Mon. Jan 24th, 2022

Educational travel need not take students abroad. There is a great deal to be learned on excursions within the United Kingdom, such as to the West Country: a landscape rich in geographical interest, literary and artistic inspiration, history and science. Geography students can learn about humanity’s place within different ecosystems at the Eden Project; visit the famous Lyme Regis where Mary Anning excavated dinosaur fossils critical to the understanding of the prehistoric past; and identify stacks, stumps and arches at the Isle of Purbeck.

The Eden Project

The Eden Project will be the highlight of a geography based educational travel trip to the West Country. The world’s largest greenhouse, its two large domed biomes replicate Mediterranean and tropical environments, with an outdoor biome for temperate species. There, students can investigate mankind’s relationships with different ecosystems by discovering which plant species are essential to our survival, learning about renewable technologies and examining the plants directly.

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Lyme Regis

Today the town of Lyme Regis is in danger of falling into the sea from coastal erosion. A £21 million scheme aims to save it. It was that very coastal erosion that allowed Mary Anning (1799 – 1847) to discover so many dinosaur fossils in the 19th century. Educational travel to Lyme Regis is an opportunity to learn about a scientist who is often ignored in histories of science. A poor, working class girl, Mary Anning educated herself and contributed significant finds that shaped the new ideas of prehistory, still shaking off the strictures of Scripture. Her finds included the first complete Ichthyosaur skeleton in 1810-1811 (with her brother), a complete long-necked Plesiosaurus in 1823 and a Pterodactylus in 1828. Her discovery of dried ink inside a belemnite fossil led her friend Elizabeth Philpot to revivify and use the ink.

The attitudes of the time meant that many male scientists appropriated Mary’s work for their own academic gain. At times they acknowledged her role in the discoveries and some came to her aid financially, ensuring her family did not perish, but the fame they gained in life was only hers posthumously. Students visiting the town on an educational travel trip can honour her memory at the Lyme Regis Museum.

Isle of Purbeck

The Isle of Purbeck is more accurately a peninsula, extending from the Dorset coast. The history of human habitation stretches into the ancient past, with the shale having been worked by the Romans into jewellery, furniture and other decorative items. It is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with a great deal of natural interest, ideal for geography students. At the coast itself, students can identify stacks, stumps and arches. Inland, the peninsula harbours a vibrant diversity of native and anciently introduced plant species, such as Early Spider Orchid (Ophrys sphegodes). The benefits of educational travel are clear here.

By rahul