Book review: Excursion Guide to the Geomorphology of the Howgill Fells, by Adrian Harvey

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Jon Trevelyan (UK)

This little guide contains excursion guides explaining and exploring the relationship in the UK between hillslope gully erosion and the response by stream and valley systems within the Howgill Fells of Cumbria. The author’s choice of this area rests on the fact that it is one of the most active landscapes in Britain from the point of view of erosion, with the steep slopes of the headwater valleys, which are riddled by networks of erosional gullies that have been active in the relatively recent past. The gullies feed sediment downslope forming large alluvial fans and braided stream channels. In this respect, Professor Adrian Harvey’s research has had two aspects: (1) explaining the modern processes involved based on sustained monitoring; and (2) studying landform change and evolution over the last few thousand years in response to human/climatically-induced environmental change.

To this end, the guide is set out in two parts, with three appendices. The first part covers the geomorphology of the Howgill Fells, including an overview of the region (covering its bedrock geology, glaciation and drainage), Holocene landform evolution and the modern geomorphic system. The second parts covers 20 locations that illustrate the issues discussed in the first. The appendices cover maps, particle sizes (the phi scale), and grid references and GPS coordinates. There is also an extensive list of references.

It follows that this is a fairly specialist book, but is still fascinating for the amateur visiting the area, notwithstanding that is may be students and academics who will get the most from it. (You should also note that most of the locations can only be reached on foot, and rivers and slopes will need to be navigated.) And, as we have come to expect from Dunedin, it is beautifully presented, with full colour photographs, diagrams and graphics.

The author’s academic research has involved modern geomorphic processes and recent landforms. Much of this has been in dry regions, such as Spain and parts of the USA, but he has particularly concentrated on the geomorphology discussed in this book. In fact, he has produced a prolific output of published works, including the book, Almeria, which I reviewed in Issue 48 of this magazine.

Excursion Guide to the Geomorphology of the Howgill Fells by Adrian Harvey Dunedin Academic Press (2017), Edinburgh and London. 118 pp., softback, ISBN: 978-1780460703

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