Geologists' Association excursions

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At Newlands Corner. Motor excursion in Surrey, June 6th 1914.
Front cover of the Wyley History of the Geologists’ Association


From: The Wyley History of the Geologists’ Association in the 50 years 1958 to 2008 by Bernard Elgey Leake, Arthur Clive Bishop and Richard John Howarth


A major feature of the GA’s activities has always been a full programme of field excursions, both day trips and longer residential excursions. The first GA excursion was to Folkestone under the guidance of the then President, the Rev. Thomas Wiltshire (1826–1902) and Prof. James Tennant (1808–1881), travelling by the South-Eastern Railway Company. The Chalk, the Upper and Lower Greensand and the Gault were examined and a considerable number of characteristic fossils obtained (The Athenaeum, No. 1694, April 14th 1860). A day excursion took place during early April 1960, to celebrate the centenary of this first GA excursion.

Recent excursions[edit]

During the past 50 years as air travel has become progressively easier, excursions have ventured further and further across the globe. In addition, visits to research laboratories, field stations, Universities, the Geological and Soil Surveys, and even special laboratory classes, have all been undertaken. Thus in 1961, Saturday demonstrations took place at the Imperial Marble Works on January 7th, at Bedford College on igneous and metamorphic rocks on Saturday February 4th and on ore minerals at the Royal School of Mines on February 25th. While the ~1,000 venues visited over the 50 years reviewed are not listed, it must be emphasised that excursions are a major GA activity and 94% of the respondents to a 1994 membership survey stated they had bought and used at least one GA Excursion Guide. Thus, even in 1978 (a difficult year as explained above), 22 field meetings took place and this was a typical annual number.

In 1964, Members were offered long excursions to the Paris Basin in March, West Somerset and NE Devonshire in May, South Wales in July and Donegal in September, with shorter excursions to Upnor and Herne Bay in Kent, the Weald of East Sussex, Thanet and Pegwell Bay Kent, the Cretaceous and Jurassic of Norfolk, the Bristol District, Pebble Gravels near Hatfield and Bishop’s Stortford, Shoreham, Well Hill and Lullingstone, Blue Bell Hill and Aylesford, Walton-on-the-Naze, Essex, Lloyd Park, Addington Hills and Croham Hurst.

By 1994–5, Members were offered ‘overseas’ excursions to Etruria, Italy; Cyprus; Las Palma, Canary Islands; Northern France and the Paris Basin; Arizona; Western USA; Languedoc, France; Auvergne; Outer Hebrides (sic.); Indonesia; Iceland; Northern Spain; Southern Alaska; Messel, Solnhofen, Holzmaden, Ries Crater, Germany; Malta; Central Aegean; Sicily and the Liparis; Caen, Normandy; New Zealand and Hawaii; Oman and finally, Australia. A comparable number of day, weekend or longer excursions within the UK, especially in southern England to see geology in the field, were normal. In addition, other ‘excursions’ included churchyards, church building stones (e.g. Potter 2007) and city walks to see building stones, Nature Reserves, museums, weekend courses (such as on ‘Elementary Sedimentology’ at the King’s College Field Centre at Rogate, Sussex in 1975 and an ‘Introduction to Oceanography’ at Swansea University College in 1974), visits to the Kent Coalfield; the Building Research Station, Garston, near Watford; Hunting Surveys Ltd, Borehamwood; marbles in Westminster Abbey; Shell Research Laboratories, Thornton; Water Research Centre, Marlow; the Industrial Petrology Research Unit, Queen Mary College, London; the London Brick Co., Stewartby; and Practical Demonstrations, such as on Saturdays at the Imperial Marble Works, then on igneous and metamorphic rocks at Bedford College, and then ore minerals at the Royal School of Mines, London, all in early 1961, while in 1982 geophysical techniques were demonstrated, to cite only a few activities.

Some excursions were frequently repeated as the demand for them was maintained, especially to places in southern Britain, but also to some overseas venues such as North Africa, to which area Moody has, over 35 years, repeatedly led extremely popular excursions. His record of leading GA excursions at home (e.g. Isle of Sheppey, October 29th 1967; Circular 696) and abroad is unsurpassed, starting with Morocco in 1976, then NE Spain in 1979, Tunisia in 1980, 1998 and 2002, Massif Central in France in 1981, Kenya in 1983, a Trans-Saharan trip from Niamey, Niger through Algeria to Tunis in 1987, the United States of America, including Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico in 1999, New Zealand in 2001, Nafusa and Cyrenaica, Libya in 2008 and thereafter. He was also Field Meeting Secretary 1982–5, but the longest-serving Field Meeting Secretary in the years considered (Appendix II) was (James) Basil George Ainsley (1906–1986), 1961–72.

The PGA, the Circular and the GA Magazine contain numerous accounts of excursions, and they should be consulted for more details of earlier field meetings. Green (1989) has reviewed past reports in the PGA of Field Meetings and Robinson (1989) has reproduced selected details of certain Field Meetings back to 1877. Special GA Field Geology excursions for Science teachers to venues they could later take their pupils to, as part of the National Science Curriculum, were run in 1990 (Circular 878).