The rocks of Usk in south-east Wales are famously full of fossils and this month they will be the subject of a public lecture of mine and the publication of a new booklet Usk Fossils that I have written. I grew up in Usk and was inspired to follow my geoscience career partly by the rocks I encountered around this central Monmouthshire town. As a student, I undertook numerous projects on the rocks of Usk and became familiar with the fossils. Since then however, my academic research has focused mainly on coastal landscapes and he has become well-known for his theory that a flood that occurred in the Bristol Channel in 1607 was perhaps due to a tsunami, and featured on numerous BBC programmes.
|Cover of new booklet Usk Fossils|
Usk geological history includes classic rocks such as from the Silurian Period with its shallow tropical sea teaming with life, the relatively barren Old Red Sandstone and, more recently, deposits laid down by glaciers of the last ice age. When I was in University I remember finding a quote from a Victorian journal, which is included on the cover of the booklet, that made me realise how well-known the rocks of Usk are, it said: "Not for the beauty of its scenery ... nor yet for the romantic history of the castle ... nor yet again for the excellent salmon fishing ... was the visit made. Usk has great attractions of a geological kind, its rocks abound in fossils”!
The fossils from Usk may also have played an important part in scientific theory. Alfred Russell Wallace, alongside Charles Darwin, developed the theory of evolution and Wallace was born in Usk in 1823. The rocks behind his house where he lived are full of fossils and, although his family moved away when he was five years old, it is highly likely that he saw the fossils as a child and it is wonderful to think that Usk fossils may have sowed a seed that influenced his later thoughts on evolution.”
The public lecture the Geology of Usk is in the Sessions House, Usk, on the evening of Thursday 15th November (admission £10), and the booklet Usk Fossils is available to buy directly from Amazon, priced £4.99.