Geowalks Blog 2007

Welcome to the Geowalks blog, the place to find reports and pictures of Geowalks activities. Submissions are greatly appreciated, if you've been on a Geowalk or trip, please send a photo or a few words!

Blog from other years - 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010

Wednesday 21 November 2007 - looking ahead

And so all of a sudden the Geowalks year is over - and given the weather outside this afternoon, I'm glad not to be looking at rocks today. It's been a great year, a bumper year with 24 walks, seven residential trips and around 50 days of courses, group walks, workshops, classroom visits, school groups and plenty more! I've many happy memories of sparkling days in the highlands and islands, and many new faces - hope to see many of you again next year!

I'm very excited about the prospects for 2008, when I celebrate Geowalks' 10th birthday. I've now started planning a programme of trips that will stretch beyond previous programmes, with trips to Northern Ireland and Shetland looking likely. I'm also keen to expand my walks programme, there are a couple of small gaps on the Lothian and Fife coasts, which haven't yet been Geowalked, so I'd like to finish my 10th anniversary year having walked all the wild parts of the coastline between Eyemouth and St Andrews ... more details coming soon!

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Saturday 27 October 2007 - catching up

Occasionally my working life gets a little bit too hectic (in a good way). The last few weeks have been rather busy, not helped by a house full of dust and junk while we get our kitchen renovated!. Usually October is a quieter period in the Geowalks calander, but this year several great opportunities have come along to spice things up.

I've taking part in several workshops for Edinburgh University, helping to train postgrad students in science communication. And I've had a couple of visits to Siccar Point, the under-appreciated jewel in Scotland's geology, by land and sea. One group invited me to join them on a boat trip out of Eyemouth, and I was blown away by the views of the cliffs - definitely a trip I'll be repeating, hopefully in the Geowalks programme next year!

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Saturday 6 October - Arran

The autumn Arran weekend has been a fixture in my programme for several years now, but there is always something new! This year, the weather was sparkling for a change, and local residents Mike and Sue took us to see the recently discovered reptile footprints on the shore just south of the King's Cave - most impressive! As well as a single well-preserved print we imagined we'd found several trackways on the flat shore rocks, which don't photograph well so you'll just have to come along next year and see for yourself. It was great to stand on the beach and imagine large Triassic reptiles wandering over the plain, an added angle to a special spot that already has many stories to tell!
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Saturday 1 September 2007 - Lochaber

A pleasure in the space of two weeks to spend time in both of Scotland's European Geoparks - the Lochaber area having achieved Geopark status this year. Having raved about Assynt in my last entry, I was delighted to find that Lochaber has as much to offer the geo-tourist. This trip, part of the John Muir Trust Activities Programme, was hosted by the volunteers of the Lochaber Geopark - they are working hard to promote the geology of the area, and have produced a fantastic batch of leaflets.

Yet more stunning weather (how do we do it?!), ideal for getting up high (using the Anoch Mor gondola rather than our own legs!) and for exploring Glencoe, Glen Nevis and Glen Roy. I was very pleased to renew my acquaintance with some fantastic folded schist and pegmatite veins just beside the A830 Road to the Isles - in sparkling sunshine we enjoyed one of the gems of Scotland, a natural beauty all the more special when you consider the masses who hurtle past unknowing on road and rail below.

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Monday 20 August 2007 - Assynt

The best geology in Scotland! Assynt is an area without parallel, and I was delighted to be back for another trip, this time with a group from the University of the Third Age in the Edinburgh area. What makes Assynt special? Interesting rocks, which have had interesting things happen to them - and the untangling of the story by early geologists gives a good tale in its own right of squabbles and controversy, with hard work and bold new ideas winning out in the end.

We explored the famous Knockan Crag and the limestone valleys, and took a boat trip along Loch Glencoul. The weather was good, the midgies were present sometimes, but we enjoyed grand hospitality from Inchnadamph Lodge. And we finished with a song, A Musical Mnemonic in Assynt ...

Tune: think Julie Andrews in Sound of Music singing ‘Doh a Deer’

G is gneiss, Lewisian Gneiss,
T’s a layer or two of sand – [stone].
Q is Basal, then it’s Pipe – [either bubbles or worms],
F is bands of fertile sludge.
S is Salterella Grit – [full of snails],
L is the youngest sedimentary rock – [in Assynt],
M is metamorphosed stuff,

And that brings us – [because of thrusts and general squeezing and crumpling] – back to gneiss:

G T Q F S L M Gneiss!

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Sunday 24 June 2007 - St Abb's Head

After a run of glorious weather in the west, I've found it difficult to understand people complaining about the poor spring - in 16 days on the rocks, in four different trips this spring, I've suffered only one rain shower! Things have obviously taken a turn for the worse in the last couple of weeks, but even so I've enjoyed dry days on Arthur's Seat and Cramond Island. Weather forecasts are usually pessimistic, in my experience.

We set off for St Abb's Head with heavy hearts, given the forecast and the look of the sky. However once more blessed, with another warm, dry, sometimes sunny walk along the cliff tops of St Abbs. Fantastic displays of birdlife, and the birds help to tell the story of the rocks as they clearly prefer the flat ledges provided by eroding lava cliffs to the steeper layers of the greywacke sandstone - thus explaining why St Abb's Head has such a concentration of birdlife in comparison to the rest of the Berwickshire coast.

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Sunday 10 June 2007 - Iona & Mull, again!

Another visit to Mull and Iona, fast becoming one of my favourite geological places. Unbeatable weather once more, we burned (gently) in the heat of the Iona sun, and cruised by sail (slowly) between Staffa and the Wilderness Coast of Mull, where skipper Mark Jardine dropped us off for a visit to Macculloch's tree and some lovely amygdales. After a day on the water, scanning for marine mammals and being rewarded only by plenty of sea birds, we were surprised the next day to run into a school of dolphins (or were they porpoises?) in the Sound of Iona as we returned to Iona on the Calmac ferry.

So after that wildlife and rock extravaganza, all that remained was the end of trip quiz - and with questions such as the speed of sound in air, and the number of Ballachulish slates per square metre of roof - there was something for everyone!

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Saturday 26 May 2007 - Antrim Coast, Northern Ireland

My first visit to the Antrim Coast and the Giant's Causeway, in the company of the Edinburgh Geological Society. Really impressed with the variety of rocks Northern Ireland has to offer in a small area - lots of similarities with some of my favourite bits of the west coast of Scotland, but also lots of chalk, giving a nice contrast with the black basalt.

I was intrigued by the red beds, representing a hiatus in the volcanic activity and deep erosion of the lava to form a red soil. The Giant's Causeway is impressive, but doesn't quite match the beauty of Staffa.

I've come home inspired to take a Geowalks trip there next year ...


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Saturday 12 May 2007 - Iona & Mull

Within 20 kilometres of Iona are rocks representing four great episodes in geological history, which are responsible for the shape and scenery of Scotland's west coast. On Iona itself, we find a small remnant of gneiss, Britain's oldest rocks, adjacent to some Torridonian sandstone, representing a long period of erosion and accumulation. These rocks escaped the deformation and change caused by continental collision around 400 million years ago - the Caledonian Orogeny, which is well represented in the Ross of Mull with Moine schist and granite. And finally, a mere 60 million years ago it was all buried in a blanket of lava as the North Atlantic Ocean formed, lavas preserved now on Staffa and the Wilderness coast.

Our trip took in all these different aspects, and superb weather allowed an unforgettable voyage by sail to Staffa and Macculloch's tree, with Mark Jardine and his boat Freya. We were based at the Iona Hostel, a great base to explore Iona and the Ross of Mull.

See also Richard Morton's photo album

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Saturday 28 April 2007 - Isle of Eigg

Eigg is my favourite place, a fantastic island with, in my opinion, the best rocks in the country - unbeatable for scenery and atmosphere. If you haven't been, go soon! For this trip we were blessed with fine weather and had three great days out, covering the length of the island. We stayed at the Glebe Barn, and enjoyed Karen's huge helpings of wonderful food.

The attraction of Eigg for me is the combination of a beautiful place with a great selection of rocks - ranging from sedimentary rocks of the Jurassic period up to the Sgurr, a ridge of pitchstone lava.

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Saturday 16 March 2007 - Isle of Bute

Well, the weather didn't do Bute proud - unusual for a Geowalks trip! However we enjoyed a good walk in the south of Bute on Saturday, exploring a range of rocks that are responsible for the varying topography of the south coast. By Sunday morning it was blowing a hooley and snowing to boot, so we beat a tactical retreat. Perhaps March was a wee bit early for a residential trip?

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Saturday 10 March 2007 - Bathgate Hills

A great walk exploring the delights of the Bathgate Hills, one of Scotland's overlooked little corners, with a great variety of features of interest - limestone quarries, silver mines, Cairnpapple Hill and the Witchcraig geology wall ... the wind kept us from lingering but we found much to draw us back for another visit!

Sunday 25 February 2007 - new season

The new season got off to a great start with a couple of damp walks exploring sites with interesting geological and historical stories. Firstly at Roslin Glen, just next to Rosslyn Chapel, and Traprain Law in East Lothian. Lots more to come ....

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