Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by Dr Fred Broadhurst (WTC 73)


  I am a retired academic geologist, formerly attached to the Department of Earth Sciences in the University of Manchester. I am now active in the field of education, and work with the Centre for Continuing Education at the University of Manchester, the Workers' Educational Association (WEA), the Wilmslow Guild (an independent adult education centre). I frequently give one-off lectures on a variety of subjects for schools, and for organisations and societies of all kinds.

  Of particular relevance to the Committee's inquiry are my experiences in leading town and city walks for the purpose of showing people the delights to be found in building stone. Many of the groups that I lead are composed of people with only a vague idea about what geology is all about. However the features of the building stone they can be shown in any town or city are so clear and obvious that it takes but a short time to convert apprehension into amazement. Many of the comments made at the end of such walks are worth recording. One man told me that he had always thought the stones in buildings were just coloured concrete.

  Walking in towns and cities, in terms of building stones, could be promoted in two ways:

    (1)  Modest, but well-illustrated, building stone guides could be published. Building stone guides to many British towns and cities already exist, so apart from updating, no major work is required. Probably the best examples of building stones walks are those included in the two volume guide "London Illustrated Geological Walks" by Eric Robinson. It would be important to stress that the guides are for beginners. Geology can put people off, until they look at a rock.

    (2)  Guided walks could be organised. Locations and frequency would have to be matters of experiment. Initially there would be a problem finding competent leaders, but this could be overcome by suitable training. I am shortly to run a short course to teach "leaders" how to run field courses for beginners—and I have chosen building stones as my vehicle for the purpose!

  Modern building stones are cosmopolitan in their distribution. Each town and city has essentially the same range of stones in its modern buildings, shopping centres etc. However the other buildings are often constructed of materials that were available locally. This means that anyone familiar with the building stones of one town finds he, or she, can recognise many or most of the stones in another town. Promotion of walking in one town can thereby help the promotion of walking elsewhere.

  Promotion of walking by means of building stones would help to raise general levels of understanding about the environment and science in general. Mental as well as physical stimulation should follow!

Frederick Broadhurst MSc, PhD.

January 2001

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