Here’s a far better way to find out about the earth: clambering around the windswept rocky coastline of Hartland Quay with a bunch of congenial friends and a brilliant teacher.
We were taking part in one of the Devon Wildlife Trust walks, led by geologist, Paul Madgett. At last I have a bit of an idea of how those alternating layers of sandstone and shale were laid down, and how they became folded into the dramatic formations we see today.
Paul kept us rivetted, as he described processes of erosion and deposition that have been going on for hundreds of millions of years. I was astonished to hear of ancient earthquakes sending great pulses of earth material flowing outwards – and as it slowed down, the sand would have sunk to the bottom first, eventually becoming the sandstone layer, whilst the mud would have stayed in solution longer, swirling around and eventually settling into the shale layers. Then everything awaited the next earth shock, which could be hundreds of years later – and the whole process would begin again.
The up-ended, folded rock formations were caused by… erm… something to do with Plate Tectonics.
I would love to tell you more, but here are some nice pictures instead.