Geology of the Yorkshire Dales

Pen-y-Ghent (image from Wikimedia Commons)

The PowerPoint slides for my University of York Centre for Lifelong Learning day class on the ‘Geology of the Yorkshire Dales’ can be downloaded here:

Part 1 (Intro/Early Palaeozoic): 2016GYD_1Intro_SML

Part 2 (Early Carboniferous): 2016GYD_2LowerCarb_SML

Part 3 (Late Carboniferous): 2016GYD_3UpperCarb_SML

Part 4 (Quaternary): 2016GYD_4Glacial_SML

Useful links

Geology of the Yorkshire Dales National Park (Yorkshire Dales National Park guide)

Geology of the Yorkshire Dales (Out of Oblivion project)

The Geology of the Yorkshire Dales (brief intro)

Yorkshire Dales: Landscape & Geology (Tony Waltham book)

Carboniferous geology of the southern UK (BGS Earthwise)

Yoredale Group, Northern England (BGS Earthwise)


Fossils of the Yorkshire Coast

The PowerPoint slides for my class on February 6th can be downloaded here: 2016_FossilsYorksCoast_SML

Useful links

Fossil hunting in North Yorkshire (UK Fossils Network guide)

Lower Jurassic of Yorkshire (Geological Conservation Review guide)

Middle Jurassic of Yorkshire (Geological Conservation Review guide)

Upper Jurassic of Yorkshire (Geological Conservation Review guide)

Yorkshire’s Jurassic Park (National Trust)

Fossils & Geology (Whitby Museum)

Fossils of the Whitby Coast: A Photographic Guide (Dean M. Lomax)

Geology & Palaeontology of Staithes (Ian M. West, Southampton University)

An Introduction to Shales and Fracking


Upper Jurassic clay- and carbonate-rich black shales, Kimmeridge, Dorset.

The slides from my York Lifelong Learning presentation on Dec. 12th can be downloaded here as a PowerPoint file: 2015_Intro_ShalesFracking_SML.

Useful links

UK & Europe

ReFINE: Researching Fracking. ReFINE is the leading international fracking research consortium, led jointly by Newcastle University and Durham University. The website includes all the group’s scientific papers, research briefs, and newsletters.

Shale Gas – British Geological Survey website with lots of information about their fracking research activities. The BGS is also building up baseline data on UK groundwater methane.

From national to fracktional: will fracking come to Britain’s national parks? A policy briefing I wrote for the Durham Energy Institute.

Whatever Happened to the Great European Fracking Boom? An article I wrote for The Conversation.

North America

US Environmental Protection Agency report on fracking and its potential impacts on drinking water resources. Scientific papers published by the EPA for this report can be viewed here.

US Energy Information Administration (EIA) – World Shale Resource Assessments.

FracFocus – US fracking chemical disclosure registry.

US Geological Survey oil shale research.

Mud & Shales

Indiana University Shale Research Lab, led by Dr Jurgen Schieber, who conducts a lot of very interesting research into how shales form.

More Gaps Than Shale, a paper by João Trabucho-Alexandre on how mudstones form, and how complete mudstone successions are. With perhaps the best abstract in a geological paper: “Ths wht th fn-grnd mrine sdmtry rcrd rlly lks like.”

The 2015 global census of sea floor sediments, by Adriana Dutkiewicz and colleagues, shows just how fine-grained the oceans are. You can explore the globe in their amazing, interactive 3-D model!

The Scale of the Universe – if you’ve ever wondered just how small a clay particle (or pretty much anything else, for that matter) Scale of the Universe is an amazing website to explore.


Theogeology is an exciting new academic discipline, focussed on trying to understand what building stones old churches were made from, particularly in the Ryedale and Wolds regions of North and East Yorkshire.

Weaverthorpe and the Wolds, Ryedale, North Yorkshire.

It began a few months ago, when buildings archaeologist Dav Smith, a dilettante geologist (myself), and a couple of our friends, went out onto The Street in the November rain.

There are some smashing old churches along that Roman road, but most of them were rebuilt in the 19th Century. For his doctoral thesis, Dav worked on ascertaining what the original churches would have looked like, and he asked me to help with the identification of their building stones.

All Saints, Appleton-le-Street, North Yorkshire.

As is my wont, I made some wild and ill-informed speculations about the Upper Jurassic geology of the area, and tried to identify the religious rocks in question. I wasn’t of great use, but we all agreed that theogeology a very pleasant pursuit.

So, when I received a vaguely similar enquiry from Carolyn Twomey, who is researching the Norman fonts of Britain and wanted to visit the north-east Yorkshire ‘group‘ of Norman fonts to see what they were made of, Dav and I happily agreed to put our theogeological hats back on.

I will reveal what we found in the next blog post…

Professor Herring’s Natural Hystery

He’s not a real professor, he’s not a real herring, but Professor Herring’s #NaturalHystery is really happening this summer, and will be a really different tour of York!


Say hello to Professor Herring!

From volcanoes and cholera to unicorns and Patagonians, the (mostly) scientific tales of the city will be revealed in this unique Festival of Ideas event, kindly supported by the Holbeck Trust innovation fund.

Professor Herring will introduce participants to many strange and interesting characters as we meander around the city centre. Are their tales all true though?

What lies beneath these streets?

Find out on Sunday June 14th…!


(P.S. Unlike most guided tours of York, this event is free, and if we see any ghosts all participants will get their money back.)

Geological History of Britain (2015)

William Smith’s 1815 geological map of England and Wales.

The PowerPoint slides for my 2015 one-day course on the Geological History of Britain can be downloaded here:

1. Introduction: 2015_GHB_Part1

2. Cainozoic: 2015_GHB_Part2

3. Mesozoic: 2015_GHB_Part3

4. Palaeozoic: 2015_GHB_Part4

5. Proterozoic & Archaean: 2015_GHB_Part5

To view the files I produced for my 2012 evening class on the Geological History of Britain, which provide more detail on many of the topics introduced here, click the ‘GHB’ tab below this post, or follow this link:

To obtain a copy of the British Geological Survey’s ‘Climate Through Time’ poster, follow this link:

To view the figures from the Geological History of Britain and Ireland book (Woodcock and Strachan 2012), follow this link:

To view the photos and figures from the Geological Conservation Review series of books on British geology, follow this link:

York: A Rocky History

Whilst you’re waiting with anticipation for the audio recording to go live on YouTube, here is a link to the PowerPoint slides for the Lifelong Learning public lecture I gave on Thursday 19th of February:


Upcoming Events:

Sat. 14th March 2015, 9.30am-4.30 pm – A Geological History of Britain, University of York.

Sun. 14th June 2015, 2pm and 3.30 pm – Professor Herring’s Natural Hystery of York. Festival of Ideas, York Museum Gardens.

Fri. 18th-Sun. 20th Sept. 2015 – Yorkshire Fossil Festival, Rotunda Museum, Scarborough.

An Introduction to Fossils


Notes (pdf) for my University of York CLL class “An Introduction to Fossils” on Nov. 29th: 2014_Intro_Fossils

Useful links

The challenges of taxonomy, or why reptiles don’t exist any more (article from The Conversation). – a marvellous and comprehensive website devoted to understanding trilobites.

The Burgess Shale – Cambrian lagerstatte website from the Royal Ontario Museum (including a Virtual Sea Odyssey).

Primeval Predators – the plastic version of the Burgess Shale!

The Palaeontological Association – promoting palaeontology (also with a Facebook page and a Twitter account).

The Micropalaeontological Society – for lovers of smaller fossils.


(N. B. Clicking the tag ‘fossils‘ will also bring up plenty of other links and resources on this website).


Intro To Gcl Maps 8

Time, and other geological maps

Geological time spiral (from Wikimedia Commons)

Week 8 lecture notes (pdf): 2014_IntroGclMaps_8

An aeromagnetic anomaly map of the Humber-Trent region (from the BGS).

The World digital magnetic anomaly map, or WDMAM project.

A gravity anomaly map of the Humber-Trent region (from the BGS).

Overview of gravity anomaly maps and the shape of the Earth (from NASA).

Gravity map traces ocean circulation (BBC News story). For more information on the GOCE research, visit the project website. There is even an online brochure giving ‘New Views Of Dynamic Earth’.

The G-BASE project, providing geochemical maps of Great Britain (from the BGS).

Geochemical maps of the Irish borders (from the Tellus project).

A hydrogeological map of southern Yorkshire, including York (from the BGS).

A geological map of the asteroid Vesta (from the Wired Map Lab).