England & Wales 2022

At the end of April 2022, we took a group on our new England & Wales geological tour. This all-encompassing tour offered guests the chance to see rocks from every geological time period, taking in some world-class locations along the way. This is the diary of our trip…

Route map
GeoWorld Travel’s ‘England & Wales: The Complete Geologic Timescale’ route map
Day 1: Sunday 24th April

The tour group assembled in the evening at a hotel by London Heathrow Airport. We welcomed guests from the USA, the UK and the Netherlands. Everyone had a chance to chat to each other and get to know each other over dinner.

Day 2: Monday 25th April

We left Heathrow first thing in the morning and headed for our first stop of the day, and of the tour – Stonehenge, an incredible UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was built in five different construction stages from between 3,000 to 1,500 BC.

While Stonehenge is, of course, a very famous archaeological site, it’s also a magnificent geological site because the stones represent three different rock types: firstly, there are locally derived Oligocene Sarsen stones which are sandstones; secondly, in the interior are the Bluestones, volcanic rocks called dolerite from west Wales; third, the Altar Stone is a Devonian red sandstone from the Brecon Beacons.

We spent the morning there and had lunch at the excellent visitor centre, before setting off and heading down to the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. Our very first stop on the Jurassic Coast was the wonderful Etches Collection Museum, where we met Steve Etches himself and had a personal tour of his museum. All the fossils in the museum were found by Steve on the nearby beach at Kimmeridge. It’s a fantastic museum with ichthyosaurs, fossil fish, and even ammonites with eggs – a great place to start the tour!

We went down to the nearby Kimmeridge Beach where the fossils we saw at the museum earlier today were found. We learned that it is the source rock for North Sea Oil, and we even saw a Nodding Donkey on the cliff, which is extracting oil. We also looked for some ammonites on the beach – and found some! Although collecting is not allowed on this beach, so we just enjoyed looking at them.

We then moved on to our final site of the day, Keates Quarry. There we saw Jurassic (140-million-year-old) dinosaur tracks from an enormous sauropod dinosaur, a brachiosaurus. It was wading in a shallow lagoon and there were tracks of several other animals, suggesting that they were walking in a herd. We marvelled at these huge, massive size footprints and discussed how important England and Wales are for dinosaur discoveries. In fact, the first dinosaur known to science was found in England and the name of “dinosaur” was given in England. After this, we headed to our hotel which was near to the dinosaur trackway.

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Day 3: Tuesday 26th April

We started the day at our hotel on the Isle of Purbeck with lovely views of the famous Corfe Castle.

Our first geology stop of the day was an outcrop of red, coarse, iron-rich, Paleogene-aged sediments. The whole point of visiting this outcrop is to show that England and Wales are so geodiverse that we can include an outcrop of rocks from every different time period of Earth’s history on this tour (if you count the Precambrian as one time period). This was our outcrop of Paleogene rocks.

Next on the day’s itinerary was a much more famous geological site: Lulworth Cove. At Lulworth Cove we saw the famous Lulworth Crumple. Here, alternating layers of limestones and softer, muddier stones had been crumpled up due to the Alpine Orogeny when Spain was crashing into France, making the Pyrenees, and when Africa was crashing into Europe, making the Alps.

We stood at the entrance to Lulworth Cove which has a beautiful, perfect crescent shape. It formed as the sea broke through the hard Portland and Purbeck limestones and got to the softer Wheeldon sandstones, the green sands, and chalk to erode out this beautiful, circular bay. This place is, arguably, the best place in Europe to see the interaction of marine erosion on an alternating sequence of hard and soft rocks. Absolutely spectacular – particularly as we were lucky with amazing weather today!

After that we returned to the vehicles and travelled to a viewpoint of the famous Chesil Beach. This incredible feature is a 20-mile-long beach that connects the Isle of Portland to the mainland, forming a feature known as a tombolo. What’s so extraordinary on Chesil Beach is the longshore drift process. The waves come in at an angle, drive pebbles up the beach, which then fall vertically back down the beach, come up the beach again at an angle with the next waves and fall vertically back, and so they move down the beach. This process sorts all the pebbles along the beach into different sizes. There are pea-sized pebbles at one end of the beach, and fist-sized pebbles at the other end of the beach.

We concluded the day’s touring with our arrival in the geologically famous town of Lyme Regis, where we spent the next two nights. First of all, we made our way along Monmouth Beach and reached the “ammonite pavement”. These are in Lower Lias rocks, which are the oldest rocks of the Lower Jurassic. There were hundreds of ammonites in a slab, which is truly spectacular and wonderful to see.

We finished the day with a couple of hours of free time to enjoy looking at the many fossil shops and sites of the picturesque coastal town Lyme Regis.

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Day 4: Wednesday 27th April

Today we spent the whole day in Lyme Regis, in the heart of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. We left our hotel on foot and walked down to the Lyme Regis Museum, which is in the very same building where the famous fossilist Mary Anning once lived. At the museum we met Chris Andrew, the museum Learning Officer, who then took us on a guided walk along the beach all the way to Charmouth.

It took us four hours to do this two-mile walk because we stopped all along the way looking for fossils! We started by walking along the modern sea defences which now cover up Church Cliff, the location where Mary Anning found the first ichthyosaur. We then came down onto the beach proper and walked along while Chris explained that fossils are very hard to find at the moment because there have been very few landslips, coupled with a huge number of visitors picking the beaches clean.

However, Chris knew exactly where to look and, in areas where there was a concentration of pyrite, it was possible to find some little pyritized ammonites. He also hugely impressed us with his incredible eye for slightly different looking boulders which for most people look exactly the same. These boulders, called Birchi nodules, came from a particular narrow band within the cliff from which they fall down onto the beach. Chris spotted these nodules from time to time, picked them up, whacked them open and inside would be perfect little ammonites. It was absolutely amazing to walk along with him and to hear everything he was saying.

We reached Charmouth for lunch – slightly later than planned because Chris was so enthusiastic and had so much to tell us! At the cafe there is also a fossil shop and a little museum, or visitor centre, which had many wonderful fossils on display, including an ichthyosaur.

After lunch we shuttled guests back to Lyme Regis by car. When we got to Lyme Regis, we had more free time in the town to look at fossil shops and museums, before heading to the museum again in the late afternoon, to meet Chris again. He gave us another wonderful talk all about the fossils of Lyme Regis and a guided tour of the museum’s exhibition.

That completed our fabulous day in Lyme Regis – we all learned so much! A huge thank you to Chris from the Lyme Regis Museum.

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Day 5: Thursday 28th April

Today we left Lyme Regis and the Jurassic World Heritage Site to travel north. We briefly passed through the County of Devon, which is the type area for the Devonian. This is something we revisited later in the tour.

Our first stop of the day was an important outcrop near the town of Frome called Vallis Vale. This is one of Britain’s most classic rock outcrops, with a striking angular unconformity. There is a horizontally bedded Jurassic Inferior Oolite limestone, which is light orange in color, lying on top of Carboniferous limestone, which is steeply tilted. This shows how the Carboniferous limestone was once laid down flat and was then folded and eroded. Later, the Jurassic sediments were deposited on top. This unconformity was first described by Conybeare and Buckland, just some 40 years after James Hutton first identified his famous unconformity in Scotland. It is generally felt that the Vallis Vale unconformity is second only in importance to Hutton’s in the establishment of geological science in Britain. A fabulous site for the history of geology.

After the stop at Vallis Vale, we continued our journey, reaching the outskirts of the city of Bath. Before we reached the city itself, we stopped at a tiny little village called Combe Hay, some four miles south of Bath. This area will forever be associated with William Smith who is known as the father of English geology. One of the things we looked at was a now-dry, derelict flight of locks on the disused Somersetshire Coal Canal. These locks are relevant to our geological story as William Smith was a surveyor on the canal, and as he observed the digging to make these 12 locks, he saw that the labourers were digging through the strata, the layers of rock. This allowed him to understand how the different layers appeared on top of each other and gave him the inspiration to produce the world’s first ever geological map: a geological map of Bath. Later, he worked on another canal in the area and he observed that those strata matched up. He decided to travel around greater areas of England and Wales to map the strata there as well, which resulted in his production of the first ever geological map of England and Wales.

A short distance away, our next stop was the hamlet of Tucking Mill. Here we saw the house where William Smith used to live. Although there is a plaque on the wall of a house, it is, in fact, on the wall of the wrong house! William Smith lived in the house next door to the house with the plaque! After this, we continued on to Brassknocker Basin, which is at the end of a short, restored section of the Somerset Coal Canal. Nearby, the historic Dundas Aqueduct carries the Kennet & Avon Canal over the River Avon. The café at the basin was our lunch stop.

After lunch, we drove into the heart of the city of Bath itself. At 29 Great Pulteney Street we saw the house where William Smith dictated his ‘Order of Strata…’ in 1799, making this the place where the science of stratigraphy was first born. This is commemorated with a plaque on the wall. As well as seeing this famous property, we also enjoyed a number of very beautiful, grand Georgian streets built from Bath limestone. In fact, the whole city is made from Bath Jurassic limestone and it is a UNESCO Global World Heritage Site because of this wonderful Georgian architecture.

Within the city we drove up onto a hill called the Bath Lookout where we could look down on the whole city centre and get a much better view of the beautiful buildings. We also got a distant view of the Roman Baths. These baths represent Britain’s very best geothermal feature. The Mendip Hills are a big anticline fold and from there, the rock layers descend in a syncline and start to ascend again under Bath. So, if rain falls in the Mendip Hills, it trickles down, follows the bedding planes down to depth and then starts to come back up to the surface underneath Bath as 40°C warm water. This water was first identified by early Celtic tribes and they had a god, called Sulis, who was believed to have lived in these waters. When the Romans arrived in 70AD, they thought this was a fabulous place too, and building their baths in this special location. They merged their god Minerva, with the Celtic god Sulis. A new god, Sulis-Minerva, who lived in these baths, was formed. As well as being a UNESCO Global World Heritage Site for its Georgian architecture, Bath is also a World Heritage Site for its baths, as part of The Great Spa Towns of Europe inscription. It was inscribed for the latter in 2021, making it a rare double-nominated World Heritage Site!

Leaving Bath, we we drove over the Mendip Hills and passed through some hamlets where coal had been produced for the Coal Canal. We passed further over the top of the Mendip Hills and arrived in a spectacular gorge which had been eroded out in a peri-glacial times. It’s a spectacular limestone gorge called the Cheddar Gorge. We parked at the base of the gorge and entered Gough’s Cave. In Gough’s Cave we visited the place where Cheddar Man was discovered. Cheddar Man is the oldest complete human skeleton ever to be found in Britain: it is 10,000 years old. We saw where that skeleton lay as well as beautiful stalactites, stalagmites, and flowstones. It culminated with the end chamber called Diamond Cavern, which is spectacularly beautiful.

We even saw cheddar cheese maturing within the cave! Cheddar is the type area for cheddar cheese and it’s where it originated, even though it is now made all over the world in the same style as the original cheese made in Cheddar. At the end of the tour many of our guests bought some cheddar cheese at the gift shop!

Leaving Somerset, we drove to Cardiff, the capital of Wales, where we spent two nights. On our way to Cardiff we crossed over the Prince of Wales Bridge, a huge 2-mile-long bridge crossing over the Severn Estuary. With 14 meters of tide, the Severn Estuary has the second highest tidal range anywhere in the world.

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Day 6: Friday 29th April

Today we woke up in Cardiff, the capital of Wales, and our first stop was at Lavernock Point. Not only is this the most southern point in Wales, but it is also very interesting geologically because here the boundary between the Triassic and Jurassic period is visible. In the lowest Jurassic rocks a dinosaur fossil was found a few years ago, which has been named the Dracoraptor. This dinosaur can be seen in the National Museum in Cardiff. While we were looking at the site where the dinosaur was found, we noticed a strange looking fossil in one of the rock slabs. It looked very much like a rib, and we thought that perhaps, just maybe, it was a rib of the dinosaur just lying there. We took pictures of it and then carried on and walking down the coast, finding fossils along the way and seeing marine Jurassic rocks transitioning through Triassic-aged lake sediments until they reached a deep-red Triassic desert sandstone.

When we came back to Lavernock Point, we saw two men digging at that rib bone which we had noticed before. We went over and chatted to them. It turned out that it was indeed a dinosaur rib bone from Dracoraptor! So, we can feel really pleased with ourselves, as technically, we actually found a dinosaur rib bone! They said they’d known about it for a few months and had been meaning to come and extract it – and they finally did.

After this excitement, we moved on to a nearby site which has a number of Triassic-aged dinosaur footprints. Tracks from three different dinosaurs were present: a small theropod dinosaur which resembled Coelophysis, a larger, four-toed dinosaur perhaps a Plateosaurus; and another three-toed dinosaur. We saw many tracks but, sadly, they aren’t as numerous as they have been in the past, because many of them have been stolen. Still, there was a good many for us to see and it was also very interesting place to see the paleoenvironment of the Triassic, with the various lake and river deposits present.

The final stop of the morning was at Barry Island where we came across the Triassic rocks again. In the Triassic rocks we found “potato stones”. These are nodules of gypsum that was later replaced by calcite. In addition, we found Carboniferous rock full of crinoid fossils. Most spectacularly of all, we saw steps in this Carboniferous rock and on each of these steps, Triassic rock lay on top. These were unconformities with Triassic rock on top of the Carboniferous rock. The reason why the Carboniferous rock was in steps is because these steps represented former shorelines of an ancient lake.

We then returned to Cardiff where we had a free afternoon. Some guests went to the National Museum where they saw the Dracoraptor dinosaur fossil and more dinosaur trackways. Others went to Cardiff Castle, or simply enjoyed strolling around the city.

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Day 7: Saturday 30th April

This morning we left Cardiff and travelled up to Blaenavon World Heritage Site, stopping first at the historic ironworks, built in 1786. One of the key events at this site was a breakthrough experiment in 1878 which resulted in the making of steel from low quality iron ore for the first time, using a Bessemer Converter. James’ own great-great-grandfather was involved in that momentous discovery, as he was General Manager of the works at the time.

Just a short hop away was our next stop, the Big Pit, home of the National Coal Museum of Wales. One of the highlights of this visit was an underground tour, led by a former miner who shared a lot of first-hand experiences and really conveyed to us how hard mining was. And, of course, we got to see coal in situ underground. There was another great exhibit which had a mock-up of what it’s like to go underground in a coal mine with some more modern mining tools on display. At the top of the site stands the former Miners’ Baths building, which also now houses a good little geology museum which we spent some time in.

We left after lunch and stopped on a nearby hilltop, where we could see three different units which together make up the type Carboniferous rocks. These are coal measures (which also contain iron stones), millstone grit and limestone.

As we left the area, we drove through the Clydach Gorge, viewing these rock types again from the vehicle window as we passed by. We drove through the town of Merthyr Tydfil, where we spotted the remains of more iron works.

Our next stop was a site called Dinas Rock and Bwa Maen Fold. This is a site where we saw a magnificent fold in the Carboniferous limestone. As this fold formed in the Variscan Orogeny and folded around, it was broken up by a fault. The beautiful fault occurred because it might have been a reactivation of an ancient fault. Other things to see at this stop included a fault, some fossils, entrances to former silica mines, and even a story about King Arthur’s army being asleep in the caves!

Moving on from Dinas Rock, we headed into the heart of the Brecon Beacons National Park, stopping first at a site where we looked at Devonian Old Red Sandstone that had formed in ancient river channels. We then moved on to a wonderful viewpoint where we had an overview of all four mountain ranges of the Brecon Beacons National Park: the Black Mountains, the Brecon Beacons, Fforest Fawr and the Black Mountain Range. It was possible to see that evidence that glaciers had eroded this landscape.

We continued driving through the National Park to town of Llandovery, which lends its name to the Llandovery epoch, a series of the Silurian period. We then carried on our journey, leaving the Brecon Beacons National Park, before reaching a pub in the village of Beulah, where we had supper before arriving at our hotel near Builth Wells.

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Day 8: Sunday 1st May

The first stop of the day was an extraordinary fossil site; a quarry where many trilobites have been found. These Ordovician-aged trilobites lived in the waters around an Ordovician volcano. In fact, on our way to this first site, we passed the volcanic rock of the volcano which was quarried. The actual site that we got to was very remote and but once we arrived, we were lucky enough to spend two hours there, splitting our own rocks and finding our own trilobites. A fantastic experience for any fossil fan!

Leaving the trilobite quarry, we travelled on to an area known as the Elan Valley. This is a place where several dams and reservoirs were constructed, starting in 1893, to provide water for the city of Birmingham. We stopped at the first of these dams, Caban Coch, as there is a quarry which was used to provide building stone for the dam just adjacent to it. This rock was very, very interesting as it is a beautiful, Silurian-aged conglomerate which formed when submarine landslides poured into a submarine canyon in the Llandovery epoch (Silurian).

We had lunch at the Elan Valley Visitor Centre and enjoyed the exhibition there, which provided further information about the construction of the dams. After lunch, we had a very pleasant scenic drive past the reservoirs and dams. On leaving the dams, our drive took us through the very interior of mid-Wales through the Cambrian Mountains. Because this area is so sparsely populated, it is sometimes known as the “green desert of Wales”.

Our drive through this area took us to a former lead mine at Cwmystwyth. This non-ferrous metal mine (primarily silver, lead and zinc) had been worked from the Roman period until the 20th century. At the mine site, we went through the tailings from the mine and cracked open rock fragments to find our own samples of galena and chalcopyrite.

After this stop, we continued our journey and drove up through mid-Wales until we reached a site where we stopped for a comfort break and where a wooden toll bridge crossed a river. From here, we had views of the southern part of an area known as the Harlech Dome. We spotted the Clogau gold mine distantly on the hillside. The Clogau gold mine is owned by the British Royal family and it’s where the gold for the crown jewels comes from.

Crossing the wooden toll bridge, we continued around the southern part of the Harlech Dome and stopped in the town of Barmouth; we had now entered the type area of the Cambrian. Cambria is the Latin name for Wales. On the hillside we saw the complete upper stratigraphy of the Cambrian and many different rock units of Cambrian age. Looking over the river estuary we saw, even though it was quite cloudy, the mountain Cadair Idris, which is formed from an Ordovician sill.

Continuing up the coast, we arrived at the town of Harlech and parked on the beach for views of beautiful Harlech Castle, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We noted that the rock beneath our feet was Miocene in age – this gave us a rock from the Neogene period, which is important because this tour has a stop in every geological period since the Precambrian.

We then headed off, driving through the village of Tremadog. The village lends its name to the Tremadocian stage of the Lower Ordovician. As we passed through, we noted a quarry which contained rocks from this time period. Finally, we arrived in the town of Caernarfon, our base for the next two nights.

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Day 9: Monday 2nd May

Starting the day in Caernarfon, we set off for our first stop of the day at the Great Orme near Llandudno. The Great Orme is a mountain of limestone and dolomite which was named by Vikings who, when they saw these headlands, thought that it resembled a giant sea serpent, snake or worm; the word for “worm” in the Viking language was “orme”. Our first stop on the Great Orme was a spectacular site called the Great Orme Mines, the largest prehistoric mine anywhere on Earth. This site was only discovered in 1987 but is actually a 4,000-year-old copper mine. The early people went into this mine and mined away the malachite using just antlers and stone tools. We walked into the very same tunnels that they mined – a really fabulous experience and great to learn about!

After the excitement of the mine visit, we then drove around a scenic road called Marine Drive on the Great Orme, which gave us a closer look at the Carboniferous limestone and dolomite, before coming down to a place where we had very impressive views of Conwy Castle. Conwy Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Leaving mainland Wales, we then drove onto the Isle of Anglesey and stopped in the famous town of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyllllantysiliogogogoch. It’s the longest place name in Europe and the longest place name in Wales. We visited the train station here and had a photo opportunity with the name sign! Great fun!

We had to hoped to visit some blueschist rocks which exist on a former plate boundary, but unfortunately, the car park for the site had been closed, so we couldn’t visit on this occasion.

Heading back to Caernarfon, we were able to enjoy a free afternoon in the picturesque walled town. Most people visited the mighty Caernarfon Castle, which along with Harlech Castle and Conwy Castle, is part of the UNESCO Global World Heritage Site and a place of great historical importance.

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Day 10: Tuesday 3rd May

Today we headed up into the Snowdonia National Park and our first stop of the day was the chance to examine an Ediacaran-aged (Precambrian) tuff at the roadside. Tuff is a rock that forms out of an ash fall from a volcano. Whilst at this stop, we also had a view over Llyn Padarn, or Lake Padarn, and we were overlooking a location where we could see the lower Cambrian stratigraphy.

Next, we headed to Dolbadarn Castle. This was a fantastic stop because, at the foot of the castle, we were able to examine Cambrian-aged slates and then, at the top of the castle, we had great views of the Dinorwig Slate Quarry. Dinorwig is one of the largest slate quarries of the North Wales Slate Mines UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is one of the newest World Heritage Sites, inscribed just last year (2021). The reason why the slate exists there and has metamorphosed is because an Ordovician volcano (Snowdon) had metamorphosed the mudstone.

Dolbadarn Castle itself was fantastic; built in 1220-1230s by Welsh Prince Llywelyn the Great, it is a rare example of a castle built by a Welsh prince rather than an English king or lord. Most of the castles in Wales were built by the English.

We continued up the Nant Peris Valley and stopped at a roadside where we saw very interesting boulders. These are the Cromlech Boulders, which are made from explosive volcanic breccia – pieces of material that were erupted out of a powerful eruption in the Ordovician. These rocks are exactly the same age as the summit of Snowdon, so it gave us a good chance to examine the rock type that Wales’ most famous mountain is made from.

Speaking of Snowdon, which is called Yr Wyddfa in Welsh, our next stop was a wonderful view where we could see the summit of the mountain itself, including the world-famous horseshoe which is a wonderful hike to reach to summit.

After this stop we journeyed on to Llyn Ogwen; here we learned that Charles Darwin had visited the site and found boulders in the area. He realized that they must have been carried by ice and noticed that the shape of the mountains had been sculpted by ice. This was the first time that anyone had suggested that there had been an ice age. While we were here, we looked under the modern road bridge on the A5 trunk road to see a Roman bridge, which was quite amazing. Nearby was also a huge number of brachiopod fossils, which had been killed by volcanic ash that had fallen upon them.

Leaving Llyn Ogwen, we drove for about an hour to reach the town of Bala where we had lunch at the sailing club next to the lake. After this, we headed up to a nearby location called Gelli Grin, an extraordinary place due to it containing a fossiliferous limestone. This is the only place where the Victorian geologist Adam Sedgwick could find fossils in his Cambrian system, making it an incredibly important location to him. What is very interesting is that later his former friend, a geologist named Roderick Murchison, realized that the fossils Sedgwick had found were the same as the fossils he had found in Shropshire. He claimed that these rocks were not Cambrian but Silurian. The two men had a massive falling out over this story which was not resolved until after their deaths. Eventually, it was resolved by the forming of the Ordovician period and the rocks that we saw there were from this period.

Our final stop of the day was Wales’s highest waterfall: the magnificent Pistyll Rhaedr. It flows over a hard band of felsic Ordovician-age tuff, while the lower part of the waterfall is composed of softer, deep-water Ordovician-aged mudstones. It’s the differential weathering of the hard and soft rocks which give rise to the waterfall.

Finally, we arrived at our hotel for the night in the town of Shrewsbury, the birthplace of Charles Darwin. The accommodation was a Charles Darwin-themed bed and breakfast, where we all had Charles Darwin themed rooms – a great way to end of day of geologising!

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Day 11: Wednesday 4th May

Today was the final touring day of our England and Wales geological tour – and what a day it was! The morning was spent in an incredibly geodiverse area, in fact, it’s arguably the most geodiverse 100 km² of geology anywhere in the world. In this area, centered around Telford, rocks from almost every age period are represented as well as many structures.

Our first stop was in a quarry called the Ercall Quarry where we saw the oldest rock of the trip: Precambrian rock. Resting unconformably on this Precambrian rock were Cambrian beach deposits with beautiful ripples. The Precambrian rock is exposed at the surface because of a fault that runs through the area and this marks the boundary between two Precambrian terrains, two pieces of land, which came together in the Precambrian to form Britain.

After this amazing quarry we traveled on to Ironbridge, which is a UNESCO Global World Heritage Site. It is also said to be the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. It has also been voted by the Geological Society of London as the second most popular geosite in Britain. Its popularity is down to the enormous number of rocks, as well as the world’s oldest metal bridge, which was built in 1781. During our stop at the site, we saw some old iron furnaces and stood on the famous metal bridge.

The next stop was at Lavington’s Hole, where we found Permian-aged rocks. This was the first time on this tour that we had seen Permian rocks, completing the complete geologic sequence. These Permian rocks were deposited in sand dunes in a desert environment. As well as the geological interest here, there is also historical interest; the Royalists dug a hole in this soft Permian sandstone underneath Bridgnorth Castle in order to blow it up during the English Civil War, back in 1646.

Wenlock Edge, the next stop on our itinerary, is one of Britain’s most important geosites. It is an 18-mile-long limestone escarpment that runs from Ironbridge to Craven Arms. It demonstrates the best example of reef development during the Silurian in Britain and also lends its name to the Wenlock epoch of the Silurian period. There are two different Wenlock stages with their international global stratotypes in the area. We spent an hour and a half on Wenlock Edge looking at the structure of the reef and finding our own fossils. Our next stop on Wenlock Edge afforded us a view out onto Caer Caradoc, a mountain formed of Precambrian rock lying on the fault line mentioned earlier. It also has Ordovician-aged sediments on the side of it and is the type area for the Caradoc epoch of the Ordovician. It is rumored that during the Roman invasion of Britain, on the summit of Caer Caradoc, the British King Caradoc led an army of Ordovices and Siluries against the Roman invasion. These tribes, the Silures and Ordovices tribes, gave their name to the Ordovician and Silurian periods.

After Wenlock Edge, we moved on to another very important site in the Onny Valley. Here we saw an unconformity between Caradoc-aged (Ordovician) rocks and Llandovery-aged (Silurian) rocks. This unconformity was discovered in 1854 and it shows that there is a time gap between what was, at the time, considered to be Murchinson’s Lower and Upper Silurian period. This led to the establishment of the Ordovician period.

Our final stop of the day, and of the tour, was yet another very important historical geological stop – Ludlow. Ludlow, like Wenlock, also gives its name to an epoch of the Silurian. We visited the famous Ludlow Bone Bed, which was thought to be the boundary between the Silurian and the Devonian. The Ludlow Bone Bed is a layer full of little fossil fish bones and scales. Finally, we stopped at Ludford Corner, which is where Murchison put his boundary between the Silurian and the Devonian.

Having enjoyed the site at Ludford Corner and stopped at the nearby pub to have a drink and to reflect on the highlights of a great trip. After this, we continued on to Hereford, where we spent a final night.

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Day 12: Thursday 5th May

After a hearty breakfast at The Green Dragon Hotel in Hereford, we said our goodbyes and everybody headed off for their next destination – some headed home and others continued travelling within the UK. It has been a great trip, with a great group of people!


A huge thank you to the GeoWorld Travel group who join us on this trip – good company, great chat and fun memories!

A massive thank you also to Daniela Dägele who helped us to produce this blog post, working on the transcription and wording. Daniela is collaborating with GeoWorld Travel on our social media offering, but she also has her own website (https://www.earthyme.de/) and learning platform (www.earthyuniversity.com) Be sure to check it out!

We would also like to thank Feedspot for including us in their Top 200 Travel blogs list and their Top 30 Geology blogs list


  1. Hi – you mention that at Lavernock point there were 2 men digging out a dinosaur rib bone. Just wondering if they were from the museum collecting the bone for preservation and research or just some unscupulous fossil hunters goping to sell it on regardless of its potential scientific importance …..I ask because i know there has been a lot of ‘geo vandalism’ in this area with some important dino footprints being hacked out by unscrupulous collectors !

    1. Hi – thank you for your comment about the dinosaur rib bone. We did speak to the gentlemen but we can’t recall their names. They were locals from Cardiff and were clearly fossil enthusiasts who knew people at the museum, but we don’t believe that they were actually from the museum. They certainly gave us the impression that they were bona fide collectors who are in touch with the museum about their finds. We certainly share your concern about the geovandalism and it has been disappointing to see how some of the footprints in the area have been removed.

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