He gave a rhaetic cry and tumbled to his doom

As a child I had some odd interests and reading habits. I was given a book token and bought a book about geology – I would have been about eight or nine, I guess. It actually wasn’t very interesting for a child that old, there were photos but all in black and white, and since we lived in Cambridgeshire there wasn’t anything obviously of interest to me, our garden soil was a greyish brown, the fens were black, the local low-lying hills the Gog Magogs were chalky…

My next brush with what’s beneath our feet was when I began teaching at an inner-city secondary school in Manchester. The heads of the geography, history and English departments had devised an integrated humanities scheme which all fists and second year students followed – these were young people aged eleven to thirteen in what is ow called Year 7 and year 8. The students learned (and so did I) all about the formation of the earth and the different sorts of rocks which made up our world..

I learnt the basics of geology, and I hope my students did too… but the next time I had any real dealings with rocks and formations and strata etc, was when we first visited Ireland and stayed for a few weeks each year a couple of miles from the Giant’s Causeway. It was exciting to think of the formation of those mighty basalt columns, and to go further along the coast and see Scotland only ten or so miles away, and the islands famous for whisky production as well as geology!

Going to Iceland five years ago made me feel quite an expert when I saw and recognised basalt columns again. The geology of Iceland is fascinating, I guess because it is so evident… unlike the geology of Cambridge when I was a child! I visited Iceland again three years, and on this trip i was greatly excited to visit Þingvellir (Thingvellir) which is the rift valley which marks the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge – it’s the boundary between the North American tectonic plate and the Eurasian tectonic plate!! I’m not sure anyone else on the tour was as excited as me – and my day was made perfect by ravens circling above!

Now I am learning more about geology, as a friend (and co-editor of my other blog The Moving Dragon Writes – https://somersetwriters.wordpress.com/about/ is a keen geologist; because it is someone actually telling me about it and actually explaining, I actually grasp it much better, and when he writes for the blog on geological topics I found them fascinating!

He has lent me a map published by the British Geological Survey of our area showing (I think) ‘solid and drift’. It’s really interesting, but I have been slightly diverted by the ‘index and explanation of geological symbols and colours’ – I love names and unusual words, and it’s an absolute gold mine (well, obviously not literally!!) of onomatopoeic and euphonic vocabulary – and strange names of rocks and features.

Somehow the names of these things sound like characters –

  • Blown Sand – OK, so that’s sand which has blown and drifted, but Blown Sand – sounds like a character who is a wastrel, a dissolute… following in the footsteps of his older brother or father, Older Blown Sand
  • Estuarine Alluvium (spellcheck want to change that to Ernestine Alluvium, spinster of this parish who plays the church organ badly at christenings, weddings and funeral) – but isn’t Estuarine a lovely word? Lucky I didn’t think of it when we were thinking of names for our daughter!
  • Burtle Beds… so many thoughts spring to mind!
  • Inferior Oolite – how sad to be called inferior
  • Rhaetic – that definitely has another meaning (in my imagination) “He gave a rhaetic cry and tumbled to his doom!”
  • Tea Green Marl – obviously should be green marl tea which is served in the poshest cafés – if you are very lucky Keuper Marl, grown high on the terraces of a little known tea plantation in a secret Asian location might also be on the menu
  • Dolomitic Conglomerate – a fleet of powerful warrior starships
  • Black Rock Dolomite – one of the leaders of one of the Conglomerate starships
  • Then there is the family of eighteenth century cave-dwellers, who preyed on unwary travellers and passers-by – the Oolites, old ‘Pappy’ Gully Oolite – he may look decrepid and harmless, but he’s the most dangerous and wily old man you may ever be unlucky enough to meet, his unpredictable son, known as Burry, Burrington Oolite, and the deceptively attractive daughter of Gully, Goblin – to give her her full name, Goblin Combe Oolite
  • Hangman Grits – what the Oolite family subsist on when unwary travellers are in short supply

Here is some real not fanciful writing about geology from my friend and co-editor of our other blog, Richard Kefford:




… and there are more from Richard. here is a link to his published books:



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