Exploring the Kinder Scout plateau

Dr Stephen Livingstone discusses his recent field trip and the hunt for glaciers in the Peak District.

Where did you go and why?

We visited the northern edge of the Kinder Scout plateau in search of evidence for glaciation in the Peak District. During the last glaciation (around 21,000 years ago) the traditional view is that the Peak District lay just outside the limits of the British Ice Sheet, with ice splitting either side of it. However, just looking up at the upland plateaus, which reach over 500 m, it is hard not to envisage snow collecting there, and an ice-cap or small glaciers forming.

four students on Kinder Scout

To investigate the hypothesis that the region was glaciated during the last or previous glaciations we took students to look at possible glacial cirques and moraines, and got them to think about complicating factors such as mass movement, fluvial activity and geology, all of which have heavily influenced the Peak District landscape we see today.

What sort of activities did students take part in?

Students were encouraged to sketch the landscape and to make observations about its geomorphology. This allowed students to develop skills in using a field notebook and to look critically at the landscape.

We also demonstrated the use of a Russian corer for extracting a record of the sediments deposited in one of the cirque-like basins; students then had to interpret what environmental and climate changes the sediment core showed.

What were the learning outcomes for students?

The idea of the field class was to show students a range of glacial and non-glacial processes that have shaped the Peak District landscape and to build confidence in observing and interpreting geomorphology. The students also developed skills in using a field notebook, and sediment coring and interpretation.

How does this field class relate to your research and teaching?

This field trip relates to an ongoing project investigating whether the Peak District was glaciated and wider work by the Ice and Climate Research group in the department to understand the timing and rates of change of the collapsing British Irish Ice Sheet.