A great number of geology books have been published in recent years about Scottish geology and I have had the privilege of reviewing a number of them. This plethora of publications is not surprising. As this book points out, in the six hundred miles between the Shetland island of Unst in the north to the Mull of Galloway in the south are some of the most interesting, varied and beautiful landscapes in Europe, if not the world.
I remember buying the first edition of Ken Brook’s fascinating little guide on Hastings a long time ago, and bumbling off to Hastings in the hope of finding Lower Cretaceous dinosaurs and tree ferns.
Like the book, Applications of Palaeontology: Techniques and Case Studies, this book is not for the casual fossil collector. Rather it is for the student, academic, oil industry professional or the more dedicated amateur collector.
In recent years, there has been a lot written on the fossils of the UK Chalk. However, this guide was the first and is still probably the best for identifying and learning about the fossils that can be found in the chalk cliffs and pits of the UK.
I suspect that many people who visit this website do so because of their amateur love of fossils and geology. They are interested in geology and palaeontology only on a curious level. However, there are no doubt some – perhaps at university or have just left tertiary education – who are currently wondering whether their interest in fossils can be used for more remunerative purposes.
I don’t normally review BGS memoirs – they are excellent publications, but largely written for the professional or the seriously committed amateur geologist. (I have to admit to owning several, which cover my favourite fossil collecting areas of the UK.) However, this one is a ‘Special Memoir’ that I am quite willing to make an exception for.
The British upper Ordovician has a spectacular variety of invertebrate fossils. The marine communities in which they lived developed on a number of microcontintents and terranes, associated with tectonically active areas of the Earth’s crust.
The Geologists’ Association has produced yet another great guide, this time on the geology of Wales. However, this is a slightly different beast from most of their other publications. As is always the case with this excellent series of guides, the book describes the geology of different sites capable of being visited. However, this time, the conceit is that visiting the locations is assumed to be by car.
I love both the Yorkshire coast and its Jurassic fossil flora. I have used this guide many times, while ambling around looking for fossil plants.
This is an odd, but nice little book, covering the geology of the Craven Lowlands, an that area is somewhat ignored, geologically. This may be true and, as much of this area is covered by Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it therefore seems a great area for a geologically minded to go to for a holiday.
Fossils of the Rhaetian Penarth Group was the ninth published by PalAss and covers the eponymous Rhaetian Penarth Group, which includes the former Westbury Beds, Cotham Beds and White Lias.
Nowadays, people don’t do geology – they do ‘earth sciences’ – and this book is very much in that mould. That’s not to say this is a problem. Expanding the study of the world to take on a more holistic view of how things work is fascinating and, it is clear from this book, just how much man has now begun to understand and benefit from this new way of looking at geological science.
Back in 1994, Scottish Natural Heritage, together with the BGS, published a guidebook entitled Cairngorms: A landscape fashioned by geology. With the publication of Argyll and the Islands: A landscape fashioned by geology, it has now extended this excellent series to 20 such guides.
The Caithness area of Scotland is important for its geology, but is also well known for its palaeontology. The Caithness Flagstones are famous for fossil fish and the Helmsdale Fault for the Helmsdale Boulder Beds deposit, beside an active submarine fault scarp. The area even once had its own ‘gold rush’ and you can still try your luck at panning there today at Kildonan.
When the long awaited PalAss guide to Wealden fossil flora and fauna finally arrived, it was apparent that it was a magnificent tome. It is, by far, the most ambitious and complete of their guides, covering various vertebrate groups, together with invertebrates, plants and stratigraphical descriptions of what can be found on the coast and in the quarries of southern England and the Isle of Wight.
The Scottish Borders region is famed for their frontier history, and attendant myths and ballads. This book is concerned with their more ancient geological history, which is revealed by its rocks. These indicate that the area was once on the edge of a huge ocean – the Iapetus – which met its end between the inexorable crush of tectonic plates.
Once upon a time, I would have said that the only reason to buy this sort of guide is to look at the (black and white) photos of dinosaurs and their bones, and learn about the terrestrial life of what is now the Isle of Wight. However, this is obviously wrong. Of course it is possible for amateurs, as well as professionals, to find dinosaur bones on the beaches of the island.
Fossils of the Oxford Clay was the fourth published guide by PalAss and covers the eponymous Jurassic Oxford Clay, which has been the major source of brick clay in the UK, notwithstanding the closures of clay pits in the Peterborough area over the years since this was published.
There are several passions in my life – geology and geomorphology being a couple and hillwalking being another. And it doesn’t take much to see that that these go together rather well. Over the last few years, a number of great leaflets, often laminated, have been produced setting out UK geological walks and these are some more good ones.
There are many good guides the geology of the Lake District and this is no exception. It is an illustrated guide to the region’s rocks and an introduction to the common rock types to be found, largely through the use of colour photographs. It also explains how they fit in with the Lake District’s geological history.
There are several good books on the fossils of the Gault Clay and, by extension, Folkestone. However, this little guide has an advantage over the others that I have looked at.
Anglesey contains a fascinating variety of rock types and geological structures, best exposed in a magnificent coastline. The bedrockgeology of Anglesey comprises a complex collage of igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks that were formed between 300 and 650 million years ago.
There is very little on the fossils of the UK Permian, so this guide was a welcome addition, when it was published in 1988. This was the third of 1988, Palass’s guides to (usually) UK fossils, which the professional and amateur can use to identify and learn about the fossils they have found or want to find.
The author, John L Morton, certainly came to popular geological publishing by an interesting and circuitous route. Trained as a pilot, became the district commissioner for scouts in Horsham and, on retirement, studied a BSc in, among other things, geology. In 2001, on the strength of this book on William Smith, he was elected a Fellow of the Geological Society.
Roderick Impey Murchison must have been a remarkable man. The son of a Scottish landowner, he was one of the first people to rigorously use the principles of stratigraphy discovered by William Smith, which put him in a position to erect the Silurian system and to name about 123myrs of geological time.