100 Great Geosites Nomination: Fyfield Down

Fyfield Down 2Fyfield Down, part of the Marlborough Downs in Wiltshire, is an example of chalk downland cut with a network of dry valleys, and has one of the best assemblages of sarsen stones in Britain.

Sarsens (known locally as grey wethers because at a distance they can be mistaken for grazing sheep) are isolated blocks of sandstone silcrete believed to have formed 5-10 million years ago just beneath ground surface, as demonstrated by plant rootlet channels and silicified roots that can be found in many of the stones here.

Sarsens have been used in buildings and monuments since the Neolithic period, such as at the nearby West Kennet Long Barrow and the standing stones at Avebury, but at Fyfield Down they can be seen in their thousands scattered over the hillside and in distinctive lateral valley trains formed under periglacial conditions. Fyfield Down also perfectly exemplifies the connectedness of geosphere and biosphere: besides the diverse flora and fauna that flourishes on the chalk downs, the sarsens themselves support a rich lichen flora, including Buellia saxorum which grows uniquely on sarsen stones.

Fyfield Down Fyfield Down 3

This may not be the most dramatic, jaw-dropping, soaring-mountain-top example of a geosite, but for me the shallow valleys of Fyfield Down and the human scale of the sarsens encapsulate that peculiar beauty of much of Britain’s geology, what I tend to think of as its warmth, its welcome, its homeliness, in the best sense of that word. Fyfield Down may not inspire the sublime spiritual awe celebrated by the Romantics, but in me it inspires something more important: it is a landscape that makes me want to settle in and stay.

  • 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!
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100 Great Geosites Nomination – Cayton Bay, North Yorkshire

Cayton Bay 2A 100 Great Geosites nomination from Pamela Ross.

My favourite geosite (of very many along the North Yorkshire coast!) is Cayton Bay in North Yorkshire. Continue reading

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The Great Geobake-off

geocakeWe’re feeling inspired by Catherine Kenny’s fabulous Silurian Death Assemblage cupcakes, and the general geo-baking movement that appears to be taking off. We love both cake and rocks.  There should be more geology based cakes.

With this in mind, we’re celebrating the Easter season with the Great Geobake-off Challenge! Yes, it’s the showstopper round the BBC needs to option, immediately. Continue reading

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100 Great Geosites nomination – the beaches of Lyme Regis, Dorset

A 100 Great Geosites nomination from geologist and palaeontologist Ben Brooks @BenjaminDBrooks

There are few places in the world where fossil hunting is legal, even fewer where it is encouraged, and fewer still where anyone can have a go, and it doesn’t cost you a penny.

Beaches to the East of Lyme

Beaches to the East of Lyme c. Ben Brooks


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Silurian Death Assemblage Cupcakes

Catherine KennyA guest post from geologist and geobaker extraordinaire, Catherine Kenny…

It occurred to me over breakfast one morning that Cheerios look a lot like crinoids. I have a piece of limestone from Dudley encrusted with broken crinoids, smashed brachiopods and the odd fragment of trilobite. I wondered about re-creating it, in chocolate. Continue reading

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Smith relic debunked

William Smith in the Society's entrance hall.

William Smith in the Society’s entrance hall.

A new study suggests the lock of William Smith’s hair, one of the Geological Society’s treasures, may not be what it seems.

The hair, preserved in the frame of Smith’s portrait in the Society’s entrance hall, was sent for chemical analysis, ahead of the 2015 celebrations for the bicentenary of Smith’s famous geological map of England and Wales. Continue reading

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100 Great Geosites nomination: The Arnaboll Thrust

Rob ButlerOur first #100geosite nomination blog comes from Rob Butler, Professor of Tectonics at the University of Aberdeen, and Chair of our Geoconservation Committee.

“When a geologist finds…gneiss overlying gently inclined sheets of
fossiliferous quartzite, shale and limestone, he may be excused if he
begins to wonder whether he himself is not really standing on his head.”

So wrote Archibald Geikie in 1884 in coming face to face with what we now call the Arnaboll Thrust, on the far NW of Scotland. Continue reading

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Where do geologists go when they die?

rosalieA guest post from Rosalie Tostevin, PhD student at UCL and Himalayas Programme Officer for Geology for Global Development. Follow Rosalie on Twitter @RosalieTostevin

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Death is not an easy concept, even for the most hardened palaeontologist. Some may believe in heaven, and many geologists experience it on Earth – we find ourselves in some delightful places. But what should become of our bodies once we return to dust? On a recent field trip to Namibia, I came across the most wonderful answer. Continue reading

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World Water Day – Water & Energy Interdependence in the UK

wwd14_sq1_336x280For this year’s UN World Water Day, the theme is the interdependence of water and energy its impact on resource security. To highlight this relationship, Flo looks at 3 examples of water and energy interaction in the UK.  Continue reading

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Climate Scientist awarded 2014 Wollaston Medal

Professor Maureen Raymo

Professor Maureen Raymo

Recently, our Awards for 2014 were announced, and we’re thrilled that the recipient of our most coveted medal, the Wollaston, is  Dr Maureen Raymo, a climate scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Continue reading

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