Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Fieldwork in the Borders Region

A couple of weeks ago, Jenny and I went up to the Borders Region to do some more fieldwork in connection with her project.  Also with us were her colleagues, Ket and Tim.  Tim had chosen that week for its lowest tides, exposing the maximum amount of the rock beds we are interested in, but we knew before going up there it was going to be cold, with predictions of snow and easterly winds, so we packed our thermals and I left the wet suit at home.

Tim had booked us a self-catering cottage a little west of Berwick upon Tweed and that proved very comfortable and quite convenient for the various localities we planned to visit, but not all went to plan.

As expected, it was very cold, made worse by the stiff easterly wind, and we had snow flurries every day.  Worse, however, was the low pressure weather system and the on-shore wind, which combined to stop the sea receding anything like as far as we had hoped, and preventing us from getting anywhere near some of the critical beds.  We just cursed and picked away at the edges.

Sarah Davies and Janet Sherwin came up from Leicester so that Tim could show them the rocks in Coquetdale, which will form the basis of Janet's MPhil, which she will start in October, I think.  Dave Millward from the BGS in Edinburgh came down for the day and drove them in a BGS 4x4 as I think some of the places they went would have been tricky in an ordinary car.  Jenny, Ket and I looked at the snow blowing past our cottage and decided that discretion was the better part of valour.  We stayed put!  We would probably have frozen on the foreshore at Burnmouth, but the rest of them had quite a nice day in Coquetdale as the valley sheltered them from the wind.

One thing I found very frustrating about one of the beds we could get to was that we could not relate the photographs I took in October to what we could see on the ground this time.  I'd not included enough of the surrounding rocks in each photograph, so although I had been able to put together a composite photograph showing the bed, with arrows indicating where the various fossils had come from, it was impossible to align this properly with the rocks on the foreshore. This was particularly tough because almost all the bones we've found have been disarticulated, apart from a section of fin, but we can't pin down where exactly the fin came from!  And it's all my fault for not including enough landmarks in my photographs.

Dave Millward came down again from Edinburgh on Friday to show us the site where the borehole will be drilled.  The farmer has cleared an area of concrete which he will be tearing up some time soon in order to erect a new barn, so he has no problems with our using the platform for the drilling rig for the next few weeks, and the borehole contractors are happy because they don't have to do anything much to prepare the site.

By the end of the week we really hadn't achieved very much, but given the amount of grief other parts of the country were getting from deep snow drifts, we were just grateful to get home uneventfully on Saturday!

So here's a picture of an interesting rock we found on the foreshore at Burnmouth.  Don't know anything about it, but thought it looked interesting.  We call it the Helmet.  It's about a metre high.

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