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Newsletter - March 2011

A PDF version (1MB) of this newsletter is available for download.


Well, we certainly finished our indoor programme in style this winter with another very full house, how lovely to see so many young people at last Wednesday's joint lecture.

At the AGM in February there were a few changes to the Council. We gave our retiring Membership Secretary Fred Owen a resounding vote of thanks for his work over the last eight years - our membership currently tops 200! Lisa Abbott has now taken over as our Membership Sec and Nicola Fowler was welcomed onto the Council. Other members were thanked and re-elected. We still have a vacancy on the Council so why not join us!

After the AGM our President, Tony Adams, gave us a delightful lecture on Poetry and Geology, a veritable mélange of poetry and rocks, starting with Wordsworth and going right through to the present day and including some hilarious verses by Mrs Hemans, and also "A Geologist's Wife; To Her Husband Setting Off Upon Excursion" by that well known author, Anon. This has prompted the suggestion that we all try our hands at a verse or two (see below).

Our outdoor programme is here. Jane Michael asks that you contact her if you intend to come on any of our outings.

The provisional programme for next winter's lectures is here.

Meanwhile, hope to see many of you out in the field this year - April will definitely be warm and sunny!

With best wishes to all

Mary Howie
MGA Newsletter Editor

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Poetry and Geology

MGA Poetry Competition

Following Tony's engaging Presidential lecture it has been suggested that members might like to try their hands at geological poems, or if that is too hard, then why not a limerick or two? Can you do as well as this?
To the disappointed archaeologist

In the heart of the desert you found
Dreikanter, all strewn on the ground.
Though it wasn't man's hand
But the wind and the sand
That made these stones angled not round.

Peter del Strother.
Or maybe you can emulate Mrs Hemans, (she of "The Boy stood on the burning deck" fame) who wrote at the end of her Epitaph to a Mineralogist:
Weep not, good reader! He is truly blest,
Amidst chalcedony and quartz to rest-
Weep not for him! but envied be his doom,
Whose tomb, though small, for all he loved had room
And, O ye rocks! schist, gneiss, whate'er ye be,
Ye varied strata, names too hard for me,
Sing 'O be joyful!' for your direst foe,
By death's fell hammer, is at length laid low.
Ne'er on your spoils shall -- -- riot,
Shut up your cloudy brows, and rest in quiet!
He sleeps - no longer planning hostile actions,-
As cold as any of his petrifactions;
Enshrined in specimens of every hue,
Too tranquil e'en to dream, ye rocks, of you.
In a more serious vein our VP has contributed this sonnet.
Desert Seeds

For nigh on seven years the land lay dry.
The latent lives upon the desert floor
Asleep, despite the storm clouds in the sky.
Was this the moment they had waited for?
A cone of dust leapt from the arid ground,
One drop of rain the sign of more to come
Or some false dawn? But soon the crashing sound
Of driving rain confirms the race is on.

The sun restored, green shoots compete for light.
It is the time to flower and set seed
Or failing now face everlasting night.
So man must wake and nature's lessons heed.
If climate change destroys the flowers that grow,
Mankind itself may be the next to go.

Peter de Strother
No prizes, but I'll publish any that you send me... if not too rude. Ed ( I did limericks with 8 year-olds many moons ago!)

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Geologists' Association Membership Team Update

  1. I attended the recent Membership Team meeting held at the Gloucestershire Geoconservation Trust office in February.
  2. Chair, Paul Olver, advised that the GA had been given a mandate that the group should look at the GA becoming more relevant outside London, offer value for money and ways to attract new members (the main 'problems' identified).
  3. The GA Council are also looking at organising more foreign field trips, particularly in Mainland Europe as it was felt that local groups and affiliates often found overseas trips difficult/time consuming to organise (and I can fully support that).
  4. They are going to look at the content of The Proceedings. I had passed on several comments I had received about the Proceedings - it appears these had been mentioned at the November meeting which I was unable to attend.
  5. Comments were made round the table that better use could be made of the GA website so that there was a notice board for events, and details of temporary exposures to advertise the GA Guides better.
  6. Of particular note was the fact that money was available to do this.
  7. There will be a regional event held each year outside of the South East to raise the profile of the GA to the general public. It was decided that the one for 2011 will be at the Three Counties Show in Malvern in June. Earth Heritage (Hereford & Worcester's Geoconservation Trust) and Gloucester Geocon had for the previous two years undertaken a publicity event at the show but with Local Authority support removed due to the cuts, they did not think they could do it this year. Funding from the GA will enable this event to take place. Whilst as a 'northerner' I would have liked something north of Birmingham, I can appreciate that with a relatively short time to arrange this, the Three Counties is suitable. Next year, an event will be held in the north (Durham Miners Gala was mentioned (not by me, I was the only 'northerner' attending as Noel Worley from Leeds couldn't make the meeting).
  8. There was discussion about local groups and affiliates and whether there actually was any difference (even though theoretically there should be). The conversation then turned to events to promote the GA to existing members of local groups and affiliates who were feeling disenfranchised (as I know several MGA members are - they have left the GA - and this includes me although I am still a member). I suggested possibly offering financial support towards a day of lectures (I was thinking about our own Broadhurst Memorial lecture where the number of people wanting to attend is likely to exceed the capacity of the lecture theatre). A bigger lecture theatre would cost more and perhaps this would be a good event for the GA to support. I also suggested supporting an event at a National Trust property citing our Styal event as an example. I regret to report that I am not sure that my suggestions were well received but I made them anyway!!! Time will tell.
  9. We did agree that leaflets outlining what benefits membership of the GA confers should be sent to each group/affiliate for distribution at meetings. Whilst I suspect most of us were a bit sceptical about what benefits there are, clearly the GA Council is worried and is taking on board what the group is (albeit slowly - oak trees and acorns spring to mind I hope). I am now awaiting these leaflets.
  10. We also felt that the local groups/affiliates should have links to the GA website and any other geoconservation sites etc. We do have a comprehensive list of links on the MGA website. I will also ask Mary Howie to put a mention in the newsletter that if you are a member of the GA, you can get a discount on the GA Guides. Whilst you would need to buy a lot of guides in a year to pay for your membership, it certainly is an advantage.
  11. The next meeting is on 19 May 2011 and unfortunately I will be unable to attend as I am in Scotland at the time but I will keep members advised of developments. Meanwhile, if you are going to be in the Malvern area in June, visit The Three Counties Show and look for the geology marquee!!
Jane Michael

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Dovedale Report

On a sunny day about 20 people gathered in the car park at Dovedale for the first Fred Broadhurst Memorial Field Trip. Fittingly, it was based on one of Fred's Rocky Rambles, adapted and led by Jane Michael. It was lovely to have the company of Rosemary Broadhurst and other members of Fred's family on this occasion.

Jane gave us an introduction to the geology of the area, which is early Carboniferous reef and bedded limestones, altered by relatively recent glaciation. After watching the arrival of the refreshment kiosk, which looked like a stone building, pulled by a tractor into the car park, we walked upstream and inspected the many crinoids and some brachiopods in the steps, which we hoped were constructed using local stone! A few blocks were of a much darker colour and we wondered about the environment of deposition for these, and mentally compared them with the Ashford Marble. At the top of the steps, the limestone pinnacles known as the Twelve Apostles could be viewed from Lover's Leap, but we were hard pressed to spot all twelve due to the vegetation.

We continued up Dovedale, looking for Reynard's Cave. Ilam Rock and Pickering Tor were the next landmarks, both in knoll reef limestone. Dove Holes cave was our lunch destination. Finally Ravens Tor appeared, where the contact between knoll reef and bedded limestone could be seen - bedded limestone is probably deposited in deeper water. On the way back we managed to find Reynard's cave - how did we miss it on the way up Dovedale? Jane took a small group up Thorpe Cloud to look for stromatolites on the top. After a steep climb and a couple of stops to look for brachiopod fossils, they arrived on top. After much searching, Tali Broadhurst finally found some telltale concentric circles which the group agreed could be the missing stromatolites. Since Fred originally wrote the book, thousands of human feet plus the weather have eroded the limestone making these ancient algae very difficult to find. The views from the top were excellent and were worth the ascent.

The sun still shone as we strolled back to the car park and a most welcome ice cream or cup of tea.

Thanks to Jane for making it happen.

Sue Plumb, September 2010

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Book Review

TIME MATTERS - Geology's Legacy to Scientific Thought
Michael Leddra
Wiley-Blackwell: 2010.
ISBN No 978-1-4051-9909-4
Paperback: £23.70 (Amazon)

The title of Michael Leddra's book may have seemed an incongruous choice of holiday reading material during a time last summer when, for me, time really didn't matter. But I was far from disappointed. Time Matters - Geology's Legacy to Scientific Thought takes the reader through a comprehensive synopsis of the topic; through rock dating and time scales, plutonism and neptunism, uniformitarianism and catastrophism, evolution and creationism, and onto continental drift and plate tectonics. Each concept, set into its own historical timescale, details the development and discoveries that have shaped our understanding of geological time, by the people most notably involved.

Time Matters is more than a textbook and reads with the accessibility of a novel. Clearly written by an educationalist, the reader's own understanding is frequently challenged with appropriate use of "discussion point questions" which make it much more interactive. The author also provides additional "background" to the topics discussed as well as "further reading" suggestions. Indeed, the author frequently quotes from an extensive bibliography which further directs the reader to new ideas for study and it is this synthesis of so many current books on this topic that makes Time Matters such a useful publication. Thus the book, which is liberally illustrated with black and white photos, maps and diagrams and a very good index, is an ideal introduction to the topic most central to any study of the earth sciences.

This is certainly appropriate for the A'level/first year university market and as a background to the development of the earth sciences for the educated layman. As the book covers so many important topics at A'level - remnant magnetism, geological principles, radiometric dating techniques, mountain building to name but a few - the A'level student and teacher will find this a particularly useful reference. Whilst the cost may be prohibitive for class copies, this is certainly one for the departmental and main school library. I thoroughly recommend the paperback version of this book to colleagues and students alike and know you too will not be disappointed.

Pete Loader
St Bede's College, Manchester

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