A Field Trip to the Heritage Coast – SPNHC2014

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Today was a day of Field trips as a precursor to the conference proper. We gathered outside the museum with all the other field trip groups watching the filming crew milling about outside. The museum was closed but they were filming Dr. Who, which was quite cool.

Our excursion was sponsored by the GCG and headed up by Cindy Howells of the National Museum of Wales. Our first stop was Dunraven Bay, where the Jurassic Blue Lias strata sits upon the Carboniferous limestone. The Dunraven fault – a reverse fault – has pushed the Lower Jurassic Sutton Stone up against the Blue Lias with some amazing crumpled folding patterns. This area was mostly underwater during the Jurassic, with only the highest hills projecting above sea level as a series of island chains. As a result, the fossils are mostly aquatic species: lots of Gryphaea; a good number of ammonites; the occasional ichthyosaur and plesiosaur (we were not lucky enough to find either); scattered bits of crinoid everywhere… and no belemnites at all! Where are the belemnites, why have none ever been found in the region?

Next we drove a few miles down the coast to Ogmore by Sea, residential home to a number of mating pairs of wild ravens! As we ate the remains of our packed lunches I watched a raven repeatedly harass a big gull. The Tower of London ravens are significantly bigger than the wild ones here but the Ogmore ravens are still spectacular birds and clearly intelligent.

A few hundred yards down the road brought us into Carboniferous limestone covered by a strange type of rock, which our guides described as an “angular conglomerate” or Breccia. It looks like raw cement and was deposited in the Triassic, when Wales was an equatorial desert. The deposit indicates a cataclysmic monsoon event. I can imagine early dinosaurs hoping to find water, only to learn the old lesson: be careful what you wish for!

We saw lots more incredible geology but it was a lot to take in and alas my head was still absorbing the Triassic landscape to take it all in. The scorching heat didn’t help either. I’d very much like to return another day, there are dinosaur footprints out there.

Looking forward to tomorrow and the start of the SPNHC2014 talks. I’ll keep you updated on these too.

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