The Geological Walk celebrates the diverse geology of Britain and Northern Ireland through a display of impressive boulder-scale specimens and natural stone paving. The walk was opened in May 2012 as part of a major redevelopment of the BGS's Keyworth headquarters site. The display, covering almost three billion years of Earth history, includes many of the fascinating rock types that shape our landscape and are associated with our natural resources.
The path sweeps from the main front car park to Reception past five feature boulders representing the geology of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland; as well as the three main rock types: igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic. The focal point of this area is a monolith of Lewisian Gneiss, the most ancient rock type found in the British Isles.
Click on the map to the right to learn more about the rocks of the approach to Reception.
You can access the Geological Walk via the Reception area.
The Walk comprises a substantial area of natural stone paving accompanied by feature boulders and several items of 'rock furniture'.
The walkway extends some 130 metres from west to east across the site, linking the BGS Reception with the James Hutton and William Smith buildings. A metre-wide 'spine' of Carboniferous flagstone runs the length of the Geological Walk and bears numbered discs that cross-reference with the interactive map (right) and identify the various paving types. The paving is laid out in chronological order, beginning with rocks of Precambrian age. These are followed successively by a selection of rock types representing the eleven principal subdivisions of the Phanerozoic Eon. Most of the paving materials are commercially available and are chosen to showcase the UK's stone industry. The two exceptions are the Precambrian and Quaternary sections, which are paved with specially sourced stone. The major intervals of geological time are delineated by stainless steel strips and individually identified by name plates set into the 'spine' of the walkway. Owing to both the length of Precambrian time and a number of logistical considerations, the Geological Walk is not 'to scale'.
Large monolithic boulders (designated B1M, B5M, B7M and B13M on the map) again represent the four component countries of the UK and exemplify the three principal types of rock. The remaining feature boulders, which in contrast to the monolithic boulders occupy only approximately correct 'stratigraphical' positions, expand the range of rock types and geological processes displayed and in some cases highlight the importance of geology to society and the economy. Sedimentary rocks of Jurassic age, associated with the UK's hydrocarbon reserves, are an example. A link between geology and our human ancestors is made in the Quaternary section, where there are boulders of Sarsen sandstone from Wiltshire and igneous 'Bluestone' from the Mynydd Preseli district of Pembrokeshire — the two principal rock types found at Stonehenge.
Click on the map to the right to learn more about the rocks along the Geological Walk.
Overlooking the Geological Walk, the façade of the James Hutton Building incorporates a 'feature wall' that commemorates the work of the 18th century geologist after whom the building is named.
The feature wall is a stylized representation of Siccar Point on the Berwickshire Coast — the locality most synonymous with Hutton, having provided him with convincing proof of his 'cyclic processes' theory.
Click on the drawing to the right to learn more about the rocks of the James Hutton 'feature wall'.
At Siccar Point, near-vertical Silurian (late Llandovery) wacke sandstones of the Ettrick Group (previously assigned to the Gala Group) are overlain with angular unconformity by thinly bedded, red-brown conglomerates and sandstones of the Upper Devonian Stratheden Group. Seaward-facing views of the outcrop, together with a field sketch made by Sir James Hall when he accompanied Hutton and Professor John Playfair to the locality in 1788, formed the basis for the feature wall's design. The design was largely executed using mid-Llandovery wacke sandstones exposed elsewhere in the Southern Uplands and red-brown Middle Devonian sandstones from Easter Ross.
We offer a limited number of guided tours of the BGS facilities, including a self-guided tour of the Geological Walk, for groups of 10 or more visitors. For information on dates and availability, please contact Enquiries.