Chalk, Chert and Beer: A Day with a Jurassic Coast Ambassador

Kieran SatchellKieran Satchell (shown right) is a recent graduate in animal behavioural biology from the University of Plymouth, near to his home in Ivybridge, Devon. In this blog, Kieran takes us along for an entertaining and informative day out in Beer with Mike Green, one of the Jurassic Coast Trust’s original Ambassadors.

Fishing boat off Beer Head © jurassicphotographic.com

Earlier this year, on a beautiful summer’s day, I had the pleasure of spending the day in the quaint little village of Beer, with one of the founder of the Jurassic Coast Ambassadors programme: Mike Green. After being warmly welcomed as a new ambassador for the Jurassic Coast, Mike kindly invited me to Beer to learn about the geological setting of the Jurassic Coast and where Beer fits into the picture.

Being a palaeontologist with a biological background, geology hasn’t always been my strongest point, so Mike was eager to share with me his knowledge of his home town. Needless to say, he is a fountain of knowledge and one of the few people I have ever met who has blown me away with their incredible passion and knowledge of…well…rocks!

The time was around 10:30am and as we sat with a cup of coffee, we started off by going over the foundations of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site and what makes it so special. I always knew the Jurassic Coast was special but I never comprehended the geological processes which were involved in its fascinating formation. In short, during the early Cretaceous (the final geological time period of the Mesozoic), earth processes and tectonic plate movements shifted the angle in which the previous geological layers of rock rested.

Now, as opposed to Triassic, Jurassic and early Cretaceous sediments resting horizontally, they were tilted to a slant, and resting at an angle. It is because of this process that all three geological formations from the Mesozoic era are exposed along the Jurassic Coast, making it a unique geological location. Jurassic Coast… more like, Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous Coast! However, I don’t think that has quite the same ring to it!

 

Jurassic Coast Ambassador Mike Green with 'Mike's Blocks'
Jurassic Coast Ambassador Mike Green with ‘Mike’s Blocks’.

These demonstrate the tilt which created the Jurassic Coast’s distinctive rock layers and the “Walk Through Time”.

 

Shortly after, Mike and his wife Carol took me down to Beer beach where we hired a boat. From here Mike took me out for a tour of Beer’s coastline in order to teach me about the different geological layers that make up the cliffs on either side of the village. It turns out that the majority of the rocks are from the Cretaceous period, with the cliffs comprised of tough chalk. As we sailed up the coast towards Seaton and its Triassic cliffs, Mike explained how much the beach of Beer has changed since he was a boy. It was incredible to learn that the beach is considerably larger now than it was when he was a child. This is due to the process of the currents bringing in pebbles from further down the coast up to Beer, which can be proven by the “Budleigh buns”, a type of pebble on the beach. These pebbles, as the name implies, are not from Beer, but from nearby Budleigh Salterton, and are carried here by the currents.

Mike is an example of a true naturalist, someone who grew up in a world without technology and took an interest in heritage, learning everything he could through any resources available. Mike became so knowledgeable about the geology of his hometown that the original pioneers who sought to make the Jurassic Coast a World Heritage Site sought him out for his knowledge and expertise. If ever I saw passion for rocks, this man has it, and it was a privilege spending the day learning from him. I hope to emulate his passion and knowledge of the subject in my own exploits as a Jurassic Coast Ambassador.

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