The course comprises a number of excursions to bring to life Devon’s fascinating geology – and how this relates to the equally rich natural history. Using our giant 12-foot collage, the fossil seascapes of the Devonian period (+/- 375 million years) will be explained in detail in context of changing continents and climate.

Plant life will also feature strongly – their uses, folklore and more, made interesting and easy to understand, often with humour! Over 400 species have been seen – special attention to identification through families is the order of the day down to basic species level but no further.

Our geology excursions will take us into the amazing world of rocky shore marine biology – again detail made plain will be the order of the day.

Butterflies, moths (we run a trap) bats and industrial archaeology will also feature.

Adaptive morphology is a specialism of the course as covers both past and present marine biology.

The course will be suitable for beginners and the more knowledgeable geologist will see some of Devon’s most classic and well-known sites. Lots of detail will be made plain and interested children of 14+ years are welcome with an accompanying adult.

Over the last 20 years, I have always looked forward to running this course and have had little reason to change anything. We have had a wide range of people – some have been experts themselves, others beginners; teachers, but all have carried an enthusiasm and willingness to share knowledge. Camaraderie and humour have been wonderful each year.

The course is very full-on and there is a fair amount of travel but the locations make it well worth it. Often we swing from one topic to another without moving when on the headlands – they are that good.  This is not a birders course, but we have a list all the same – over 60!

Some locations might be difficult for the less mobile to get to the last few metres – but there will always be something interesting nearby. There are locations where a good head for heights comes in handy – the course is based on headlands! In case of bad weather or tides, we can alter the itinerary to visit sheltered nearby locations for short periods.

If you would like to discuss the course further then please do get in touch with Martin on [email protected]. If you should book he would be delighted to hear from you.

Please note that there are 2 very friendly bearded collies on this course, most have found that they added to their enjoyment!

We now only have non-residential places available on this course.

Tutor: Martin Summers

Martin Summers BSc. Geol. Dip Ed. is an experienced and enthusiastic guide ranger working for a holiday cabin company - expect lots of fascinating information. Martin has been a naturalist for over 50 years learning much through an avid early fascination for botany and all things marine. He has been a geologist in Africa and specialist teacher using the environment in the UK.
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Review of the 2021 course:

“It’s hard to find a “hands-on” marine biology course these days. Martin covered so much geology, botany & marine biology that all related to each other & the surrounding landscape. He made it equally understandable for both the academic and layperson. This is a skill in itself. The use of the lab with all the samples & diagrams helped reinforce what we learned out on-site each day. Having the dogs around added another wonderful dynamic."


Example Timetable

Weather conditions and other factors may alter the programme - but this outline gives a good idea of what is in store.


Introduction to the course after supper, followed by a trip to Hallsands to view the Lighthouse and ruined village at dusk from the viewing platform.


Brixham. St Mary’s Bay and Berry Head.
A day looking for and learning how to recognise fossils using our giant collage. Their mode of life is made apparent using our Devonian seascape. We will visit Berry Head to see spectacular cliffs and views and enjoy the unusual wild flowers, including orchids, identifying them as we walk.  Fossiling on the River Dart is another possibility.


Dartmoor Walk - Haytor and Houndtor.
Using historical sites and trails we study the geology and natural history. A varied day – quarry pond, tramlines to follow, moorland and wooded valleys and maybe climb Houndtor.  This day contrasts with the coastal walks and puts the geological scenery and history in context. The pond and medieval village are memorable and strike up the human historical impact of Dartmoor.


Hopes Nose, Torquay.
The chance to walk and touch the fossilised sea floors/reefs on a wave-cut platform dating from the time of great sea level changes tens and hundreds of thousands of years ago.  Interesting “step faulting” and very clear evidence of volcanism (ash layers) folding and thrusting.  Best example of a raised beach in the South West, showing fossil shells (200,000+/- years old).  Devonian fossils 375 million years old, gold, marine biology, stromatoporoid “buns”, and see the botany on the way down, and back, and all in one day! If time allows the marine biology is well worth looking at - an unusual sea slug can be found here. Humming Bird hawk moths are also to be seen here.


Start Point, Peartree Point and Mattiscombe Sands.
A general walk explaining the geology (metamorphic rocks different to previously encountered) and geomorphology (wave-cut platforms, sea level changes, marine landforms), botany, butterflies and marine biology will feature strongly.  Seals can usually be seen at Peartree Point, which shows rare local evidence of “ice action” as well as underwater arches. We will visit the Lighthouse for spectacular views - the butterflies here have been prolific.


Saltern Cove, Paignton.
A coastal walk will show some of the most outstanding Devonian and Permian geology nationally, including a classic unconformity representing an ancient land surface.  See the burrows of some long extinct species, sea floors crammed with fossil corals, imagine the volcanism associated with the repeated beds of ash and unravel the story of rising sea levels in the Devonian period using our giant collage.


Gorah Rocks, Prawle Point.
A marine ramble linking the sea life of today with previous fossils seen.  Spectacular scenery, metamorphic geology, sea level changes and head deposits - all will be explained!  There will be excellent botany, insect life, and a good beach combing strandline to explore. In the evening there will be a summary of the week.


Depart after breakfast.

What's Included

  • Expert Tuition
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Full Board Accommodation
  • Hot and Cold Drinks
  • In Course Transport

Before You Attend

Start and finish times

Resident participants are requested to arrive for registration by 17.00 on arrival day. The course will begin after supper.  Non-residents can arrive 10/15 mins before the evening meal. There will be an introductory talk at 17.00. Supper is usually at 18.30. A non-resident booking also includes dinner during your course as teaching does progress into the evening. Breakfast, for resident participants, will be from 8:00 am. The course will end on Friday at 09.00. On the final day please vacate your room by 9:00 am, storage is provided for your luggage.

What to Bring

  • Casual and some warm clothing.
  • Waterproofs and wellingtons (can be borrowed from the centre, if necessary).
  • Stout trainers / walking boots.
  • Lunch box, salad box and flask/drink bottle.
  • Note book and pencil and camera/binoculars (if you wish).
  • Sun hat and sun lotion.
  • Reading, but not essential, books will be available ‘Geology explained in South and East Devon’, Perkins (available through libraries).
  • Geologists Association guides No 72 & 73 – “Devon Marbles, their Geology, History and uses” “Geology of S Coast”  ISBN 9780900717 819  and  9780900717919 (last 3 digits)

Sorry this course has ended