They start in the Yorkshire Dales with Adrian Pickles and finding coral fossils in a stream bed and sides, walking over limestone pavement and beside a tufa covered waterfall prior to an unnerving encounter with a herd of bullocks on the path to Malham Cove.
Undaunted, in 2011 I went to Dale Fort to see the text book rock structures of the Pembrokeshire cliffs and beaches using the coastal path and after a smooth ferry crossing, walked across Skomer Island with its birdlife and seals bobbing in the water. Unfortunately the puffins had left a week earlier so no memoires of them. In the Preseli Hills I saw blue stones like those at Stonehenge, not far from the megalithic tomb of Pentre Ifan.
Later that year, based at Rhyd-y-creuau, I followed Darwin’s steps at Cwm Idwal, saw the slate quarries and the hidden hydro-electric power station at Llanberris and on a clear day walked down Snowdon through layers of volcanic rock having taken the train up. But the highlight was the day spent on the LLyn Peninsula clambering over pillow lavas at the water’s edge and later seeing the Moho, the boundary between the earth’s crust and mantle, in a rare surface exposure on a cliff side and then stopping for fish and chips on our way back due to our late return.
In 2012 it was the turn of the Lake District where I - walked over glacial drumlins in Borrowdale and alongside Derwentwater, where a red squirrel followed us, traced the margins of the granite intrusions in the horizontal rain on the slopes of the fells above Blencathra later retreating to the shelter of the local mining museum.
At St Bees on the coast we saw firsthand the damage caused the previous night by a flash flood through a stream erosion in action. I ‘bookended’ the geology with courses on gardens and highlights of the Lake District visiting some magnificent formal gardens with topiary, specimen trees and national collections of plants contrasting with quirky private gardens with, of course, tea shops everywhere. I now also have memories of stone circles and henges, of Roman forts and standing on Hadrian’s Wall to see the digital light display along its lengths as part of the cultural Olympics; of Grasmere and other places connected with Wordsworth; of John Ruskin’ house and garden at Brantwood over- looking Coniston water, Tim Foster showed us the work of local artists and we visited craft studios and picnicked by Lakes whilst learning about the effect of the environment and sustainability on life in the conservation area and National Park.
So far my time learning with FSC has given me memoires of discovering hidden corners of beautiful countryside in safety with knowledgeable guides and like-minded people. These well planned and arranged courses have given me holidays with comfortable accommodation, good food and transport, mental stimulation and plenty of physical exercise in the fresh air often with stunning views which remain etched on the memory.
What memories will this year bring? - apart from the various members’ events, of course. Time for more wildlife, I think, along with some geology. Now where are those brochures...