Past Lectures & Field Trips

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.

Chris Anderson

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.

Chris Anderson

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.

Chris Anderson

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!

Chris Anderson

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.

Chris Anderson


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.

Chris Anderson

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.

Chris Anderson

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.

Chris Anderson

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