BSRG - 11th PG Fieldtrip: The Dorset coast (2013)

This year the 11th Annual Postgraduate Field Trip (14th-17th of November 2013) was held on the spectacular Dorset and Devonshire coastline. This exquisite location has everything to offer from carbonate and clastic stratigraphy to complex structural evolution. Places were snapped up quickly by 30 participants, representing 16 different universities from across the UK, Ireland and Nigeria! Professor Stephen Hesselbo from the University of Exeter and Tom McKie from Shell knowledgably led our trip.

After assembling at Orcombe Point (near Exmouth), we made our way around the headland to study some outstanding Permo-Triassic fluvial-aeolian deposits and gain a historical overview of the Wessex Basin. Following this, we travelled to our first nights’ accommodation in Beer and after dinner everyone introduced themselves by giving a 3-minute presentation on their research.

We spent a gloriously sunny Friday morning observing the ephemeral fluvial Sherwood Sandstone Group (comprising the Budleigh Salterton Pebble Beds Formation and the unconformably overlain Otter Sandstone Formation), proving that “the sun always shines on the Triassic”(Mckie, 2013!). We then made our way by coach to Ladram Bay where we were greeted once again by the stunning cliff faces of the Otter Sandstone fluvial systems. Afterwards we travelled by coach along a country road (causing mass traffic jams in the process) to our final locality of the day – Pennington Point, although unstable cliffs unfortunately prevented our access to the beach. After dinner at our Portland accommodation we had a group quiz where team ‘rabbits’ took the prize, scoring a massive 53 points!

We started our Saturday morning at the world famous Lyme Regis where the Lilstock and Blue Lias Formation expose the Triassic-Jurassic boundary. The Blue Lias Formation signifies a major marine transgression, where Milankovitch cycles can be picked out on 100ky time scales. Extensive ammonite deposition represents a mass extinction event at this boundary. After lunch overlooking the harbour at Lyme Regis, we travelled to Seatown. The Seatown locality displays the Epyes Mouth Fault where the Junction Bed is exposed; the bed is significant as it is a record of the Toarcian Oceanic Anoxic Event. Our final locality of the day took us to the Bridport Sand Formation at West Bay. Following dinner, we headed to a local pub for a few drinks (and continuation of the “bedlam bonus” quiz round) and then into Weymouth to experience the extensive night life…

After a generally sleep deprived night, the cobwebs were thoroughly blown away after a brisk walk to the limestone arch of Durdle Door and by spectacular views across Man O’ War Bay and Lulworth Cove. A study of the Cretaceous Upper Greensand Formation and Chalk Group was followed by a wrap-up discussion relating to the Cenozoic structural inversion and evolution of the Lulworth area.
Our trip was rounded off by a delicious pub lunch of fish and chips at Osmington Mills, before we made our goodbyes and headed separate ways.

We are grateful to all those who came for making the trip so enjoyable and memorable. Special thanks to Prof. Stephen Hesselbo (University of Exeter) and Tom McKie (Shell) for their invaluable contributions, good humour and leadership. Thanks also to BG Group, BP and BSRG for providing financial support.

Alice Gulliford (University of Manchester), Dan Stokes (University College Dublin) and Hazel Beaumont (Keele University) – BSRG Postgraduate Representatives and field trip organisers 2013