The city of a million flints

Or at least, a city of a large number of flints - I haven't counted them!  I don't mean lighter flints, either.  Those are actually made of ferrocerium, an alloy of iron and the rare earth element cerium.   I mean proper quartz flint, the stuff that goes with chalk.  And I'm talking about Norwich, the administrative and shopping heart of Norfolk.

Norfolk and I go back a long way, with having lived there twice when Dad was stationed at Marham, and having grown up visiting the county whenever we were stationed in the UK.  I always treasure opportunities to go there, especially if I get to the coast; with the cliffs of Hunstanton and West Runton inter alia of special geological interest.  The gingerbread carrstone colours of the traditional areas of NW Norfolk just couldn't be anywhere else, and the waters (and green stuff!) of the Broads have provided our family with more than one excellent holiday.  Then there are the birds (Spoonbills!  Marsh Harriers!) and expanses at Holkham...

Flint, though, that's properly interesting.  It's the reason I became a geologist rather than a botanist or ecologist which had been my original plan when I started my degree. I started with a couple of short courses including S193, Fossils and the History of Life, which talked about flint being composed of silica which was derived from deceased sponges.  It was one of those moments where you sit back and think "Well, I never knew that!!"  That's kind of the point of learning, actually...  And I'm still learning about flint!!

It was a paragraph that changed my career and therefore my life.  From that moment,  I was hooked on Earth sciences.  Even the really interesting material on biology and ecology during my main science foundation course didn't divert that interest and I went on to geology and oceanography courses rather than biology form and function-type courses after completing it.  Mind you, I do sometimes wish I had done those as well!

We went back to Norwich last weekend and yes, we were greeted by huge numbers of flints in walls.  As always, I thought back to that moment during S193.  How could I not?

        The Guildhall - just how many flints must there be in this one building alone?

        Detail of a flint wall in Norwich


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