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Museum Expeditions & Field Trips - 2018

This year's programme of visits was mainly geared to seeking out venues that are suitable for children (up to about the age of 12 or so) that have connections with geology - particularly dinosaurs.

Message from Sysop:
To those serious rock hounds amongst you looking for places to visit I do apologise. The Curator (who organises all the field trips) now has three grand-children! Normal service will be resumed a) when he can claw back some time for himself or b) when his grand-kids have all lost interest in dinosaurs!


DINOSAURS IN THE WILD, GREENWICH PENINSULAR, LONDON - FEBRUARY 2018
Event Logo
Event Logo
   Chronotex Logo
Chronotex Logo
Posters around the Reception
Posters around the Reception
   Posters around the Reception
Posters around the Reception

If you liked the TV series Terra Nova (where humans go back in time to the Cretaceous Period) then this may be the closest you could ever get to being an extra in the programme. It is an immersive theme-park styled experience where you are taken back in time 67 million years to a research centre that has been set up to study living dinosaurs in their natural habitat - called Timebase 67. The background information displayed is very plausible with a timeline showing the history and the people behind the discovery of time travel and the development of the equipment to do so by the Chronotex company.

You are taken into a "shuttle" that transports you back 67 million years and then "drives" to the research base. Once inside, your Tour Guide takes you through simulated laboratories and animal pens with animatronic dinosaurs, ending in a large dome where TV screens simulate windows to the outside world of 67 million years ago. The props are realistic and acting well-scripted so that the Tour Guides, Laboratory Technicians and Animal Handlers all act out their parts superbly as if they really are scientists and explorers.

This event had been a roaring (no pun intended!) success when it was held at NEC Birmingham and Trafford EventCity, Manchester and its stay in London has been extended from its planned closure date of 1st July until until 2nd September. Keep an eye open on our Events page for the planned 2019 venues.

Shuttle
One of the Base shuttles
   Timebase67
Timebase67

Reception Area
Reception Area
   One of the laboratories
One of the Laboratories

Autopsy of a Pachycephalosaur
Autopsy of a Pachycephalosaur
   More Dinosaur Eggs
Dinosaur eggs being Incubated

View from the Dome
View from the Dome
   View from the Dome
View from the Dome

View from the Dome
View from the Dome
   View from the Dome
View from the Dome
   View from the Dome
View from the Dome

Additional Information

Ample parking nearby at the O2 Arena. Gift Shop.

For more information visit their website Dinosaurs in the Wild


RATCLIFFE CROSS, LONDON E14 - AUGUST 2018
Ratcliff Cross
Ratcliff Cross (satellite view courtesy of Google)

This unusual field trip originated from our studies into the voyages of Sir Martin Frobisher because of his links with Dartford, Kent with the ore he brought back from Canada (click here for further details about Sir Martin). His ship The Gabriel was constructed on the Thames and set sail from the village of Ratcliffe, just to the East of the City of London. Ratcliffe was noted as being the first point on the north bank of the Thames where ships could set off or arrive from a beach rather than a constructed wharf or jetty and for centuries was associated with ship building. By the 16th century, it had developed into a place for the final fitting out and provisioning of ships departing London.

The origin of the name "Ratcliff" was because of the "Red Cliff" that was alongside the bank of the river at this point. In researching what this "red cliff" could have been, we found three websites dealing with this part of London but all gave differing accounts:-

We did some research into which of these statements might be the right one and came to the following conclusion.The only red sands in the south of England - and these are generally unconsolidated - are the Pliocene outcrops at St Erth in Cornwall and outside Ashford in East Kent so these natural formations were instantly ruled out and there are no records of any red soils in the London Basin. That left glacial "erratic" deposits from other parts of England as the main possibility.

Could it be Red Soil? Unlikely. It is plausible that the red iron rich soils and loams of Northamptonshire could have been transported by glacier to the southermost extent of the Anglian glaciation that took place between about 478,000 to 424,000 years ago and reached as far south as the suburbs of north west London. It could then have reached East London via meltwaters through the Lea Valley. The likelihood however is that soil would subsequently have been washed away by the tidal Thames rather than deposited (and staying) in just the one place.

Could it be Old Red Sandstone? Improbable as the nearest source is in South Wales and ice flow from the Welsh Ice Cap during the Anglian glaciation is unlikely to have transported material as far as East London.

Could it be New Red Sandstone? Possible but unlikely. The nearest sources are in Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire but glacial erratics from these areas have not been confirmed further south than Norfolk.

Red Chert from deep sea limestone deposits? Chert can be many colours but red is normally associated either with cherts that have formed in the deep ocean or that have been iron stained. Deep sea chert is unlikely since Britain has not been covered by deep ocean since the Ordovician Period and rocks of this age tend to be mudstones rather than limestones.

That just left Red Chert that had been iron stained. This we felt was the best contender. A source of both chert bearing limestones and iron deposits is in Northamptonshire and these could have been transported in the same way that we envisaged with the red soils of this county.

In the satellite image of Ratcliff Cross above, the beach area did seem to have a distinctly reddish hue so to find out whether we might be correct meant we had to go and take a look.

Entrance gate in Narrow Street
Entrance gate in Narrow Street
   Start of the beach
Start of the beach
View along the beach
View along the beach
   Close up of the shingle
Close up of the shingle

It was interesting to note that whereas with a marine beach in the south east of England the normal succession is shingle > sand > water, the sand and shingle here on the Thames is reversed. Whether this is an indication that the local authority have added the sand to create a local "amenity" or whether by virtue of wind and tide this has formed naturally - eroded perhaps from the Thanet Sand beds that outcrop to the south of the Thames - is unclear. We shall examine this further at a later date.

The red hue seen from the satellite image turned out to be old red brick debris that fell into the Thames during the London Blitz of the Second World War! Geologically, we found no evidence of red soil or red sandstone (old or new) but we did find red chert!

Red Chert
Red Chert

The third account we had found had gone on to say that "The gravel is now impossible to detect, much of it dug out and distributed around the globe as ballast in the ships that left Ratcliff for destinations far and wide". John Marius Wilson's Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales of 1870-72 makes reference that the "Red Cliffe" no longer existed and, due to subsequent development of the shoreline as London has expanded, the natural Thames riverbank here is of course no longer visible at all.

Ship's ballast in Tudor times was mostly in the form of quarried limestone. The nearest hard limestone to the Thames is in Kent, Oxfordshire or Norfolk. Limestone ballast would therefore have had to be transported at some distance and cost for use by ships in London. Gravels and sands (and even iron) have all been used at times as ship's ballast and so the gravel of the Red Chert cliffs of Ratcliffe would have provided the local shipyards with a very cheap and easily accessible source of ballast.

Ballast is added to ships so that when empty of cargo they do not ride high in the water where they would be unstable in rough weather. This ballast is disposed of when a cargo is loaded. We have subsequently found red chert further downstream on the Thames foreshores at Greenhithe, Gravesend and the Isle of Sheppey. These were once all major ports in the past where ballast is very likely to have been offloaded. These remnants of the Ratcliffe gravel could also have been transported naturally by river flow downstream. This, in our opinion, provides additional evidence that the third account above - from the Spitalfields Life website - is actually the correct one.

Additional Information

If you plan to visit this site please note that it is only accessible at low tide. Click Here to view the Port of London Authority Tide Tables for 2018.

Nearest station is Limehouse on the Docklands Light Railway.

For further information about the history of this part of London, visit the Spitalfields Life website.


ROYAL HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY, HYDE HALL, NEAR CHELMSFORD, ESSEX - AUGUST 2018
Poster
Poster about the event
   During the summer of 2018, RHS Hyde Hall put on a special event centered around the Jurassic.

The event comprised a wicker dinosaur statue, very interesting and informative displays from the Essex Rock and Mineral Society of rocks, fossils and the geology of the River Thames and a special discovery trail around the grounds designed for children up to the age of 10 (which included activities such as "brass rubbing" wooden blocks of dinosaur footprints and leaves, "digging for fossils" and see and learn about the plants that would have been food for dinosaurs).
 
Statue
Wicker Statue of a Stegosaurus
   Digging for Dinosaur Fossils
Digging for Dinosaur Fossils
 
Dinosaur Egg Replicas
Dinosaur Egg Replicas
   Information Board
Information Board
  
Woollemi Pine
Woollemi Pine
   Information Board
Information Board
 
Tree Ferns
Tree Ferns
   Information Board
Information Board
 
Giant Rhubarb
Gunnera manicata - Giant Rhubarb
   Information Board
Information Board
 
Araucaria
Araucaria - the 'Monkey Puzzle Tree'
   Information Board
Information Board
 
Glacial Erratics
Glacial Erratics
   Information Board
Information Board
Poster
Essex Rock & Mineral Society

 

Conclusion

Worth a visit but don't expect too much. Finding some of the clues on the trail are easy but others are quite challenging and children will need adult help to be able to track them all down. With the exception of the Woollemi Pine, all of the "dinosaur" plants are fairly common ones that can be bought in almost any good local garden centre. As the venue was the Royal Horticultural Society, we had hoped to see a greater range of 'living fossil' plants and were a little disappointed. For instance there were no bromeliads, cycads, or horsetails on display, no redwoods and - puzzlingly as Clue Number one on their trail had a wooden block of a Gingko leaf to take a rubbing of - no actual Gingko biloba tree in sight!

Additional Information

Hyde Hall has ample parking, a garden centre and shop, toilets and two cafes offering hot and cold refreshments.

Telephone 01245 402019 (between 9.30am & 4pm), E-Mail or visit their Website for further information, pricing and online bookings.


OBSERVATORY SCIENCE CENTRE, HERSTMONCIEUX, SUSSEX - AUGUST 2018
Science Centre
Science Centre

The Science Centre at The Royal Observatory looks at all aspects of science, not just astronomy. At the centre of the main building they have interactive displays that look at a wide range of geological subjects including:

  • how lava flows
  • earthquakes
  • faults
  • continental drift
  • thin rock slices
  • meteorites

     

    Geology 1
    Earth Display (left)
       Geology 2
    Earth Display (right)

    Additional Information

    Ample parking. The centre has a gift shop, a small cafe and picnic areas.

    For more information visit their website The Observatory


    MR MULLIGAN'S DINO GOLF, SIDCUP, KENT - AUGUST 2018
    Information Board
    Entrance Board
       Main Entrance
    Main Entrance

    If your kids like Crazy Golf and Dinosaurs then this is the place to while away a couple of hours. This centre has two 18 hole courses, one for smaller children the "Jurassic Trail" and one for older children the "Dino Trail". Both are great fun and located amid landscaped gardens and water features with a distinct "Jurassic Park" feel.

    Brachiosaur
    Brachiosaur
       Brachiosaur
    Brachiosaur

    Bones
    Bones
       Pteranodon
    Pteranodon

    Stegosaur
    Stegosaur
       More Bones
    More Bones

    Allosaur
    Allosaur
       Even More Bones!
    Even More Bones

    Spinosaur
    Spinosaur
       T. rex
    T. rex

     

    Additional Information

    Ample parking. There is a small coffee shop/cafe on site.

    For more information visit their website Mr Mulligan's Dino Golf


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