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Friday, 13 September 2013

Brent Knoll, Steepholm and Flatholm



I have just had a very entertaining letter from a gentleman of advanced years (well, he's a bit older then me!) who was heavily involved in a jolly jape in 1973.  Apparently a well-known geologist got all excited because he had just come across an article by another well-known geologist which said that a bluestone had been found on Brent Knoll in Somerset.  (I assume he must mean the 1971 article by Geoff Kellaway.)  Anyway, that led to great discussions about Steepholm and Flatholm in the Bristol Channel, on the basis that if ice had carried one or more bluestones as far as Brent Knoll, then the ice must also have crossed the Bristol Channel islands and must -- presumably -- have left some bluestones there as well.

In the midst of all the excitement, a top BBC producer was getting ready to film a great expedition to check out these localities; and plans were made for a party of four to spend 4 days camping on Steepholm, ferried in by RAF helicopter (from St Athan?) and collected again afterwards.  The whole thing was set up, with the RAF and the BBC ready to roll, when the geologist fell out of his loft, broke his arm, and went bankrupt, while owing my correspondent some money and a tin of coffee.  (I kid you not! You couldn't make this up.........)

So the trip was never made, and the BBC film failed to materialise.

Wonderful stuff.  We have touched on the two islands before, and Rob and Richard have scotched the idea that there is any bluestone present on either of them (as far as I am concerned, I would prefer never to say never....) -- but what about Brent Knoll?  Does anybody have any info on what may or may not be lying about there?

Memo to the RAF and the BBC -- if you would like to fly me out to the islands to check out the presence or absence of bluestones, I'm up for it.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

I was born near here
http://www.peteglastonbury.plus.com/NorthWeston.jpg

If you look at the O in North Weston you will see a row of stones through the woods with a single stray stone at bottom right near Clapton Drove.
I have seen these, I once crashed into one on my trails bike in the woods ;)
I have no idea what they are made of.
There is a stone circle made of bluestones where the words Weston Rd 28 are but this is a modern construction.
There used to be series of strange stone circles on top of Walton down but they are long gone.
http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/topdrawings/s/005add000015547u00013000.html

PeteG

BRIAN JOHN said...

Fascinating, Pete! Thanks for the info -- I think there should be a stone-hunting expedition into them thar woods.......

Interestingly enough, Weston-in-Gordano is described in detail in the QUATERNARY OF SW ENGLAND tome, on p 352. It is one of the sites where there is something that might be till, with erratics in the deposit below it. So it is one of the sites frequently cited in support of an incursion of eastward-moving ice from the Bristol Channel

Myris of Alexandria said...

It is better to use bluestones only for rocks used in the orthostats at Stonehenge.
Ixer and Bevins have only said there are no bluestones on Steepholme. I don't think they have pronounced on Flatholme.
The Steepholme business was a probably intentional bit of mis-direction by someone who is now dead and a publicity seeker.
Even Prof Wainright was taken in and pronounced their presence on Steepholme. There but for the grace etc.
Was Brent Knowle a possible site on an Arthurian famous victory?
M

BRIAN JOHN said...

I have found the reference -- in his 1971 paper Kellaway refers to "abundant fragments" of white chalk "on the steep landslipped slopes of Brent Knoll." Not "bluestone" as conventionally described -- is associated with the dolerites. rhyolites and ashes of Preseli. But this might tie in with the finfds of "while limestone" from County Antrim which also occurs as an erratic in the glacial deposits of the area.

Myris of Alexandria said...

I am not certain but I think some of the Irish Sea is underlain by the Cretaceous so chalk would make sense.
Worth checking the off-shore geological maps.
M.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Yes, that's right -- there is an assumption that parts of the Irish Sea do have Cretaceous Chalk on the bed of the sea -- so the picking up of erratics would not be surprising....

Anonymous said...

I took photos of some of them in April 2010
http://www.peteglastonbury.plus.com/WestonWoodsStones.jpg

Neil Mortimor and I went looking for the Walton circles but the hill seems to have been cleared. The Banjo enclosure is still visible.
PeteG

Anonymous said...

William of Malmesbury's book The Antiquities of Glastonbury, records a legend in which King Arthur sent Yber, a young knight errant, to prove himself in battle against three giants on 'the Mount of the Ranae [frogs]; now called Brentecnol.' In his quest for glory, the youthful warrior went on ahead of Arthur and his knights, and slew the giants, but was knocked unconscious in the fit of battle.

PeteG

TonyH said...

My wife has just come back from a brief holiday with her side of the family in Northern Ireland, and she's bought a book that may well be of interest to the likes of Brian, Myris, and those others who ponder glaciations across the Irish Sea, and/or the use our ancestors made of the geology of Northern Ireland, including how far man was prepared to go in search of the rocks he wanted to use elsewhere in his monuments.

It is: "Between Rocks & Hard Places. Discovering Ireland's Northern Landscapes" by Paul Lyle. Geological Survey of Northern Ireland, 2010. ISBN 978-0-337-09587-0 £16-99, but cheaper via Amazon.

The book has beautiful illustrations of geology and prehistoric monuments. As Iain Stewart, Professor of Geosciences communication, Plymouth University says in the Forward, "This book sets out to raise awareness of the importance of a range of geological (and associated) factors, that have not only sculpted the landscape,but have influenced the develpment of society ever since Mesolithic people first used flint from north - east Antrim."


BRIAN JOHN said...

Sounds interesting, Tony. Of course, economic geology has been with us for as long as geology has been studied. Man uses rocks for many different purposes, and always has. Does the book tell us anything new about the use of rocks in prehistoric monuments, and does it deal with the stone transport issue?