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Exploring our seashore: local geology walk

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Windmill Inn Car Park

Portishead

United Kingdom

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Exploring our seashore: local geology walk

If you’ve ever wondered about geology of our local coastline, then you’re in luck. Portishead is an exceptionally good place in Britain to see and learn about geology, and CPRE Avonside are excited to offer our first ever geology field visit. Mark Howson, local resident and long term CPRE member and volunteer, is a Fellow of the Geological Society (FGS) and has 40 years’ experience working in the mining industry. He has visited different geological environments in twenty five countries on six different continents, but none have the concentration of interesting geology that is found near his home in Portishead.

‘There are few places where you can see such a variety of geological features in this small area, with such easy access. The rocks that are exposed along the coast are representative of those that underlie much of the Bristol and North Somerset District, and if you walk along the sea shore you will see rocks, fossils and structures that are fascinating evidence of environments, inhabitants and events of the distant pasts.’ Mark Howson

This walk is designed for non-geologists and geologists alike. Mark will point out interesting features as we proceed in a relaxed manner along the beaches. We will discuss what we see, and what it signifies in the evolution of our planet. There is also an opportunity to learn about the technical terms that geologists use to describe rock formations.

Practical information

Booking is essential, through the Eventbrite website. It is limited to 30 people so booking is on a first come, first served basis. There is no charge for the trip, but a donation of £5 from adults is suggested which will go to CPRE. The walk is divided into three sessions so you are very welcome to attend the whole day or chose those sessions that suit you best. Please include your email so that we can send you a short handout document to print, including a location map.

Be prepared for a small amount of clambering over or around rocks, and wear suitable footwear and clothing. When doing so, move slowly and carefully, and if necessary ask for or give a helping hand. It should be a great day out for family members, but small ones may need to be carried. We will be walking on beaches that are mainly pebbly, but in places rocky or muddy and uneven. Alcohol and rock clambering make a really dangerous mixture, so please be aware. The date has been selected as one when the tides will be suitable. High tide is at 15:30 but since it will be a neap tide, it is unlikely to be high enough to bother us, and this is when we may see ships.

We will also be going near some cliffs, but these are low and generally stable. There may be the odd falling fragment that would not cause harm, but we should all look out for any signs of instability or something larger that could fall. It is best to stand away from the cliff if you are not looking closely at something of interest. CPRE have conducted a risk assessment, but no liability can be accepted by the CPRE or the local geologist for any injury or incident that occurs during the visit.

All of the coast that we will visit is within a geological Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), so hammering the rocks and collecting is not permitted. Bring a hand lens, if you have one, as well as a camera and maybe binoculars, not only for rocks but also scenery, bird life and hopefully, some ships.

We hope for good weather, but obviously be prepared for rain, wind and/or sunshine.

Bring water to drink on the walk. We will be stopping for lunch, by the lake, so do bring a picnic and enjoy the Lake Grounds, or eat at The Windmill Inn, The Royal Inn (booking advised for both) the Café Lido or the Lakeside Café.

Getting there:

Bus and train: there is no bus directly to the start of the walk, but it is accessible on foot from bus stops in central Portishead. Please check https://travelwest.info/ for bus details.

Walking and cycling: The walk itself is not suitable for bringing bikes or buggies, so if you are doing the whole walk, you may want to leave bikes at the Esplanade and walk from there (see below for directions).

Parking: There are lots of parking places around Portishead, and if you are doing the whole walk, The Esplanade is central and convenient for walking back to at the end of the day. From the Esplanade, walk back up Beach Road West to the turnoff to the Picnic grounds car park (also a good parking place) and across the Picnic Grounds to The Windmill Inn for 10:30.

Itinerary:

There is a lot to see so the walk is divided into three sessions with two breaks. You are welcome to attend all or chose one or two of the sessions.

Session 1

  • 10:30 to 12:30 - Meet at The Windmill Inn car park and walk down the grassy slope to the right of the pub to Fisherman’s Steps. Then we move 0.75 km along the sea cliffs to the Esplanade. We look at rocks of Devonian and Triassic age, including the famous (well, to geologists anyway) Portishead Fish Bed, fossils, unconformities and fault structures.
  • 12:30 to 14:00 – Break for lunch. Bring a picnic and enjoy the Lake Grounds, or perhaps eat at The Windmill Inn, The Royal Inn (booking advised for both) the Café Lido or the Lakeside Café.

Session 2

  • 14:00 to 15:00 – Meet outside the Café Lido outside the open air swimming pool at the other end of the Esplanade (0.5 km), and we walk along Woodhill Bay and Battery Point (0.5 Km) to look at the Early Carboniferous limestone rocks, fossils and fold structures.
  • 15:00 to 16:00 – Break for refreshments. We will then walk about 1 km to the Viewpoint near The Royal Inn, so it may be worth having your refreshment there.

Session 3

  • 16:00 to 17:00 – Meet at the Viewpoint near The Royal Inn and walk 0.5 km down the path to the beach and then along the rocks looking at Late Carboniferous sandstone with plant fossils, fold and thrust structures that occur inside a mountain chain. We see lead mineralization and a geological curiosity from Portishead’s nautical past. Finally, we climb the steps at the New RNLI Station to walk back, or tarry at The Royal Inn.

And finally:

Mark Howson has conducted several geological field visits to Portishead, for the public and for amateur and professional geology organizations. He contributes to local geological research and conservation, and recently published a paper in “Nature in Avon” Volume 76, the Proceedings of the Bristol Naturalist’s Society 2016. He has also written a book about the local geology, named “Portishead Rocks!” that is published by the Gordano Civic Society, £8.95. If you think you would like to purchase the book please let Mark know by emailing markphowson@btinternet.com

For general questions please email CPRE at info@cpreavonside.org.uk


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Windmill Inn Car Park

Portishead

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