1st Year


This four-day field course takes place over a long weekend at the start of the first term, so as to introduce students as soon as possible to the techniques of studying geological features in the field. From the relationships between rocks one can deduce the sequence of events (sedimentation, igneous intrusion, folding and faulting) and so determine the geological history of the area.

The first day is spent at Marloes Bay, and the second around St David’s, and the third at West Angle Bay and Tenby. Students learn a range of skills:

  • Identifying different types of rock in the field, and deducing what environment they formed in.
  • Examining their textural features and structures, and distinguishing those that form at the time of deposition from those that form later.

Using the geological compass-clinometer to measure the orientation of rock strata and other features.

Assembling all this information on rock type, environment, structure and sequence of events, to determine the evolution through geological time of this part of the Earth’s crust.

In the evenings, the day’s observations are discussed and brought into the wider context of the geological evolution of Wales.


What students say about this field course:

‘It was unlike anything I had ever done before (in a good way).’ (2018)

‘Very enjoyable and interesting trip, with friendly staff who
always had the answers to any questions you had!’ (2016)

‘A good and informative trip. Thanks!’ (2016)

‘Fab trip’ (2015)


The island of Arran, in the Firth of Clyde, is a fascinating outdoor laboratory of geology. Its rock record and landforms reveal most of the geological history of northern Britain from the Late Precambrian to the present day. It is famous for the astonishing variety of its igneous rocks in lavas, dykes, sills and plutons. It lies astride the geological boundary between Scotland’s Midland Valley and the metamorphic rocks of the Caledonian mountain belt in the Scottish Highlands.

Here, students learn the fundamental skills of field geology: observing rocks at all scales, recording and measuring field data, and the techniques of geological mapping. Mapping is one of an Earth scientist’s most fundamental skills. It comprises the ability to record and interpret the three-dimensional patterns and relationships of rock bodies, and to work out the sequence of events that formed them. As part of the training, students learn:

  • to record information in a field notebook: descriptive notes and measurements of thickness, distance, orientation.
  • to make detailed and clearly labelled sketches of features seen in outcrop, with interpretation.
  • to log sedimentary successions in continuous outcrop and interpret environments of deposition.
  • to record outcropping rock types, measurements and other data on field slips – copies of topographic base maps taken into the field. On return from the field, students learn to compile the final version of a geological map from their field slips and recorded data, adding further interpretation in the form of cross sections and an account of the geological history.

Take a look at some of the photos taken by student Lizzy Griffiths (St Edmund Hall 2015), during the April 2016 fieldtrip: www.earth.ox.ac.uk/gallery/arran-2016/

What students say about this field course: 

‘The food was AMAZING and the staff at both the
restaurant and the hotel were really lovely and
accommodating!! It was a really good course!!’ (2016)

‘Particularly enjoyed the mapping days …’ (2016)


Local Geology

These sessions in Trinity Term examine geology accessible within the city of Oxford and the Cotswolds, illustrating topics that are covered in the Earth Surface Processes lectures, and allowing students to practice fundamental field mapping and observational skills introduced in previous field excursions. Dates and finalized destinations will be confirmed during the year and are dependent on access and tides.

Excursion 1 (whole day): This field excursion examines the Corallian limestones formed in the coral reef environments to the east and southwest of Oxford (e.g. at Rock Edge, Headington, Wheatley Quarry, & the Cumnor Ridge) giving practical experience of palaeogeography, palaeobiology and interpreting depositional environments.

Excursion 2 (whole day): Examination of the sediments across the Triassic-Jurassic boundary at Garden Cliff, Westbury-on-Severn, and then the Inferior Oolite Group at Leckhampton Hill, Gloucestershire.