Given the time and the opportunity, I like to take a day off from work and take my camera for a walk. A week or so ago, the camera and I drove to the Somerset coast to visit two geologically interesting beaches: Kilve and St Audrie’s. I fell in love.
It was a familiar love, because I’ve been to this coast before. When I was about 17, a school geology field trip brought me here. The weather was greyer and wetter back then, and my concerns and motivations were very different. I scraped a pass at A-level, but it was close.
Close shaves aside, I’d always loved rocks and the shapes they make in the landscape (what geographers call “geomorphology”). More than anything else, I love the idea of visiting a place – a place like Kilve, which is perfect for it – looking at the rocks and the shapes around me, and trying to figure out: “What on earth happened here? What multi-million-year processes took place, and in what order, to make this beach look like this, right now?”
St Audrie’s is a few miles further west than Kilve. Not as famous, but just as fascinating and I’d suggest more interesting to explore. There’s a gorgeous waterfall there, trickling down over the cliff. At low tide, that stream glugs down towards the sea through a channel of rock layers. Give it a few million more years, and that will be a river valley, perhaps with sedimentary evidence of today’s beach folded and faulted in the hills above. Maybe.
I could spend hours here. Days. I shall return. I want to find more fossils. I want to chill out below that waterfall. I want to spread out my picnic rug, lie flat on an outcrop, and listen to the rocks grinding through their billion-year lives.
“We remember when you were here as a teenager,” they’ll whisper. “You’re right. It was greyer and wetter back then.”