Sunday, May 4, 2014

Fossil Hunting in England - Hwyl Fawr

On our last full day in Wales, we took in the medieval Pembroke Castle, birthplace of Henry VII and home of the Tudor lineage and some 1,000 years of history on that site.

"Bread was included in every meal, but white was considered superior to brown
and was solely for the wealthy.  However, the very best, the uppercrust, was
reserved for the lord and nobles, hence the term, 'the uppercrust'."

We climbed the towers, peered into the dungeon, and tried to follow the family tree.  Then we bid Wales and the UK farewell and hwyl fawr.

Hwyl Fawr

How we managed to avoid penalties for overweight luggage remains a mystery.  Might have something to do with two cavemen at check-in sharing camaraderie about the upcoming Manchester City and Liverpool semi-final soccer match.  Whatever blessing it was, it worked.

We had, ahem, rather a lot of luggage.  I had to leave one heavy chunk of rock filled with calcite ammonites in the UK - broke my heart.  I'll live.

Without meaning to, I've given a lot of thought to evolution while here.  Probably due to the constant reminder of our recent human history that's around every corner. 
I've contemplated man's transition from communal living (stone age) to a concept of privacy and the individual; Western culture slowly casting aside man and earth as the center of the universe to the realization that we are but a part of deep history; the giant leap from water to land (and sometimes back again), from gills to lungs, fins to feet.

I leave you to contemplate the meaning of this Welsh road sign:

Cheers, lloniannau, and happy trails.  Thanks for joining us on our paleo journey.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Fossil Hunting in England - Lydstep and Manorbier Bay

April 28


Our last day of fossil searching brought us first to Lydstep Headland in search of Carboniferous coral, which eluded us for an hour until we found what we were looking for at the entrance.


On this huge rock I spied
what we were searching for
and nearby were smaller versions
that will fit in a suitcase.

Terry and Andrea welcomed us for our final Welsh chicken and leek pie at their tavern.  They tour the US regularly, love Texas and what seems like a movie set to them, and dislike our struggle with racism.

Terry recommended the Best Bitter from Felinfoel.

Across from the pub was Lydstep Palace, or what was Lydstep Palace, known for having housed pirates, bishops, barons, and judges, dating back to 1400's.


Manorbier Bay

As sun turned to drizzle, we headed one bay west to Manorbier Bay for Devonian crinoids, corals, and the occasional brachiopod.

It's not every field trip you assume paleo pose in the shadow of a Norman (12th century) castle.  Today it's the Manorbier Castle, originally the seat of the Anglo-Norman de Barry family.  Home at last!

Paleo Pose in the shadow of a Norman castle

Fossils can be found in these narrow ledges or along the beach:

Our fun finds

Our more serious finds

What a great finale for our final fossil searching day.  Now - to go pack rocks. 

Manorbier Castle

Fossil Hunting in England's Silurian - Graptolite Haven

April 28 - Druidston Haven is our second Welsh beach collecting area, and from the moment we set out from our hay loft, it was a delightful experience.  I challenge anyone to find this beach upon first try, as most of the narrow roads leading to it aren't marked.  But we enjoy seeing the local way of life, so the searching becomes an opportunity.

We finally happened upon the Druidstone Inn.  The druid stones are long gone, but the Inn is an enchanted forest of its own - funky and quirky, with a beer garden overlooking the shore some 200' below and the whole of Druidston Haven bay. The Inn sells art, has a delightful history, and the following link makes entertaining reading: Druidstone Inn Hotelier

Above: a wonderland gate opens to the path leading to the Druidston Haven beach; many benches are tucked into the cliffside.  In the distance note the Pembrokeshire coastal footpath, 186 miles of cliff paths above the coast largely mapped out by Ronald Lockley, Martin's father, in the 1950's..  Please see yesterday's post to read more of the immense influence of Ronald Lockley in this area.

The stone wall around the Druidstone Inn shelters the beer garden and what was once a rare croquet court, as one of the previous owners was an internationally acclaimed player.

And how many times do you see horses on beaches?  The surprises just didn't stop!

Horses on beach

Heading down to Druidstone Haven beach to collect graptolites...
Heading down to Druidstone Haven beach to collect graptolites, and off to the right what do we see?

Why, of course, an earth house!  Which used to be a ramshackle wooden shack that finally expired, and the eccentric owner MP (Member of Parliament - Congressman in our parlance) replaced the mess with a glass earth house.  This little paradise had an influential resident.  Reminder - we're in the middle of nowhere with farmers driving muddy tractors on an unmarked narrow road that is 7' wide if you're lucky.

Why, of course, an earth house!

Finally, we make it to the beach to find graptolites galore at the foot of the cliff.

The shingle looks like the above, and in the black shale Silurian-aged single-saw blade graptolites are abundant.

Only upon our return to the hay loft did I realize the diversity of graptolites, and I'm very bummed to have discarded on the beach one likely graptolite that at the time looked faintly like a trilobite.  It would be a good idea to do my research before going to the site.

Some of our collection back at Pen y Holt farm.

Fossil Hunting in England's Silurian - Horn Corals and Dramatic Scenery

April 27 - Our first day of collecting in Wales takes us to the Silurian cliffs at Marloes Sands, about 45 minutes from Castle Martin, IF one doesn't tackle the unnumbered B roads (secondary roads) one has no clue about.  It took us an hour and a half, but we thoroughly enjoyed the farms and narrow roads.

Marloes Sands has to be one of the most incredibly dramatic and fascinating landscapes on the planet.  There is a whole lotta geology going on here.

On the gentle kilometer walk down the lane to the beach, we identified (we hope correctly) Skokholm Island 4 miles in the distance.  This figures prominently in one of our own WIPS member's life.  Martin Lockley grew up in this area, and his father, Ronald, was an internationally known ornithologist and naturalist who wrote over 50 books, many about his research on puffins and rabbits.  He re-established Skokholm Island as a bird observatory after World War II and had immense influence in this area.

Pointing to Skokholm Island

Steps leading to the Pembrokeshire coastal path

Can you say GEOLOGY?

Barry and the Silurian Period

Some of the brachiopods we found.  Thinking of Dennis and how much he would enjoy this.  We also found rugose coral and colonial coral.

And more geology.

And more.

It just didn't stop.

Who would have imagined there would be an ice cream van at the top at the trailhead?
  Remember, this is a remote and nearly isolated beach miles from a large village.

On our way home, Pub Magnet
(Barry) had a pint, and then . . . .

We stopped at our local Freshwater West beach where Barry nodded off during high tide.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Fossil Hunting in England's Jurassic - ENCHANTING WALES

April 25 - Helo, a chroeso i Gymru!  Rydym yn cael pél.   We have arrived in southwest Wales (where, to our delight, they speak Welsh) in a tiny village called Castle Martin, and we're immediately enchanted.  From our converted barn at Pen y Holt Farm (the Granary), we find the unexpected in every direction - literally.

Pen y Holt Farm (the Granary)

One mile to the west is a wild and wooly coastline which was voted one of Wales' best surfing beaches - Freshwater West.  Here Robin Hood (with Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchette) and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows were filmed in 2009.  If that isn't enough, there's also a thatched seaweed-drying hut and an Iron Age burial chamber.

View from the bedroom (hay loft) to the east
Immediately to the south is an MOD (Ministry of Defence) army tank training range, complete with targets and shooting -  commencing Tuesday.  The roads will be closed, the cows and sheep moved to safety, and we will be treated to ordinance - right out our window!  Prior to WWII local farmers and villagers for several square miles were summarily moved, leaving a landscape of empty homes and a couple of villages.

And to the north is the 13th century St. Michael and All Angel's medieval church and an oil refinery a few miles away that lights up like Disneyland at night and is actually very pretty.  And to boot  . . . the Queen is coming Tuesday.

St. Michael and All Angel's Church

We're brushing up on our Welsh and all its double consonants, and none of our Latin or Germanic-based languages are helping.  Tomorrow we head to the beaches for Ordovician-Silurian aged fossils.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Fossil Hunting in England's Jurassic - Ammonite Graveyard at Monmouth Beach in Lyme Regis

April 24 - A 10 minute walk heading west from Lyme Regis along shore shingle is a ledge of limestone called the Ammonite Graveyard, packed with the internal molds of embedded Coroniceras in the Blue Lias layer

Ammonite Graveyard


Barry doing extremely complex calculations in his brain
regarding the various ammonites

Wendy from Hampshire came up to us on the beach and offered us some
of her finds!  She was traveling by bus and couldn't manage the weight.
Back at Charmouth, we found the teeniest ammonites you ever saw!