Fieldwork in North West Spain

Unit code EART30012

Our NW Spain field course is an integrative excursion across a whole mountain belt, the Hercynides of NW Spain, from the non-metamorphic sedimentary cover in the external zone to the high grade metamorphic and igneous rocks, including upper mantle rocks, of the internal zone. It is aimed to demonstrate how a whole mountain belt works from external to internal zone
  • When is the fieldtrip?

    The field trip is for 10 days during the 'field week' that immediately follows the Easter vacation period in Year 3. The exact dates depend on the tides, because half of the trip is spent examining coastal exposures. Eight days are spent in the field and travel to and from the region takes place in the remaining 2 days.

  • Where is the fieldtrip?

    Unlike most previous field trips youwill have done, this one involves staying at several hotels over a distance of 150 km, in order to be able to see the various rock types that outcrop over the whole width of the mountain belt.

    Accommodation is in a totalof 6 different hotels, mainly with en-suite accommodation. Breakfast and evening meal will be provided by each hotel, but you will be able to request provision for any special dietary requirements. There will be a supermarket stop each day to buy things for lunch in the field.

  • How will we travel to North West Spain?

    We will fly from Manchester, Liverpool, or Stanstead, according to the dates of the trip and available flights. A local coach company will provide transport in the region. Further details will be provided closer to the time of the trip by individual email communication.

    Students that require a visa to visit Spain will be responsible for obtaining the visa themselves.

  • What will I learn?

    A special lecture will be used before the field trip to set the scene for the whole range of geolgy that you will see.

    You will be taught:

    • how to apply all you have learnt in previous classwork and field courses through your undergradaute years, and to put it all into context;
    • not to specialise in any one aspect of geology, but you will be required to recall all aspects of your previous studies.

    By the end of the course you will be able to:

    • appreciate and understand the assembly of the entire mountain belt, from the sediment-dominated external part to the igneous and metamorphic core;
    • recognise rocks and structures in the field from the external part of the mountain belt through to the most internal part, including their large-scale spatial relationships.


  • What equipment will I need?

    Essential field course items are:

    • appropriate footwear (i.e. walking boots);
    • walking trousers or shorts;
    • high visabilty vest;
    • hard hat;
    • standard field mapping equipment that you will already have used during your independent mapping project, including field notebook, mapping pens, and high quality pencils and colouring pencils.

    Weather conditions can vary from snowy (on a high pass) to hot weather or rain at low levels (it can be a bit of a lottery).

  • How will the field course be assessed?

    Assessment is based upon the following:

    • the result of a formal exam immediately after the field trip, comprising about 20 short questions based on the things you have seen at particular localities on the trip [70%];
    • submission of field notebook [20%];
    • submission of the map and cross section made from a beach section [10%].

    For the exam you will be able to use your notebok, but not the field guide that you will be given, nor will you have access to mobile phones, tablets or computers.

  • Who can I contact regarding the North West Spain field course?

    For more information visit the course unit specification or email course leaders Professor Ernie Rutter or Dr Simon Brocklehurst.

  • What our students say‌‌‌‌

    Always very happy to explain anything and will give you as much information as you ask for as long as you show interest.

    His incredibly vast knowledge of the Cantabrian mountains, both geological and general, enabled him to deliver everything we could possibly need to know, and then some. Prof Rutter is a true gem to the school of Earth Sciences, and no one could run this trip like him. He is a truly remarkable lecturer, who treats you as an equal.

    Being exposed to geology in the field is always the best way of learning in my eyes!

    Traversing such a large area over the 10 days really helped me to understand how a mountain belt works.


    Did you know?

    The Hercynian mountain belt of NW Spain is probably the best displayed 'classic' mountain belt in Europe, where you can see everything from foreland basins, continental margin deposits, and external fold and thrust belts, through to granitoid production, high grade metamorphism and a section through a crustal duplex bringing lower crustal and upper mantle rocks to the surface.

    More about the North West Spain field course

    After early studies of this region by Dutch geologists in the 1960s, over the following 30 years the Spanish geologists of the Oviedo school made remarkable advances in our understanding of this region. The field trip has emerged directly from our previous and ongoing close contacts and interactions with geologists of that school.

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