Red Coast Revealed

The Jurassic Coast Trust has certainly producing some good books. As is well known, in recognition of its wonderful geology, the coast between Orcombe Rocks in southeast Devon and Old Harry Rocks in south Dorset was granted World Heritage status in December 2001. In this respect, these two guides cover the western and the eastern thirds of this remarkable coastline.

This is another of GA’s guides, this time to the geology and geomorphology of the popular holiday destination of the Castleton Area in Derbyshire. I love this area and have visited there both for the geology and the beautiful scenery.

The island of Cyprus is a truly classic area of geology in Europe. Perhaps nowhere else on Earth does so small an area provide such an excellent illustration of the dynamics of Earth processes through abundant exposures of spectacular and diverse geology.

A great number of geology books have been published in recent years about Scottish geology and I have had the privilege of reviewing a number of them. This plethora of publications is not surprising. As this book points out, in the six hundred miles between the Shetland island of Unst in the north to the Mull of Galloway in the south are some of the most interesting, varied and beautiful landscapes in Europe, if not the world.

If Yorkshire really is ‘God’s Own County’, then clearly the Almighty is an extremely enthusiastic geologist. Just how lucky is the Yorkshire man who, on the same day, can see some of the best and most varied geology in the world, set out in glorious coastal and mountain scenery, collect superb fossils and minerals, and still be back in the pub in time for some of the best real ale in the UK? That is, Yorkshire is a geological gem that needs a good geological guide.

This is an interesting book for those of us who are curious about the complex origins, variety and geological history of the continent of Europe. In particular, it covers and explains the background to its distinct regions and landscapes – from the flat plains of Northern Europe to the Alps and related mountains of the south.

I love geomorphology. I suspect many people are discouraged by its scientific name, but all it means is the study of the earth’s landforms and the processes that create the landscapes we see today. That is, why this coastline looks different from that, why that mountain is a funny shape, why Africa seems to fit into South America like a jigsaw, and so on and so forth.

This is a third, revised edition of a very successful, introductory-level geology guide. In it, the author has taken the opportunity to revise and update the text, and to substitute improved illustrations for some of the old ones.

Walking the East Jurassic Coast

In recent years, the Jurassic Coast Trust really has produced some great books and I have had the privilege of reviewing quite a number of them. These two companion books are intended as walking guides to the World Heritage Site – the so-called ‘Jurassic Coast’ – and the first covers the western limb from Orcombe Point to the Fleet, while the second deals with the eastern part, from Portland to Studland.

This is a brief guide explaining how the reader may collect meaningful data at outcrop level and make provisional identifications of common lithologies. It is not intended as a comprehensive field geology textbook and assumes that readers have already studied geological theory (and, as such, is probably most useful of the undergraduate, but could be interesting for anyone interested in geology).

The Geologists’ Association has produced yet another great guide, this time on the geology of Wales. However, this is a slightly different beast from most of their other publications. As is always the case with this excellent series of guides, the book describes the geology of different sites capable of being visited. However, this time, the conceit is that visiting the locations is assumed to be by car.

Back in 1994, Scottish Natural Heritage, together with the BGS, published a guidebook entitled Cairngorms: A landscape fashioned by geology. With the publication of Argyll and the Islands: A landscape fashioned by geology, it has now extended this excellent series to 20 such guides.

This book has the shape, form and feel of a holiday souvenir book – the sort you buy in tourist information shops to commemorate your visit, with pictures of the sites you didn’t have time to see. And, there is plenty of information for the curious visitor wanting to learn more about the earth science of the area. However, that isn’t the reason why I find it really interesting.

This is a charming little book, which describes itself as an “admittedly idiosyncratic compendium of [geological] words and phrases chosen because they are portals into larger stories”. It succeeds brilliantly at its professed goal, combining a great deal of information, education, and a gentle sense of fun, brought out very nicely by some attractive and humorous illustrations.

I have been lucky enough to review several books by Dunedin – the others being on palaeontology, geology and volcanology. And this is as good as the others. However, it is not an easy book to read. The illustrations are, as always, superb – colourful and clear – but this book is more suitable for the more mathematically and scientifically minded, especially those who enjoy the science of engineering.

Nowadays, people don’t do geology – they do ‘earth sciences’ – and this book is very much in that mould. That’s not to say this is a problem. Expanding the study of the world to take on a more holistic view of how things work is fascinating and, it is clear from this book, just how much man has now begun to understand and benefit from this new way of looking at geological science.

The Scottish Borders region is famed for their frontier history, and attendant myths and ballads. This book is concerned with their more ancient geological history, which is revealed by its rocks. These indicate that the area was once on the edge of a huge ocean – the Iapetus – which met its end between the inexorable crush of tectonic plates.

Recently, the Geologists’ Association kindly sent me three of their new guides to review, and I chose to review Alderney and La Hague: an Excursion Guide first, for some very personal reasons. I remember fondly my visits as a child to Alderney, and my extensive civil engineering works on Corblets beach, building dams of sand to capture the water flowing across the sand into the Race of Alderney.

There are several passions in my life – geology and geomorphology being a couple and hillwalking being another. And it doesn’t take much to see that that these go together rather well. Over the last few years, a number of great leaflets, often laminated, have been produced setting out UK geological walks and these are some more good ones.

Anglesey contains a fascinating variety of rock types and geological structures, best exposed in a magnificent coastline. The bedrockgeology of Anglesey comprises a complex collage of igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks that were formed between 300 and 650 million years ago.

Iceland seems to set the hearts of certain geologists racing and, reading this field guide, it is abundantly clear why. Set out in this concise and authoritative book is the evidence of how this strange piece of rock – astride the Mid-Atlantic Ridge – is a “natural laboratory”, where the earth sciences can be watched in dramatic real-time.

This latest publication from the British Geological Survey follows the success of its earlier publication, ‘Exploring the Landscape of Assynt’. It consists of a special pack containing both an explanatory booklet and a new 1 : 25,000 scale geological map of the Charnwood Forest and Mountsorrel area.

For a long time, Watchet has been known as a superb location for those interested in both fossils and geology, but, surprisingly, the location has had little in the way of media attention. However, within the last couple of years, this area has begun to attract a lot of interest and this little book will further increase its growing popularity.