Sunday, 2 June 2013

OU field trip to the Malverns

I've had a very busy few days hence the lack of drawings. One of the things I've been up to was a field trip yesterday to the Malvern Hills, as part of the OU module I'm currently studying towards my degree. We don't get much in the way of field trips due to the whole distance learning thing, but they are always highlights - really enjoyable and anything learnt seems to stick in my head a lot better than if I'd read it from a textbook. I didn't do any drawing, no time for that! But I learnt some new plants so thought I would do a quick post about them.

We went up to the Herefordshire Beacon first and had a look at the landscape, along with info about the geology, to work out how it had influenced the surrounding landforms. The Malvern Hills are a ridge of mostly intrusive (coarse-grained) igneous Precambrian rocks that formed as part of an ancient volcanic island arc, they are some of the oldest rocks in England, AWESOME! There are also some slightly more recent (Ordovician) extrusive (fine-grained) volcanic rocks toward the southern end of the ridge, here is a cave there that has been created by quarrying basalt.

Supposedly this cave is called the Giant's Cave. I can however confirm that the person standing in it is of normal stature.
Also towards the southern end, some of the rocks have been deformed into a gneiss-type texture by metamorphism, we didn't get to see these so I really want to go back and check them out, I love metamorphic rocks!

After that we did a bit of surveying of the plants growing on the slopes, this was my favourite bit! The plants were all really small due partly to the fairly thin soil and grazing, I liked how the more closely you look, the more different types of tiny plant you could find. I don't know much about classifying vegetation types yet but it seemed heath/grasslandish, fairly neutral and dryish. Some of the plants we found there were Wild Thyme (Thymus polytrichus), Sheep's Sorrel (Rumex acetosella), Lady's Bedstraw (Galium verum), Mouse-ear-hawkweed (Pilosella officinarum) and Common Rock Rose (Helianthemum nummularium). Another group were also doing a transect down the slope to see how the soil depth varied, I had a go with the auger on a hummock near the bottom of the slope, the soil was pretty deep there!

In the afternoon we relocated to Castlemorton Common where we had a go at measuring the cross-section of a stream, and the speed of its flow, before some more plant surveying. This was more of a damp meadow, there were lots of rushes and things and some pretty confusing buttercups! I found what turned out to be a Bulbous Buttercup (Ranunculus bulbosus) while we were eating lunch, and some other plants we came across were Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil (Lotus pedunculatus), Common Mouse-ear (Cerastium fontanum), Ribwort Plantain (Plantago lanceolata) and Tormentil (Potentilla erecta).

Mouse-ear-hawkweed (Pilosella officinarum) and Heath Bedstraw (Galium saxatile).
Tiny Sheep's Sorrel (Rumex acetosella)!
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), Germander Speedwell (Veronica chamaedrys), and Wild Thyme (Thymus polytrichus).
Common Rock Rose (Helianthemum nummularium).

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