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
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth with Tess Daly in the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special
tvLouis Smith wins with 'Jingle Bells' quickstep on Strictly Come Dancing's Christmas Special
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Sport
sport
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

Recruitment Genius: MIS Officer - Further Education Sector

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Operating throughout London and...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: Project Manager

£35000 per annum + Pension+Bupa: The Jenrick Group: We are recruiting for an e...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35K - £45K: SThree: SThree Group have been we...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there