Land and Sea Treasures

Cerys is obsessed with rocks and fossils and shells. Since she was a child, we’ve brought back various coastal and geological debris from our travels, the seaside version being decidedly fishy smelling on opening the ziplock bag after vacation.

She always struck me as a little magpie, looking for shiny bits on the beach. When we introduced her to snorkeling, when she visited us on our year in Australia, it took on a whole different level, diving under to pick up strange shells and sea urchins.

She’s still at it. Here’s her collection from Mexico last week, when she was on vacation.

I think she gets it from her mum.

I also love land and sea treasures. My particular favorite things are rocks and stones of all sizes, which Cerys and the other kids also enjoy.

Last year, Cerys and I went geode digging, not far from here near Quincy, on the Mississippi River.

We’d never done this before, but there was quite a crowd there, as it was a “Geode Fest” and you could buy T-shirts and hotdogs, as well as a bucket to put your rocks in. We followed a convoy of zealous fellow geode clansmen to an isolated quarry and then we grabbed our little chisels and set to work. People were very helpful and excited to share their knowledge and Cerys, who would have never quit digging if I hadn’t given the “enough, daughter of mine” eyebrows, brought home a bucket filled with round geodes that we busted open later on the back patio with a hammer in fun, mysterious Easter-Egg fashion.

Here’s Cerys, happily chipping away at rock walls.
Here’s me, with our little bucket of loot. Please take enormous notice of my muddy knees. We were working very hard, despite stopping for all the photos.

The Easter Egg moment.

It was wonderful. Each of them looked slightly different. One was almost completely muddy but stiff-looking inside, and we had to email a local geologist who confirmed that it looked that way because….it had formed during a heavy rain.

We probably could have thought that through ourselves.

But it was a great day.

Fossils are enormous fun also. I suppose fossils can be both land AND sea treasures. Just over a year ago, we spent Christmas on the Jurassic Coastline in SouthWest Britain, and there were several spots where you could find all kinds of fossils – nautilus, ammonites, echinoderms, fossils of plants and fish. We did find one or two, and I left one in the cupboard at the house we were staying at, which is sad but probably sensible as it was a teeny fossil in a giant rock which weighed more than my suitcase. This website has fabulous examples:

We didn’t find anything as impressive ourselves.

Here we are, crawling around looking for things. Yes, that’s my sweet husband crawling around back there.
Here we are at Westport. That big cliff is full of Jurassic fossils too but for obvious reasons, they don’t want you digging in it 😆

I prefer Great Big Rocks myself. And I like the ones that have been conveniently placed in circles.

Stonehenge, Wiltshire. A “stones-throw” from where I grew up.

Now don’t get all Outlandery on me. I’ve been around a lot longer than those books. Here’s proof:

I was 14. I thought the boots made me look much older. 😆

Well, this photo was back in the early tourism days, a good few years after they finally stopped letting people chip bits of rock off during their picnics. Check this article out, it’s amazing:

When I was a kid, just having returned from Australia to live again in England, the Summer Solstice was in the news. The Wiccans and various other religious groups liked to dance around Stonehenge naked on Midsummer’s Eve, much to the chagrin of the English Heritage historical organization.

Now, there’s loads of these circles dotted all over Great Britain, particularly in Ireland and Scotland. Some of them are huge circles, this one not far from Stonehenge in Avebury, Wiltshire, almost encircles a entire pretty little village, and you can lean against the stones as much as you want there. You can get pretty close to the stones at Stonehenge, but no touching.

Will is evidently passing through the stone…hopefully when he returns he’ll have traveled back from somewhere where he had to get out of bed on time.
You can see the giant circle at Avebury. It’d take a good twenty minutes to walk the whole thing.
The little village the stones encircle

Much of my family lives very close to Stonehenge. The locals all have an affectionate name for it:

“The Big Tourist Trap”

Seriously though, it is a fascinating place to visit. I mean, there’s no written record of these stones even being put in place. They were there when the Romans got there, for goodness sake. And let’s face it, that was a few years back…

Apparently Claudius turned up, said to the local Celts:

“Yo, what’s this?”

To which the Celts shrugged:

“No idea. Always been here. We just dance around them naked now and then…”

To which Claudius replied, after a quiet moment of distracted thought,

“Dude, we saw these stones way, way over there in Wales. What’s up with that?“

More shrugging Celts.

“Lot of draggin’, man…..”

(Obviously everyone spoke in surfer talk…)

Anyway, since then they’ve done oodles of archeological work, although they still don’t know how the bluestones got there. They even have a skeleton of a man who lived close to the henge. They have an excellent museum which I highly recommend, and lovely big coaches take you out to the stones and back if you don’t want to walk. While we were waiting to return, we even got to watch a local farmer rounding up his sheep with a Collie. The Collie even had four legs, which ours doesn’t anymore….

Here’s the English Heritage website:

They believe Stonehenge was constructed between 3000-2000 BC.

They also believe it may have marked burial grounds, since there are “barrows” all around the area. These are burial mounds and actually they are all over the south west of England.

Or possibly, that people were buried there because it was considered a sacred site.

It’s so weird, you’ll be driving along the roads in Wiltshire and Dorset and thinking to yourself,

“Oh, look at that cute little sheep nibbling away on top of that 5000 year old burial mound…”

I mean, we all get excited over Plymouth Rock, for goodness sake. It too has always been an old rock, I know. But the whole Mayflower thing was like, last week, relatively speaking…

Here’s an aerial view of some of those barrows down in Dorset:

Back to Stonehenge, though. The site, specifically the great trilithon, the encompassing horseshoe arrangement of the five central trilithons, the heel stone, and the embanked avenue, are aligned to the sunset of the winter solstice and the opposing sunrise of the summer solstice. So maybe it was possibly used for some sort of worship. Or some astronomical observations. I heard an astronomer recently talking about how it may have been used to predict comets. Who knows, I’m guessing as much as anyone else here…

Here’s a random sheep hanging out on an iron-age hill fort at Maiden Castle in Dorset:

But that’s MUCH more understandable as it’s only from 450BC. Much newer.

Happy treasure hunting, my friends.

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