Posted on 12 November 2012
The rocks of Usk in southeast Wales are famously full of fossils and this month they will be the subject of a public lecture and the publication of a new booklet by a University of Wales Professor.
Professor Simon Haslett, who is a Fellow of the Geological Society of London and Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor of the University of Wales, grew up in Usk and was inspired to follow his career partly by the rocks around the central Monmouthshire town.
As a student, he undertook numerous projects on the rocks of Usk and became familiar with the fossils. Since then however, his academic research has focused mainly on coastal landscapes and he has become well-known for his theory that a flood which occurred in the Bristol Channel in 1607 was perhaps due to a tsunami, subsequently featuring on numerous BBC programmes.
This month, Professor Haslett goes back to his roots and is giving a public lecture for the charity ‘Hope and Homes for Children’ on The Geology of Usk, and also publishes Usk Fossils, an illustrated booklet guide to fossils of Usk.
Speaking about the upcoming lecture Professor Haslett said “It’s been quite a lot of fun going back to relearn the stuff I’d forgotten about the geology of Usk, but once I got into it I remembered it quite clearly. I hope the audience at the lecture and readers of the booklet will find it interesting too”.
Usk geological history includes classic rocks such as those from the Silurian Period with its shallow tropical sea teaming with life, the relatively barren Old Red Sandstone and, more recently, deposits laid down by glaciers of the last ice age.
Speaking about the importance of the rocks and fossils of Usk, Professor Haslett explained “The fossils from Usk may have played an important part in scientific theory. Alfred Russell Wallace, who developed the theory of evolution alongside Charles Darwin, was born in Usk in 1823. The rocks behind his house where he lived are full of fossils and, although his family moved away when he was five years old, it is highly likely that he saw the fossils as a child. It is wonderful to think that Usk fossils may have sowed a seed that influenced his later thoughts on evolution.”
Professor Simon Haslett’s public lecture The Geology of Usk is in the Sessions House, Usk, Monmouthshire, on the evening of Thursday 15th November 2012. His booklet Usk Fossils is available directly from Amazon and good bookshops.