December 2010

DECEMBER MEETING REPORT

As our December meeting is the last one before Christmas we usually make an effort to go a bit festive, so last Thursday we had mince pies as well as sausage rolls, scones and éclairs with our tea and our president provided us with crackers and chocolates. Despite the cold weather there was a good turnout and after we had got through the routine business we settled down to listen to our speaker, Mrs Sulch, who came to talk to us and show slides on the subject, Geology and Scenery of the British Isles.

She started off with a slide showing the planet at various stages of its history. As we all know by now there is such a thing as Continental Drift. Many millions of years age all the continents formed one big land mass situated somewhere in the region of the south pole. This gradually broke up and the pieces drifted north, becoming more recognizably like the map we know today as time wore on. Australia broke away from Antarctica, India collides with Asia throwing up the Himalayas, Africa collided with Europe and America set off westward opening up the Atlantic. What we sometimes do not realize is that this process is still going on today and the continents are continuing to move at about the rate at which our finger nails grow. America is still on its travels and will eventually cross the Pacific and end up next to Asia. In fact it is believed that eventually the land masses will all come together again and they will end up in the same configuration as when they started. It is thought that this cycle of movement has probably taken place at least three times throughout the planet’s long history.

When it comes to Britain, she told us, the oldest rocks are in the north; in fact Scotland has the second oldest rocks in the world. The area above the Great Glen Fault comes from a completely different place from that south of it. In fact Britain has only been an island since the last ice-age which was ten thousand years ago, a mere blink of an eye in the geological time-scale. She gave us information about vernacular architecture (houses built from local materials), about the effect of climate on rock formation (sandstone is formed in deserts, coal from tropical forests), about millstone grit from which millstones are made and clay areas that give rise to potteries. We heard about fossilized sand dunes, fossils in coal and about coprolites which are fossilized dung, once used for fertilizer. She mentioned Coprolite Street in Ipswich and wondered if the people living there knew that if their road was given its common name it would be a rather crude epithet beginning with s!

Overall she showed how the geology of our country has had a profound effect on the wealth and prosperity of this little island. We all agreed that it had been a very educational and fascinating talk.

V E Bines