explainer: what technically is a British Overseas Territory?

Well there are 14 territories which are under the jurisdiction and sovereignty of the United Kingdom but they do not form part of it. They are those parts of the former British Empire that have not acquired independence, or have voted to remain British Territories. They all have their own internal leadership but share the Queen as head of state. Here we take you through just a few of them and a brief introduction to their geology. Continue reading

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100 Great Geosites Nomination: Cwm Idwal National Nature Reserve

Idwal13July2013A 100 Great Geosites nomination from Dr. Catherine Duigan.

Every year I bring students from Bangor University on a fieldtrip to Cwm Idwal in Snowdonia.

It is always a thrill to tell them they are walking in the footsteps of Charles Darwin who came here to learn geology before he embarked on The Beagle. Continue reading

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Top 5 geological Eurovision songs – and the geological secret to winning the Eurovision Song Contest

There’s a little known fact about Eurovision.  One which, if followed to the letter, almost certainly guarantees a top two finish and probably a win.  Apply certain geological knowledge to the writing of an original three-minute slice of disposable pop and you could be the next Abba, or even Bucks Fizz!

More on that later. First, we bring you the top five geologically themed songs from Eurovision history (in reverse order): Continue reading

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