The Box Hill & Mole Valley Book of Geology by Richard Selley
Professor Richard C. Selley is a professional geologist, Mole Valley resident and known to many of us as the public benefactor who persuaded Adrian White to develop the Denbies vineyard and winery. Professor Selley’s aim is to explain the landscape of this area of outstanding natural beauty to the general reader.
Geology, he claims, underlies everything that we see, from rocks and land-forms to the presence of grass snakes and bats and the absence of water in the many ‘dry valleys’ of the North Downs. Then there is the prosperity that the area’s geology has brought about – providing bricks, glass, sand, fuller’s earth, limestone, natural gas, oil and (mysteriously) witch repellent! The theme in fact falls into two parts – basic geology (sedimentary rocks, uplift and erosion of the Weald, fossils, the Ice Age) and an examination of the area’s prosperity – so far, but then what of the future, with its threats of possible global warming, floods, increased temperatures, desert conditions, ‘Swiss peasants in coolie hats tending the Alpine rice paddies’, ‘curried goat and Pixham prawns’ (actually salt-cured scorpions with five claws)? But the tone is not gloomy, in fact there is a good deal of humour: Baryonyx, the dinosaur precursor of Gollum, fossilised turtles and crocodiles, ‘hungry itinerant hairy hominids’ (in the Ice Age).
It is no surprise that Professor Selley is particularly good on viticulture (Denbies ‘was planted on the recommendation of a notorious local geologist’ – i.e. himself). The work ends with a chapter on Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on geological matters and a glossary of geological terms.