Book review: The Geology of London (Geologists’ Association Guide No 68), compiled by Diana Clemens

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Jon Trevelyan (UK)

I like the GA guides. They are excellent resources for amateurs and professional geologists alike and I frequently browse mine, planning geological trips I will probably never take, because I live in geological unexciting London.

Therefore, imagine how pleased I was to receive a GA guide to the Great Metropolis to review. I have often wondered what geologists could say about the geology of London? Should they discuss the relative merits of concrete and tar macadam? Or, do they throw up their hands in despair and claim there is none? No! They produce a book like this. While it is true that I don’t like the new ring binder format (as pointed out in my review of’Guide 67: The Dalradian of Scotland in Issue 22), this is as good as the others, as far as its content is concerned, and contains some interesting departures from the norm.

It covers several different topics, including the chalk of South London (a chapter written by ‘Professor Chalk’ himself, aka Rory Mortimore, who wrote the best of all the GA guides – ‘Guide 57: The Chalk of Sussex and Kent‘), the London Clay of the River Thames, and the geology of (and seen from) Hampstead Heath. But also, rather intriguingly, it discusses the Victorian dinosaur (and other) statues of Crystal Palace. Their inclusion is justified by contributor, Peter Doyle, because they represent a wonderful attempt by socially progressive Victorians at public education, notwithstanding the now obvious anatomical errors.

I am lucky enough to have a signed copy by Diana Clemens (who compiled this marvellous guide), because I went with the GA to Riddlesdown Chalk Quarry (chapter 9). Rory Mortimore ran this trip and it allowed everybody present to use the guide as it is meant to be – in the field. Rory’s lovely illustrations made understanding the rock easy and, while access to the old chalk quarry is restricted, if you get a chance to visit with a copy, you will see what I mean.

I would recommend this to anybody interested in UK geology, but especially to frustrated Londoners, envious of those who live elsewhere in the UK. A large number of trips are discussed in the guide and I intend to do them all!

The Geology of London: Geologists’ Association Guide No 68, compiled by Diana Clemens, The Geologists’ Association, London (2010), 171 pages (paperback), ISBN: 978-0900717901

Available from UKGE: The Geology of London

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