Geowalks Blog 2009

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!

Reports by Sarah-Louise Davies from holidays on Eigg, May 2007 and Fife Coast, 2009. Alan Bolton's website Alan has been on many walks and holidays with me, his site has many great photos of the areas we have visited and other trips.

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

Friday 2 January 2009 - Happy New Year

I'm looking forward to a packed year exploring the varied and fantastic geology of Scotland, with a range of day walks around the Lothians and Fife, and several more Geowalks holidays - including the Fife Coast, the Northwest Highlands (based at Ullapool), the islands of Mull, Iona and Eigg and a new weekend trip to the Grampian coast in early October.

Like many others, 2009 approaches with a tinge of trepidation as I've no idea how the economic crisis will affect business ... but I'm hoping that the range of low-cost activities on offer will continue to be attractive!

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Monday 19 January 2009 - Geowalks Holidays

I'm delighted to be arranging 7 different holidays this year, more than ever before. After several new ventures last year (which will be repeated in the future, don't worry) I'm offering some of the favourite trips again in 2009, including the Northwest Highlands, Mull and Iona, and the Isle of Eigg. There's a wider range of accommodation on offer, too, a bit more comfortable than the Geowalks usual standard (although you've always had the option to upgrade to a nearby B&B or hotel, and people often do this). The Mull and Iona trip is based in B&B accommodation in Fionphort, ideally placed for trips to Iona, Staffa and the Ross of Mull. And on Eigg I'm very much looking forward to another round of Karen's fantastic cooking!

There's a 5% discount on offer for all bookings for Geowalks Holidays received by 14 February, so now is the time to book ...

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Wednesday 11 February 2009 - Update

Normally the early months of the year are a quiet time for me. I teach evening classes for the Office of Lifelong Learning at Edinburgh University, which usually takes a bit of time, especially if I've been reckless enough to offer a new course. Otherwise, my time would normally be filled with a mix of indoor work - designing and updating websites, and working for organisations such as the John Muir Trust, who have employed me in various part-time roles over the years.

This winter has been a wee bit different, with a part-time job with the Scottish Earth Science Education Forum, developing 'Earth Science Outdoors' resources to support outdoor activities for schools and community groups. It has been great to see the level of enthusiasm throughout Scotland for this project, we organised a meeting at the end of January that brought more than 60 people together for a day to develop ideas.

And, just when one extra job seemed like enough, I was asked at short notice to undertake a project with Lothian and Borders RIGS and Edinburgh Council, to survey Local Geodiversity Sites in Edinburgh. So I'm now a trained up geodiversity surveyor and will spend some of the next few weeks wandering around Edinburgh with a fancy laptop recording details of some of the local geodiversity. So, for the first time since Geowalks began, I'm engaged full time on geological education, with a great range of activities to keep me busy. More news soon ...

Thursday 19 March 2009 - Update

New season of walks off to a great start, good to be walking again! And we've even had some fine weather exploring Blackford Hill, Seacliff, Arthur's Seat and Aberlady. Well maybe not fine ALL the time, but it's early yet ... Looking forward to a busy month with walks during the Edinburgh International Science Festival, click here for more info.

I am delighted to be featured in the latest edition (Spring 2009) of Scotland Outdoors - and have been very impressed by the quality of this relatively new publication, worth looking out for! (read the article - pdf file, 161 kB)

Sunday 29 March 2009 - Kirkcaldy

A delightful walk in warm spring sunshine along the coast of Fife, exploring the varied sedimentary rocks from the later part of the Carboniferous Period. Along most of the outer Firth of Forth, the shape of the coastline comes from the contrast between sedimentary and igneous rocks - the headlands around Elie, for example, are all volcanic vents. This section of coast, however, is all sedimentary rock, but the varying environmental conditions in the late Carboniferous Period ensured that different kinds of rock were laid down - including thick layers of sandstone that today give the coast its variety and interest, seen at the harbour at Dysart for example. And speaking of Dysart, how I wish that every Geowalk included a cafe for morning coffee! We indulged in a little bit of fossil hunting at West Wemyss, where an eroding spoil heap produces treasures.

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Wednesday 1 April 2009 - School Seismology Project

Delighted to attend the launch of the British Geological Survey's School Seismology Project in Scotland. This is a great project, which will supply 40 seismometers to schools in Scotland. These simple instruments will record earthquakes happening around the world in real time - they reckon on average to record one global earthquake every week. There's lots of potential to bring science to life for Secondary School pupils, giving them real data to analyse and creating good cross-curricular links between physics and geography (my two favourite subjects in school, well along with geology of course!).

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Tuesday 7 April 2009 - Edinburgh International Science Festival

The Science Festival is a key event in my calendar and I've organised geology walks for the Science Festival for several years now. It's been great to sample this year's programme and I sense a real energy to go along with the new logo! I've spent the day with the kids at the City Art Centre - seven floors of family fun! Lots of cool science, computers and robots - but what I always find refreshing is the enthusiasm of the staff and presenters, many of whom spent the whole of the Easter holidays on their feet talking to kids about science.

Looking forward to getting out on the rocks next week with two walks in Edinburgh City Centre and Dunbar, each repeated three times during the week. Hope this weather holds ...

Thursday 16 April 2009 - the Canongate Wall

My walks in the Science Festival take us past the Canongate Wall of the Scottish Parliament, surely one of the best bits of the parliament building, containing stones from across Scotland inscribed with quotations from famous Scots. The sculptors Gillian Forbes and Martin Reilly did an excellent job in selecting rocks that represent Scotland's amazing geodiversity, have a look and you'll find slate, granite, sandstone, marble, Lewisian gneiss as well some of my favourite rocks such as Pipe Rock from the Northwest Highlands.

The search is on for some more words to inscribe this year to celebrate 10 years of the Parliament- find out more here. I've suggested James Hutton "we find no vestige of a beginning - no prospect of an end".

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Sunday 19 April 2009 - Bathgate Hills

One of my favourite walks and mostly because it is such a delight to find so many interesting features in an area that most walkers would overlook. Great to do it this time in sunshine, with a feeling of spring in the air! The route from Bathgate to Linlithgow is easily accessible by train, close to Edinburgh but mostly off the beaten track, and includes limestone quarries, the Cairnpapple burial chamber, lava flows, intrusions and great views of central Scotland, particularly from the Witchcraig Wall - which is worthy of a visit in it's own right. This is a walk I'd be happy to repeat several times a year, so if your group is interested, get in touch!

Saturday 25 April 2009 - Fife Coast

Back on the Fife Coastal Path again, for a delightful four days of walking in excellent company! This is a superb and varied path, and this time we concentrated on the section from Earlsferry to St Andrews, cracking along at a good pace and discovering some of the features that make Fife special, including animal trackways of which no more should be said... what can be shouted about though is the high tea at The Waterfront, Anstruther. I'm becoming a high tea addict, great way to finish off a day on the rocks, and high teas seem to becoming popular once more, a trend I'll do my best to support! This one certainly sets a high standard, perhaps the best in Scotland ... more research will be reported here soon.

Friday 8 May 2009 - PLU festival

Sometimes I volunteer for things and then regret it later, and I did decide I was foolish to have accepted an invitation to attend the PLU Festival on Leith Links in Edinburgh and do a 45-minute volcano workshop for 4-6 year olds. I've been involved in helping with this festival for the last few years, it is a great weekend of free and low-cost activities for parents and young children.

This year, however, they wanted me on stage as well as behind the scenes, and it was fun! I hope the 4-6 year olds (and the younger ones, and their parents) enjoyed it as much as I did, and perhaps learned a little bit about volcanoes.

Monday 11 May 2009 - Northwest Highlands holiday

The second Geowalks holiday of the year, and we were treated to a week of stunning sunshine to match the stunning rocks and scenery. This is a brilliant area to do geology, with acres of exposed rock so that you can follow the changing bedrock across the landscape. The rocks themselves are fantastic, a grand selection of metamorphic and sedimentary with some igneous rocks thrown in too. Sparkling quartzite, stripy gneiss, purple sandstones, weathered limestone. But that's not all, for after they were formed these rocks were disturbed, with massive sideways movement of a large block of crust, giving fantastic thrusts and deformation on a grand scale. Just add sunshine, and it is unbeatable!

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Saturday 2 June 2009 - the Island of Eigg

Delighted to be back on Eigg for another Geowalks holiday, this time in the company of Eigg geology expert John Hudson who led the group. We had fantastic weather, and spent five days in a thorough exploration of the island, including a couple of spots I'd not been to be before. Also my first visit to Muck, what a delightful place - despite its small size definitely a place to spend a few days, I'll be back!

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Monday 15 June 2009 - Arran with the University of the Third Age

Always a pleasure to take a group from the University of the Third Age away on holiday, and we had a ball on Arran. We stayed at the very pleasant Kilmory Hall Bunkhouse and enjoyed a range of short walks to explore some of Arran's diverse geology.

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Tuesday 4 August: What's going on here?

You might imagine from the gap in my programme that I put my feet up during July and August, well I do, sort of. Or at least I do different things, as a selection of recent photos helps illustrate.

I've walked the Fife Coast again (but backwards this time), been to a festival, had two boat trips around the Bass Rock, seen an otter in East Lothian, enjoyed lots of sunshine, grown courgettes and spent hours and hours and hours in front of a computer.

But if all goes to plan I'll be back outdoors for most of September, spending a total of 15 days on the rocks of East Lothian, Fife and Grampian. Here's hoping for an Indian summer!

Friday 18 September: Indian Summer!

Well the hoped-for good weather arrived and it has been a delight to be outdoors so much of this month, with a grand mix of training courses, day walks and a Geowalks holiday along the Fife Coastal path.

Sunday 11 October: Grampian weekend

The clothing suggests that we had some wild weather, but it didn't dent our enthusiasm too much for exploring the Grampian area, including the fantastic conglomerates of Crawton and Dunnottar Castle.

Monday 30 November: the year ends!

2009 has been a great Geowalks year, thanks to everyone who came along on walks and holidays. The photos above remind me of a very busy year visiting some excellent places near and far, with lots of good company!

My thoughts now turn to 2010, the new programme will be available soon!

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