Open Eye: On-line link to a mountain in Spain

Rosanne Jacks reports on a field trip with a difference

The words "I met him on the Internet" arouse suspicion in all who hear them. In this case, however, a relationship which started on the OU's First Class conferencing system gave rise to a meeting of students and tutors, both educational and enjoyable.

Linda Fowler, tutor of the OU's S103 Science Foundation Course at the Plymouth Study Centre and head of the South West Branch of the OU Geological Society (OUGS), first met Matthew Harffy on-line in May.

Having been an OU student herself, she took to heart Matthew's struggles with S103. During their correspondence, she learnt that he worked in the geology department of Madrid's National History Museum and he learned that her Society was planning a trip to Spain.

And so the idea was born. Matthew would arrange a field trip headed by his colleague, Dr Javier Garca Guinea, an eminent mineralogist specializing in thermolumine scence.

This is a new field which relates to the measurement of radioactivity and he is one of the few experts in Spain. The group also included Jan Ashton-Jones of the Society; Mary Maeso, studying S103; Luis Alonso, who had studied S102 (the previous version of S103); I am studying S267, How the Earth Works.

We met at the castle of Manzanares el Real just north-east of Madrid. Dr Garca Guinea arrived in a beaten-up jalopy, sending up clouds of dust, munching a doughnut and looking every bit the absent-minded professor and we were immediately on first-name terms.

We were in the Sierra de Guadarrama, north of Madrid. These mountains were formed about 350 million years ago; the highest peak is Pef dust, from which Javier was eager to begin the trip by showing us a bed of quartzite and smooth, layered, aluminium-rich mica schist and muscovite. Never mind that a busy main road cut right through the bed, and that the site was situated just after a blind curve!

With some trepidation, we parked on the side of the highway and Javier, oblivious of any danger, marched a terrified group of us up the slippery slopes. He was intense in his explanation of every feature, and by the time I found myself holding a shiny, cool piece of the layered stone I had forgotten my worries. And so, it seemed, had everyone else: Linda and Jan pulled out their hand lenses, Luis began snapping pictures of the deposits, Matthew was stuffing his pockets with specimens and Mary was taking notes.

Even so, I think we were all relieved when two policemen on motorcycles ordered us away. As I scuttled back into Luis's car, I overheard a relaxed Javier explaining that he was just showing "some English geologists" the rocks.

Before we left, he pointed out the limestone basin to the north. This was our next stop. Several wrong turns took us through sleepy Castilian villages, our curious caravan causing local heads to turn.

We finally arrived at the edge of a limestone cliff cut by a very deep fissure only a few years old: the tree-roots spanning parts of it were testimony to its young age. Javier explained that this fault, and several smaller ones, had probably opened up as a result of a series of small earthquakes. A great portion of the cliff had slipped into the valley, helped by underlying deposits of clay minerals.

We speculated that the "faulty" part we were standing on would probably suffer the same fate some time in the future.

We left the cliff and went for coffee. The walls of the cafe had superb examples of augengneiss or "toad's eyes" - a metamorphic rock rich in feldspar, quartz and garnet.

But nobody was as interested in the coffee as they were in the counter top: it was made of three different granites, two pinks from Galicia in the north-west of Spain and a local white stone.

Leaving the bar, we noticed a distinctive tile in the terrace floor. It contained a clot of pegmatite, an igneous intrusive rock which found its way into the granite, as veins, after the granite was formed. Width- wise cutting and polishing of the vein resulted in a beautiful ringed design.

We huddled on the floor and took our cameras but only after Javier had placed a rule beside it were we allowed to take our photographs.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballThe more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
News
business
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Humanities Teacher

£130 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Humanities Teacher Jan 2015 - July...

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Our exclusive client in St Albans Hertfords...

Tradewind Recruitment: KS2 Primary Teachers

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Key Stage 2 Teachers needed in Hertfordshir...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee