Erratic rocks in fields and on beaches of the Isle of Wight

The Isle of Wight is a marvellous place for the geologist on holiday, but there must be a suspicion that it has all been done before. When I first visited the island in 1999, my late wife Trina said that, of course, I would want to geologise at some point. She was surprised at my immediate and emphatic reply of ‘no’, until I explained that every square inch of the island was already ‘claimed’ by so many geologists and groups of geologists that I could not possibly get involved without starting a priority war. I was there to relax, not fight.

Today, I have a different approach. The family Donovan goes to the Isle for their summer holidays most years and I still go to the island to relax, not fight. But I am now working on a range of projects on the Island that are unlikely to impinge on other peoples’ research, while informing my own interests. These have included identifying borings in fossil wood from the Cretaceous greensands that have been misnamed since the nineteenth century (Donovan and Isted, 2014) and exploring closed railway lines using a geological field guide published a hundred years ago (Donovan, 2015).

To reminisce again, I probably first took an interest in erratic rocks in fields in 1981 when I was a research student at the University of Liverpool. I spent a week in a tent in a farmer’s field near Craven Arms in Shropshire, collecting fossil crinoids from the Upper Ordovician. The lady of the farmhouse showed me a collection of fossils and minerals accumulated on a mantelpiece, all picked up from the fields thereabouts. Thirty-five years later, I still recall in my mind’s eye an orthoconic nautiloid, larger and better preserved than any specimen that I had found in situ up to that time. Perhaps as a result, I now take a much more active interest in the rocks in the fields than ever before.


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 Stephen K Donovan (The Netherlands)

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