Walking the East Jurassic Coast

In recent years, the Jurassic Coast Trust really has produced some great books and I have had the privilege of reviewing quite a number of them. These two companion books are intended as walking guides to the World Heritage Site – the so-called ‘Jurassic Coast’ – and the first covers the western limb from Orcombe Point to the Fleet, while the second deals with the eastern part, from Portland to Studland.

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.

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.

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.

This book has the shape, form and feel of a holiday souvenir book – the sort you buy in tourist information shops to commemorate your visit, with pictures of the sites you didn’t have time to see. And, there is plenty of information for the curious visitor wanting to learn more about the earth science of the area. However, that isn’t the reason why I find it really interesting.

English Wealden fossils

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.

Over a period of 20 years, Ian Tyler has written a series of books on the metalliferous mining industry of the English Lake District and this has clearly been a significant labour of love for him. Unfortunately, Roughton Gill and the Mines of the Caldbeck Fells is his last – the result of the sad loss of his wife and collaborator in this project. However, he has now created an extraordinary record of the geological economic activity in this part of the world.

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.

This is a comprehensive account of the minerals found in the British Isles (including Ireland) and the surrounding islands. At over 600 pages and illustrated throughout by over 550 images (mostly in colour), the book provides exhaustive coverage of the remarkably wide range of minerals found in this part of the world.

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.

It might come as a surprise to the vast majority of the UK population (and probably anyone reading this elsewhere), but this country is a great place for dinosaurs. In fact, it is one of the most important places for Lower Cretaceous dinosaurs, whose remains have been found on the Isle of Wight and in the Weald. A possible Triassic dinosaur has also been found in Morayshire, Scotland, and there are plenty more from the entire length of the Jurassic.

The first ever fossils I collected were from the spoils tips of the two coal mines in Aberdare, South Wales. Alas, these and most other such spoil tips have been landscaped and covered over. Clearly this was both inevitable and desirable after the closure the UK coal industry, but it is a shame for those of us who love Carboniferous Coal Measures plant fossils.

I like the GA guides. They are excellent resources for amateurs and professional geologists alike. I frequently browse mine, planning geological trips I will probably never take, because I live in geological unexciting London. Therefore, imagine how pleased I was to receive a GA guide to the Great Metropolis to review.