I didn’t go to Vallis Vale with B,G.S. and Miss Eunice Overend on 24th October - I have twice before been led there by her and I can well remember her strictures on geologists “with their little hammers”. Now there IS a geologist’s hammer - mine - in Vallis Vale and anyone who wants it may have it for the taking. It isn’t lost because I know where it is - on the bed of the Nunney River, just below a wooden bridge near flume. When it dropped out of my belt-loop I was on my way to the Carboniferous/Jurassic unconformity described by de la Beche in 1846, carrying a load of tools - spade, mattock, pickaxe, treelopper and other hand tools. Vandalism? No! In late 1979 members of the Open University Geological Society undertook a project under the supervision of Dr Bill Wimbledon (Nature Conservancy Council) and Charlie Copp (Bristol City Museum), appointed Geologist-in-Charge. Members came from as far away as Cheltenham, Bristol and Taunton and most were also members of either W.E.G.A. and/or B,G.S.
Rubbish dumped over the cliff from the fields, soil, scree and fallen rocks had almost covered the Carboniferous peneplain where the Upper Inferior Oolite Series rests unconformably on the Black Rock and Vallis Vale Limestones of the Clifton Down Series, and brambles, shrubs and even trees sprouted from every possible niche. The first visit, in December, coincided with torrential rain and although a younger member tried to reach the ledge by cutting steps in the clay a remnant of four “drowned rats” finally retreated to Westbury to hold a rather depleted branch A.G.M. and arrange subsequent visits.
Starting in January 1980 (which was when my hammer went bathing) parties averaging eight in number dug, scraped, shovelled, pruned, lopped and sawed until by June we had cleared side and top of the Carboniferous over a width of some fifty feet and the peneplain was about eight feet wide, so that the Oolite could be studied in comparative comfort. Two unfortanetly-timed attacks of fibrositis kept me from the next two visits and indeed I have not visited the S.S.S.I. since. One day, however, the B.G.S. Field Trip Organiser may yet arrange Excursion 9 of the Bristol University book, and I shall see how much of our work nature and the locals have undone.