One woman's quest for geological understanding!

Geological Mapping Course: Scotland – Saturday 26th May to Sunday 3rd June 2012.

 Geological Mapping Course Proposal

Strathearn, Perthshire, Scotland

Dr N. Chidlaw


This proposal is intended for OU students who have experience of the basic principles of geological mapping (such as gained on the Forest of Dean mapping course run by the above tutor), but wish to receive training in mapping of a more advanced nature.  It is being made following interest shown by students who attended the Forest of Dean course in recent years.


The tutor is a geologist with 30 years post-graduate experience in teaching, research, publishing, and industrial consulting.  As a research student, he studied the sedimentology of Early Jurassic strata in the Cotswolds, carried out at the former St Paul and St Mary College, Cheltenham (now University of Gloucestershire) and Bristol University.  During this time he taught undergraduates thin section petrography and field mapping skills (Arran, Lake District, Lizard).  In the late 1980’s he worked as a part-time OU tutor on the Science Foundation Course in Bristol, and has taught adult education courses for Bristol University for over 20 years. He now runs adult education courses for Cardiff University, and field trips and courses on a privately-arranged basis.


The proposed mapping course would run over 9 days, the 4th of these days being free.  It would run from a Sunday to the following Monday week, inclusive.  Days 1-3 and 5-7 would be held in the field, with the final two days indoors drawing up a fair copy of the map and a cross-section, and discussion of the results.  The central purpose of the course would be for attending students to gain extensive practise and thus confidence in dealing with a very wide range of geological mapping situations; such experience would provide those completing the course with a strong grounding from which they could successfully plan and carry out their own mapping projects in many places elsewhere in Britain or abroad.


The aim would be to establish the surface extent and structure of the geological units cropping out in the study area, and to extend these data into the sub-surface along a specified cross-sectional line.  Working out the rock types and their sequence would not be required; instead, a geological column with lithological details of the rock units in the study area, as well as an outline geological history, would be provided and referred to.  This would enable students to use the course time concentrating entirely on the mapping process itself.


The proposed mapping area is in and adjacent to the broad valley (‘strath’) of the River Earn in Perthshire, central Scotland, about 18 miles north of Stirling.  It extends across the boundary between the generally lower country of central Scotland, and the much more rugged Highlands to the north, and is scenically extremely attractive.  The mapping area is approximately 11.5 square kilometres in area, and long and narrow, in order to provide experience of as wide a range of geological settings as possible.  The rock types and their structure are vividly contrasting: highly deformed Late Precambrian metasediments, a plutonic complex and aureole of Early Devonian age, a Carboniferous dyke swarm, extensive breccias of the Highland Boundary Fault, and unmetamorphosed folded conglomerates, sandstones and lavas of the Lower Old Red Sandstone.  The topography reflects this underlying complexity, ranging from craggy hills in the north to rolling farmland in the south, and rock exposures (mostly natural, some man-made) are widespread in all areas.


The final two days of the course, during which collected field data would be transferred under guidance onto a fair copy of the base map and cross-section, would be held indoors (probably in a hotel), and the results discussed using slides of exposures of the study area, and overheadtransparencies of the tutor’s own mapping.  No marking of the work would be undertaken: there would be no ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ or grading; the course would be essentially one in which the skills are practised and results discussed, each student judging for his/herself what they have learned and where future improvement could be made.

Please email me directly for further info.


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