Open doors and open eyes

The city of Oxford will be opening its doors to visitors on the weekend of 10-11 September, writes Nina Morgan*

The churchyard at St Thomas the Martyr, Oxford

The churchyard at St Thomas the Martyr, Oxford

In Oxford, the annual Open Doors weekend provides a chance for members of the public to visit colleges, buildings and spaces not normally open to the public and explore behind the scenes of many local landmarks and institutions – all for free. It’s an opportunity that in Oxford, at least, is eagerly taken up. The city streets and colleges buzz with activities and local sightseers.

Oxford is not alone in opening its doors. Similar events take place in many other cities too. With so many people out and about and keen to explore, these occasions also provide an opportunity that we geologists could make much more of.  Events like this provide an ideal opportunity to promote an interest in science and introduce the general public to geology.  Paving stones, kerbstones, building stones and gravestones all display geological features and have geological stories that could be told.

So why not put yourself forward and offer a building stone, kerbstone or graveyard geology walk when your city opens its doors? I can guarantee that you will be well rewarded. It’s really heartening to see the scales fall from even the most educated, but non-scientific, eyes as you point out the geological features that can be easily seen in the heart of a city.

Gravestones in Holywell Cemetery, Oxford

Gravestones in Holywell Cemetery, Oxford

It’s an outreach opportunity not to be missed, and one my colleague Philip Powell and I will be grabbing with both hands during the Oxford Open Doors weekend. We’re offering a gravestone geology walk in the churchyard of St Thomas the Martyr in Beckett Street, Oxford OX1 1JL (opposite the station long term car park) starting at 2 PM on Saturday 10 September; and another in Holywell Cemetery, Longwall Street, Oxford OX13 3TP, starting at 3 PM on Sunday 11 September.  The walks are free to attend, open to all comers and there’s no need to book. So if you’re in the area, just turn up wearing comfortable walking shoes and prepare to be amazed.  Geologist or not, you’ll never look at cemeteries in the same way again.

FrontCoverScan*Nina Morgan is a geologist and science writer based near Oxford. She writes the Distant Thunder column in Geoscientist, and is co-author with Philip Powell of The Geology of Oxford Gravestones. For information about the book see: Nina will also be running gravestone geology walks during Earth Science Week (8-16 October).

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