Monday, 28 December 2015

Continuing Professional Development

A CPD seminar and field trip for surveyors and architects

Working as a professional, effective verbal communication is essential, as I discovered when trying to explain the often complex legislation behind various taxes on property – during my time with the Valuation Office/District Valuer.

A job well done in the restoration industry

Moving on to the building restoration industry in London, the skills that I had developed over the previous 5 years were refined in a very competitive commercial environment – firstly as a contracts manager and then as a director of Triton Building Restoration Ltd.

An illustrated talk for the Treeton Local History Group

Knocking on doors and cold calling on the phone, it was enthusiasm more than any established sales technique that Ied to a stream of enquiries and, when representing my company at various trade exhibitions, I was in my element – talking to potential clients face to face.

Moving away from London, it seemed natural to lead various walks and attend rock and fossil shows - aimed at the public of all ages - as part of the promotional activities with the South Yorkshire RIGS Group

I would provide explanations and answer many questions about various aspects of geology and before too long - developing an interest in formal education - I was teaching geology to adults at the WEA.

In England, geological science has fallen way down the list of priorities in many schools, universities and museums but, as a steady flow of illustrated talks to various natural history, local history and conservation societies confirms, there is still a latent and very deep interest in this extremely diverse subject.

My illustrated talks essentially draw upon my experience of building restoration and geological conservation; I have always thought that these, like the publication Building in Stone, could easily be adapted for a range of aspiring or established professionals.

The terminology of the stone trade

Architects, surveyors, engineers, ecologists and town planners are just a few of the professions that have needed to take my advice - perhaps CPD seminars, combined with field trips, are just one way for other professionals like these to learn a little bit more about the Language of Stone?

Sunday, 20 December 2015

A Walk Along Curbar Edge

The view south along Curbar Edge

When joining the Sheffield U3A Geology Group, I was interested to see what kind of terrain the members would be expected to willingly explore, especially since - reflecting the nature of U3A - everyone would have been a minimum of 10 years older, and probably much less mobile than me.

All prepared for the walk ahead
During my trips to the Burbage Valley, Peveril Castle and Cave Dale a few weeks earlier, I had become aware of my own physical condition and ability to negotiate steep and unstable slopes, having not done this for very many years.

In Haworth, the exploration of the Woodhouse Flags took just over 3 hours, with a distance of 4km. Although much of the walking was along paths, various diversions included a quarry face, where the weathered shale at its base was quite slippery, and there is other uneven and boggy ground.

It seemed that most of the group were much more used to this kind of activity than me and, apart from the occasional slip, were well prepared for the terrain encountered when learning more about geology - including the need to take along the necessary outdoor clothes.

The remains of a stone circle
The next trip was a walk along Curbar Edge, in November - a distance of 8km - which reminded me that waterproof trousers were essential, as we were lashed with rain on the first leg of our walk on what was already a windy day.

The principal aim of this trip was to have a close up look at some of the archaeology that is also a feature of the moorland in the Peak District National Park - various cairns, a cist, a stone circle and discarded millstones and other evidence of quarrying in the past.

There was another opportunity to explore more exposures of Chatsworth Grit - as I had surveyed at Carl Wark and Higger Tor – but the weather finally got so bad that we had to cut the day short before we had a chance to see various other places that been highlighted on the route.

The geology around Curbar Edge

Although I had visited various quarries and other exposures along the gritstone edges before, I had never taken a long walk along the top of any of them and, although disrupted by the rain, I saw enough points of interest to make me want to return again on a calm and sunny day.

Tors and various contorted beds and other sedimentary structures

The Chatsworth Grit here is typically very coarse grained, with abundant pebble beds composed mainly of vein quartz, and the large scale sedimentary structures are clearly exposed – including examples of slumping and the development of finer grained flaggy beds that I had not seen before.

Zooming in to Higger Tor and Carl Wark

Even on a very gloomy day, the large scale geological structures and geomorphology can be still seen in the skylines and the views along the edge; cloughs, stacks and large fallen blocks pass into thick deposits of head, which cover the lower slopes of this part of the Upper Derwent Valley.

Erosion of the Chatsworth Grit at Curbar Edge

On the return journey, the path had turned into a series of small streams that were cutting into the sandy surface and, in places, these cascaded over the edge. By the time we all got back to the starting point, everyone seemed to be as wet as me and, although the sun then started to shine, we all decided that we had experienced enough of the English weather for one day...

A glimpse of sunshine at the end of a very wet and windy day

Friday, 18 December 2015

In Brontë Country

Industrial archaeology at Penistone Hill Country Park

With my trip to Conisbrough – to further explore the Norman castle and Saxon church - I had effectively come to the end of the places that I could readily visit without having access to a vehicle. It had been unseasonably warm and dry but it wouldn’t be long before the wet, windy and cold weather set in for the rest of the autumn and winter.

A quick stop outside the church
I therefore decided to join up with a geology group in Sheffield, which forms part of the University of the Third Age,  for retired and semi-retired people from a mainly professional background, and accompany them on their last two field trips of the year.

With the principal leaders having interests in geology, archaeology, quarrying and industrial history, I had been very impressed with the places that they had visited on their field trips. It seemed like a good group to share some ideas with and, having never been there before, I looked forward to the trip to Haworth

Known for its association with the Brontë sisters, the village of Haworth is extremely popular with tourists from all over the world and Main Street - which runs down an escarpment comprising Namurian mudstone and sandstone - compares to Steep Hill in Lincoln with its very steep gradient.

Dimples Quarry

The main objective was to explore the country park around Penistone Hill, in particular the old West End and Dimples quarries, which had exploited the Woodhouse Flags for building stone, and to examine its associated industrial archaeology and local history.

West End Quarry

At the end of the walk, there was a spare half an hour to explore part of the village, where there are many examples of simple houses, shops and other vernacular architecture built in the local stone - with the occasional architectural flourish.

General views of Haworth

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

St. Peter's Church - The Interior

A view of the north arcade and nave at St.Peter's church

Whenever I have visited St. Peter’s church, it has always taken second place to my main reason for visiting Conisbrough – to see the castle – and although I have always known that it is considered to be the oldest building in South Yorkshire, I didn’t know much about the history or the many architectural details found in its interior.

A variety of decorative stones used in the memorials

So many old English parish churches are closed, except during services or limited opening days; although it is possible to obtain a key by prior arrangement, it is not very often that you can just pass by a church and pop in to take a good look at the interior.

Carved capitals

The parishioners take great pride in their church and I’ve always found the door open; my last visit coincided with the harvest festival and I’ve never seen it look so colourful – a reminder that the interiors of the old English churches were often very elaborately decorated and full of people.

A 15th century font

Having blown the dust off an old reference book that has been filed away and had never been opened or read, since buying it more than 25 years ago, I now realise that I could spend many hours taking photographs of the interior of this magnificent church - as well as several others that can be found in South Yorkshire and the surrounding counties...

Saxon churches in South Yorkshire