Mental Escape to Devonian Dig

I have come back from my first field trip of the course. It feels strange having the first field trip just three weeks into the course. I have had a lot on my plate that needed to be sorted out. The stress was so demanding I felt like I needed a vacation. But I needn’t bother with a travel brochure. My Royal Holloway geology trip to Devon was all the therapy that I need.

I think the endless chores were putting a lot of strain on my mind. It wasn’t healthy and I needed to get away from it all. By the end of the week I was feeling like I was about to hit the wall in search of my own freedom from such a stressful situation. I had to think about how I was going to cope so that my mental health didn’t suffer. For that I needed a field trip.

I have just been reading this post on why nature is good for your mental health. I read when I got back from the trip and in a moment of reflection I realised that the hikes and trails over the rocky, muddy terrain was just what I needed to de-stress. Not in a magical sense but in a spiritual routine kind of way. The effect on my mind was like taking a sedative that distracted me from all the troubles of organising things at home.

Our first stop was a small seaside resort on the coast of the River Severn called Portishead. Our first task was to go across the beach and examine the rocks around the cliff and make some observations using a compass clinometer. It was a really good exercise in stratigraphy where I appreciated the hard work that goes into map making. This was my first scientific field trip that was a big step up from my home based studies at the Open University. No longer was I bound indoors anymore, I was out in the open field. It wasn’t just an escape into nature, it was an education in nature.

My only regret was not taking the time to study the briefing notes and some geology on rock types and their origins. Maybe if I wasn’t so distracted with all these petty domestics and chasing purchases needed for my school work then I could have gone through a geology book. This was a good opportunity and I felt like I was learning to operate a car without the instruction manual.

After this we checked into our hotel which was a country retreat called Colehayes Park Field Centre. Thanks to my special arrangements with regards to my mental health I managed to get a 2 person room all to myself. It was nice to know that the university teaching staff were taking my needs into consideration. I struggle with large bedroom shares. The room was a bit cold at this time of year. The venue was a popular wedding and field group location. I had a good time getting to bond with some of my other student friends as well.

One person who I got to know was the owner called Rebecca who had an interesting story to tell. I spoke with her in the bar about my adventures on this trip and some of my stories about my autism and activism work. I showed her A Puzzle in a Tunnel on my phone and I enthralled her with stories about my life and my struggles with mental health. It was a good chance to get to know someone who takes a liking to your character. I found out that her son-in-law had some issues of mental illness as well. I told her that mental illness is a stigma that must be fought and that we should accept all classes of citizens.

The next day we started by examining the brickwork around the building. Colehayes Park had an architecture composed of granite with some mineral intrusions. These stone finds made me think differently about the make up of historic buildings. I wonder if the Science Museum has anything to say about its foundations.

After inspecting the building work I got on the coach to head to Goodrington Sands, Paignton. What we were looking for was a scout around the cliff face to see what the geology was like. Interestingly I found that the name for the Devonian geological era came from this place. There was a criss cross of Devonian and Permian rocks around the rock face with fault lines clearly visible in the open.

Using my equipment and with assistance from my lecturers we made a survey of the rock face okay. We had to climb these rocky surfaces around the cliff. It was quite a challenge for me to do this. Where I couldn’t walk I had to crawl across it. It was like ascending a giant cheese grater and avoiding cuts and scrapes as you went along. At one point I found myself on top of a ledge which had a distinct red rust like texture that looked like a piece of planet Mars.

At this location I had something to excite me as a train lover. This site had a railway line running across with a vintage steam train run a by a local heritage group. The South Devon Railway. It was a glorius sight to see a steam train. The best part of that was the service. It was a recreation Great Western steam service.

When we got back I took some time out to show off some of my other talents to my friends. I had brought Mr Flibble with me and took a moment to show him off and my ventriloquism act. This is something that I haven’t shared on my blog yet with a video but I am going to show it off sometime later when I prepare some material to go online. But for my friends it was quite amusing. One of them suggested a talent show might be up my street. I would try that but not now. I still need to perfect my skills.

The following day we went out to two locations. However there was a bit of problem getting there. On the road to the Burrator old quarry there was a very small narrow road and as we started to get on that road the coach won’t clear through the path. We had to go around and take an alternative route that added 50 minutes to our journey and we lost precious study time at our first location. I gathered as much information as I could. I was so busy studying the igneous rock face up here that I didn’t have much time to listen to my group tutoring.

The next location was Triangle Point on Meadfoot Bay, Torbay. It was a much better sight than the top of the mountain where the rain had spoiled the view. This involved two plots of exercise. One of them was very relaxing and maybe a good therapy for someone looking for a holistic approach to healing an identity crisis. I had to pick up pebbles on the beach and examine them, and find out their story from the features on them.

Later I moved on up the cliff and took a look at the fault line between two types of rock. What I found was a large block of limestone that was jutting out from the ground at an angle of about 40 degrees. Up close I found that this limestone was a geological footprint with fossils embedded on the surface. It turns out that this diagonally protruding rock face was once underwater. It pushed up from what is called a fold where the rock is bent into a different angle. The view from this rock was a really great sight as well. I could see all the way onto the lowest point of the British Isles.

Well that was that then. All on the way home. It was a great adventure and I loved every minute of it. But what I will take from this is to prepare better for the next adventures. The field trips that come with this course have got three other locations. Next term there will be a five-day visit to Pembrokeshire in Wales. Of all the sights over there this one should be good but I had better prepare better. I had some items that I was expecting in the post which never came on time. I intend to do better on my next trip with these camping items.

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