Past Lectures & Field Trips
December 2018 Members’ Evening
The December 2018 Members’ Evening & Jacob’s Join was a great success with 27 members enjoying good food, good company & super presentations. Audrey Brown brought her collection of prehistoric stone axes & told us what the experts had said about them. Kent Brooks brought his modern stone axe, purchased from a village in Papua New Guinea, of the kind still in use there. The manufacture of the axes from local stone had made the village rich. Audrey also gave us the sad news that our local footprints of the earliest known land creature (a myriapod), are in fact those of a water-living one on its last legs! Brian Kettle’s slideshow was a selection from Joan Clark's superb photographic archive (which gave us ideas for future fieldtrips). John Wood explained how the less well-known McNab’s ‘fossil’ trees on Mull were formed (with his wife acting as scale on photographs). Clive Boulter described an ignimbrite outcrop & how ignimbrite is formed. He also posed us the challenge of locating interesting fault patterns in local limestone. Geoff Brambles presented us with new & old locations of, & uses for, Shap granite along with some lovely ‘marble’. (If you want to view the rare sponge fossil to the left of the entrance to Bridge Mills, take a lens.) Vic Parsons’ analysis of names used for limestone on various local geological maps reassured us that, if we are confused by the variety of names used, we are not alone - the British Geological Survey mappers appear to be even more so! - Chris Anderson
November 2018 Lecture
Recent studies of garnet from the Scottish Highlands have questioned some key concepts of progressive metamorphism (that is, that minerals will form in a specific order under high pressure & at high temperatures out of molten rock). Dr. Tim Dempster’s talk on ‘Garnet Grain Boundaries’ described what he has found using high-magnitude microscopes to analyse faults in the garnet. He has also looked at internal zoning patterns (where garnet appears within the rock). His research suggests that garnet formation is more complex than has been thought, and that any explanation needs to include multiple factors in addition to heat & pressure. Dr. Dempster’s micro-scale observations have implications for our understanding of large-scale changes that occur in continental crust during mountain building. - Chris Anderson
October 2018 Lecture
Over 50 people attended Prof. Gillian Foulger’s talk on ‘Plates vs Plumes: A geological controversy’. The conventional view is that ‘hotspot’ volcanic islands are produced by a mantle plume, a rising column of magma that originates at the core- mantle boundary and rises through the mantle and crust to reach the surface. Prof. Foulger discussed the alternative view, increasingly being accepted by those working in the field, that the core and mantle are not involved and that the magma erupted at volcanic islands is simply produced by melting of the crust due to crustal extension, which allows magma to leak to the surface. She considered various predictions which, if true, would confirm the plume hypothesis and showed that most of them fail. Not everyone in the audience was wholly convinced and a lively question and answer session ensued. - Audrey Brown
September 2018 Joint Lecture with CGS
Ten WGS members joined Cumberland Geological Society members at the joint CGS/WGS lecture, held in Penrith. Prof. David Harper’s talk on Mass Extinctions examined competing theories to explain mass extinctions (MEs), focussing on five of them. A species might be expected to survive for 5 million years, but a ME may considerably shorten this. Many theories to explain MEs have focussed on external influences, such as asteroids hitting the earth (which may indeed explain one of them), or cyclical changes in the earth’s climate (once a popular idea, Prof Harper thought this unlikely). Prof. Harper suggested that there is now considerable geological evidence of when ice ages occurred & that most MEs happened during ice ages. Rather than looking above (to asteroids etc) for explanations, we should be looking down at what the rocks can tell us. (Go to The International Commission on Stratigraphy website at www.stratigraphy.org for an International Chronostratigraphic Chart & some wonderful photos.) - Chris Anderson
September 2018 Fieldtrip
Force Crag Mine is owned by the National Trust. We were lucky to have the local NT manager, plus two experienced & enthusiastic volunteers to show us round. One volunteer explained about the local geology & took us to look at the two innovative ponds sited below the mine, designed to remove impurities from run-off, & showed us mine entrances & adits. The other guided us through the mine buildings & explained how minerals were extracted from the rock. One of our members had twice been employed at the mine so was able to add interesting details about the production process & machinery. - Chris Anderson
August 2017 Fieldtrip
On a bright but breezy day, Clive Boulter & Duncan Woodcock led us on a gentle walk by the River Keer to examine the banks of slag, dumped there from the Carnforth Ironworks some 100 years ago. (Vic Parsons gave us some background to this, with a brief history of the ironworks.) Clive & Duncan explained that the slag had been hot when it had been deposited here. This meant that these raised banks shared some features with volcanic lava flows, & though it had the appearance of rock, it was quite soft beneath the weathered crust. They then encouraged us to look carefully at the slag in order to identify some of these flow features for ourselves. When we reached Morecambe Bay, the more intrepid of us scrambled down the bank to look at minerals that had formed in the slag! – Chris Anderson
July 2018 Fieldtrip
This fieldtrip to Eskdale, led by David Kelly, was to look at granite & haematite mineralisation. I was unable to attend, but if you did & you would be willing to write a short summary (100-250 words), please let me know. – Chris Anderson
June 2018 Fieldtrip
Bernard Skillerne de Bristowe adopted a Socratic method in this walk by the Craven Fault at Ingleton, challenging us to explain the pattern of faults & folding that we (thought we) observed (& not happy until we had come up with at least six explanations for each feature). Helpfully, he used a whiteboard to illustrate these patterns. When we reached the fell beneath Ingleton summit, we continued this examination by noting differences in the areas of limestone pavement that we were crossing. Bernard rewarded our efforts by taking us to where we had a glorious view over the valley before our downhill return to Ingleton village. - Chris Anderson
June 2018 Fieldtrip & Jacob’s Join
It was a lovely warm evening when twenty WGS members met to share food & chat in the garden of the Chairman’s home. At about 6.30, most of us set off in shared cars up the Appleby Road for a geological walk led by Geoff Brambles. Geoff started us off by looking at calcite in local building stone, & then at rocks in the stream bed, & in the old buildings by the stream. (The owner of the renovated mill building allowed us to look through her window at the mill stones incorporated into her floor!) We then followed the stream, with Geoff pointing out various beds & faults, before a gentle amble back to the cars. – Chris Anderson
May 2018 Fieldtrip
This three-day fieldtrip to Mull was led by Ian Williamson, who had surveyed the area when he worked for the BGS so knew the geology well. He provided us with excellent handouts via email, that informed us about what we might see. Ian catered well with a group of differing abilities, taking us on relatively gentle beach walks in the morning, then more strenuous upland or coastal path walks in the afternoon. He was also very complimentary about the willingness of our group to clamber over rocks, along sheep tracks, & through bogs! All the effort was worthwhile as we saw some wonderful rock formations & outcrops. Highlights included an upland walk to a ring dyke & a coastal one to leaf fossils (disturbing a basking adder on the way back). We were also lucky to have experienced botanists with us, who delighted in pointing out native flora. While we were staying on Mull, most of us took the opportunity to visit Iona (beach, marble quarry, monastery & nunnery) & some to take the longer boat trip to Staffa (Fingal’s Cave & nesting puffins). - Chris Anderson
April 2018 Fieldtrip
The Cross Fell Inlier (an area of much older, highly faulted & folded rocks surrounded by younger rocks), was clear on the geology map that our leader, Karl Egeland-Eriksen showed us as we left Dufton at the start of this fieldtrip. Karl led us up the valley, often following old miners’ tracks, pointing out adits, faults, outcrops & quarries & the general topography as we went. Highlights included looking for minerals in a microgranite wall, trying to work out what a large lump of Shap granite was doing by the side of a stream (imported by man not nature), & fossicking for fossils off the path on the way up to the Great Whin Sill. – Chris Anderson
March 2018 Lecture
Prof. Christine Peirce is a geophysicist who has been investigating the earth beneath the seas for over 30 years. She is also leading the fitness-for-science trials of the UK research vessel the Sir David Attenborough (that carries small subs known as Boaty McBoatface). Our oceans can be up to 10 km deep and so can only be examined through water. Remote-sounding, where researchers record echoes coming back from the sea floor, allow them to map what they cannot see. In a fascinating talk, Prof. Peirce described the many & increasingly detailed ways in which the complex ocean floor is being recorded & measured. This work has significant commercial potential as many of the rare materials that are required to make items such as mobile phones, are found near deep water vents. It is also revealing new things about how these vents develop. - Chris Anderson
February 2018 Lecture
Prof. Harry Pinkerton, in his talk on dealing with unexpected eruptions on volcanic islands, explained how eruptions are difficult to predict & that when they occur on an island, they may have extra problems associated with them. For example, if the flow reaches the sea there is likely to be an explosive effect (such as Krakatoa), though on Heimay, cooling the flow with sea water stopped it reaching the sea. Signs such as ground deformation can show where molten rock & water is moving under the ground, & this can be measured using GPS sensors. However, the lava could emerge at any point. Those who must make the decision to evacuate have to do so well before there is serious damage to people or property. Evacuation can take a long time, for instance, on Ambae it took nine days to evacuate 11,000 people (& that volcano was only having a ‘moderate eruption’). Examining how volcanoes have behaved in the past, modelling eruptions in the lab, & monitoring activity in the field can all contribute to moving from ‘forecasting’ that an eruption will occur to ‘predicting’ when it will happen. - Chris Anderson
January 2018 Lecture
Dr. Graham Leslie’s inaugural Presidential Lecture on “Singapore: What place geology in future Singapore?”, was accompanied by some wonderful maps & photographs of the area. Dr. Leslie began by describing modern Singapore & the policy to develop underground storage space, which in turn requires high quality maps of the sub-surface to assist this development. As a Senior Mapping Geologist with the BGS, he has been involved in this mapping work since 2014 & has got to know the area well. Dr. Leslie went on to describe the geology of the area, relating it to our local Lake District geology where appropriate. He also highlighted some of the problems associated with the tropics e.g. very soft, weathered, soil-like rock can be found very deep down! - Chris Anderson
December 2017 Members’ Evening
Twenty-five members attended the December 2017 Members’ Evening to listen to a record number of presentations. Some presentations looked forward (Vic Parsons with his map of Mull to prepare for our 3-day excursion in May; Duncan Woodcock with his Komatiite found at Hest Bank - & by the Keer which we will visit in August); some looked back (Peter Standing on Palaeopits from our June visit to Holme Park); other speakers described interesting places they had visited (Brian Kettle on La Mesa Roldan, Southern Spain; Dennis Pook on Hartland Point, North Devon; Geoff Brambles on stones of Kendal & further afield); & one was a revelation (Melville Thomson on how the Cadbury’s Bournville wrapper got its distinctive ‘sheen’ by being rubbed by a stone). Table displays included Melville’s ‘polishing’ stone; Audrey Brown’s model of an Easter Island statue; Kent Brooks’ sample of tungsten; & Vic Parsons’ photographic display from the WGS archive. Chris Anderson finished the evening with a brief review of 2017. She thanked all those who work to ensure the smooth-running of the society, & the high quality & variety of our lecture & field trip programme. - Chris Anderson
November 2017 Lecture
Dr. Nick Riley’s talk on UK Shale Gas (and why we need to explore for it), described UK patterns of fuel use and fuel production. Generally, though our fuel use has not increased over the last thirty years or so, mainly due to greater fuel efficiency via improved technology, our home production of gas fuel has almost come to an end, and our reliance on gas as a fuel has increased dramatically. This means we are having to import gas, with consequent loss of internal revenue which has an impact on the UK economy. In some cases, this also leads to our contribution to greenhouse gas emissions being increased. We must also meet government and world targets for reducing gas emissions. Dr. Riley then briefly described where shale gas occurs, the impact of exploring for it, and the potential of alternative sources of energy to satisfy UK needs compared to shale gas. - Chris Anderson
October 2017 Lecture
Prof. Chris Clarke’s fascinating talk described the work that he and a large team of geologists have been carrying out over the last few years to produce a highly detailed record of the retreat of the last Irish-British ice sheet. The work includes examining LIDOR (aerial) images of the whole of Great Britain which provide superb evidence of all the drumlins and other glacial features, field walks to identify and date erratic boulders that have not been moved since deposition, and taking core samples from the sea floor to find the extent of the ice sheet & date its retreat through carbon-dating of shells. The aim of this very intensive and expensive work is to provide an exhaustive description of ice-sheet retreat which can be used to test modern theories which claim to predict how ice-sheets behave when they melt.
September 2017 Joint Lecture with CGS
There was a good turn-out of WGS members at the September joint lecture with the Cumberland Geological Society, held in Penrith. Prof. Danielle Schreve gave a well-illustrated talk about the work she and her team have been doing, excavating the floor of a limestone cave in the Ebbor Gorge in Somerset. To date, they have sifted 120 tons of material, and found bone fossils from a wide range of animals, some now extinct, some no longer native to the region, dating back to at least 40,000 years ago. This period includes some massive & rapid changes in environment, including the extinction of Neanderthals and woolly rhinos and mammoths. The layers of deposits provide an unbroken palaeoenvironmental record, which includes the period when the area was re-colonised by homo sapiens. Professor Schreve told us that the findings show that cold-climate taxa persisted into the Holocene period, and supports the idea of ‘disharmonious’ fauna and a northern refugium, that is, an area where plants and animals continued to thrive despite disadvantageous climate change, and that these findings have implications for conservation biologists.
September 2017 Fieldtrip
We were badly let down by the weather for our September fieldtrip to Seathwaite Fell in Borrowdale, with heavy showers & cold winds reducing the temperature considerably. (Though as we have had good weather for every other fieldtrip this year, we cannot really complain.) However, we did not let the weather stop us! Our leader, Clive Boulter led us on a trip that included some wonderful rock outcrops that many of us would never have found on our own. He also circulated, in advance, a comprehensive description of where we were going, and why, and what we would see, with some super photographs of the outcrops, plus maps and diagrams. This is well worth looking at, as it gives a good idea of what we saw. You might also have a look at the super photographs from our trip, taken by Mike Coates, that he has added to the WGS website. A bonus to this trip was that it was in conjunction with the Cumbria Geological Society, which gave us the chance to meet new people and to catch up with CGS friends.
July 2017 Fieldtrip (2)
James Fielding, and three of his colleagues from Southampton, led us up the valley from Glenridding to the disused lead workings, pointing out buildings of interest on the way, including rows of lead-miners’ cottages, the gunpowder house, the company store, and, working its way to a high point, the mile or so long chimney flu built to remove noxious fumes. The mining here was lucrative as the rock had a high lead (with some silver) content. From the early 1800s, it resulted in some massive spoil heaps, with the operation gradually moving down the hillside. When we reached the remains of the dressing floor (our highest point), we spent some time looking for evidence of lead in the remains, and found plenty of good examples. James told us that the deposits in Ullswater are highly contaminated with lead, and that a Glenridding farmer in the 1880s successfully sued the mine owners for the death of his sheep due to lead contamination on his grazing land. This is possibly the first modern-day example of an environmental law suit!
July 2017 Fieldtrip (1)
The excursion to Spireslack Opencast Surface Mine involved a long journey for 17 of us, but was well worth the effort. Graham Leslie & Mike Browne told us about the geology, industry, and social history of the area. Highlights included viewing the great slope of limestone pavement that was cleared to provide a back wall when the highly mechanised open-cast mining started. As this was less than 15 years ago, we had the rare opportunity to be able to readily identify folding, major and minor faulting, and pavement collapse. On the opposite side of the canyon, the coal measures were revealed, including those showing evidence of early, underground workings in the form of wooden pit props and nails to hang bate boxes. The homes and buildings that supported this mining community had all been razed to the ground when this mining ended. I think we all admired Graham’s enthusiasm for the site and agreed that it is a fantastic educational resource.
June 2017 Fieldtrip
Our June fieldtrip to Holme Park Quarry, led by WGS member Peter Standing, was well attended by 15 members & 3 guests, all enthusiastic to see the quarry. Peter was keen to share the latest research on limestone environments, such as how acidic they are (or not), and the temperature within the deep fissures, as well as pointing out general features of the limestone pavement. However, the highlight of the trip was the chance to view the palaeokarst surfaces that had been revealed by the quarrying and the palaeopits (believed to be where ancient ‘trees’ grew), which were impressive. It was also wonderful to have a chance to rummage for fossils in the Woodbine shale. There were plenty of fossils, but though they fell apart in our hands, it was great to have the chance to look for them! Special thanks go to the site manager, Steve Rigby, who gently shepherded us around the site, and to Alan Pentecost, an expert on mosses & lichens, who generously shared his knowledge with us & seemed able to identify everything we passed his way.
May 2017 Fieldtrip
We had another lovely day for the May field trip, led by Susan Beale, a WGS member, which met at Mosedale Bridge. The Caldew Valley was new to many of us, and Susan encouraged us to examine the landscape, and see how the geology had changed it. Susan was keen to get us involved, and so started the day by asking us to search for (and try to identify), a range of pebbles in the river bed (which we did with gusto). Susan also had us busy with our lenses looking at the grain size of igneous rocks, and explaining to us the impact of cooling rates. Our walk up the Caldew Valley included examining some intriguing & beautiful river outcrops, and identifying contact points where the rock changed from igneous to metamorphic. The subject of minerals and how they form was of great interest to many of us, and we enjoyed searching for evidence of them. A bonus to this trip was our lunch stop at the Quaker Meeting House, an early building with some interesting features, in a lovely, peaceful environment.
April 2017 Fieldtrip
We had a beautiful, sunny day for our first fieldtrip to Ingleton Falls. Hilary Davis, our leader, encouraged the fifteen of us who went to complete our own map of geological features, and demonstrated how to measure dip and strike (some of us have a go). Highlights included seeing an unconformity very close to, and getting to the top of the falls at Kings Vale, with a view back down the trail.