The UK's Nationwide Geology Club for Children

Rockwatch Residential Round up

Well, that’s a wrap – five days of fossil-finding fun with this year’s group of intrepid Rockwatchers is complete.

The team at Leeson House Field Studies Centre near Swanage were as welcoming and hands on as ever, and kicked off the week with a geology-themed orientation session. Set within the beautiful rural village of Langton Matravers, Leeson House offers an ideal setting to stay, dine communally, enjoy geology-themed guest talks and relax in each other’s company after a busy day of geologising.

The first full day with Barry Cullimore as lead started with a walk through the pretty fields and coastal scenery down to the remote geological-haven of Chapmans Pool. After recent rainfall, this was a slippery and muddy start but it was fascinating to learn about how the plants and wildlife tell us so much about the underlying geology of the area, and how geodiversity and biodiversity are inextricably linked.

Guided by our Rockwatch leaders and the Leeson House Team, Rockwatchers enjoyed learning how to use their hammers and chisels to reveal fossils in the abundant soft Rotunda Shales and Blake’s Bed 2.

We later took the challenging rugged step-laden path to St Aldhelm’s Head to take refuge from the rain in the Chapel before exploring the disused Quarry there where Portland Stone was once quarried. Former Rockwatcher and now PhD Paleontologist, Phil Vixseboxse, unpicked the millions of years of geological time seen in the rock face, and confirmed various fossil finds to delighted Rockwatchers. He later gave a talk back at Leeson House on his recent trip to Australia as part of his fascinating research findings so far.

The leader baton was handed over to Alan Holiday on Wednesday, which started at a very wet and windy Tidmoor Point near Chesil Beach formed of Jurassic Clay, and later to Bowleaze Cove to forage for trace fossils, belemnites and ammonites a plenty. It’s a challenging terrain on a typical day, but the weather upped the ante somewhat, which did not deter our fervent fossil hunters from their mission.

After everyone had dried out, Phil was able to commentate on the day’s fossil finds and then as the evening rolled on some went to Swanage to see the fireworks up close, while others enjoyed watching them at a distance from Leeson House.

Thursday was Richard Edmonds turn to lead and the Group headed to Chesil Beach to see the effects of the landslides there as well as hunt for fossils. Later, there was a trip to Tout Quarry to learn about its fascinating mining history, including tales of a local legend about a certain long-eared, fluffy-tailed foe which cannot be named for fear of their burrowing nature impacting the work at quarries!

In the evening Barry led an excursion to see more than 100 fossilised dinosaur tracks at Keates Quarry and talked about the stars under the evening sky.

On Friday morning the Leeson House team chatted with families about the moths and mammals on site and one or two children were able to assist with weighing and releasing three great tits that were being tracked. The Group then headed to Durlston Country Park for the final part of the trip which rather fittingly took a geological walk-through time before immersing in the cool rock room and fabulous art work on display which showcases Durlston Bay’s Purbeck and Portland Limestones.

Every Rockwatch Residential Field Trip is special and different in its own way. That’s one of the reasons families often come year on year, and because of the unique friendships they form and the abundant enthusiasm and knowledge shared by our brilliant leaders. Thank you to everyone who came and contributed to the week – to our leaders, our special guest speakers, to the Leeson House Team, and most especially to our Rockwatch families. We hope to see you again next year!

Watch some of this year’s highlights in this short video.

Rockwatch Residential Field Trip Highlights 2023




Author: Helen Connolly

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