Already for the Fossil Hunting at Biddulph Grange

Last Sunday, Everything Dinosaur team members visited Biddulph Grange Garden in Staffordshire as part of the dinosaur themed activities that had been organised at the National Trust property.  Our staff arrived nice and early and set up a fossil hunting activity for the budding young palaeontologists in the specially erected marquee that had been provided.

All Ready for the Fossil Hunting Activity at Biddulph Grange Garden

Everything Dinosaur fossil hunting activity.

Fossil trays laid out at Biddulph Grange Gardens.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture above shows the marquee starting to get prepared for all the visitors we were expecting that day.  The event, part of The National Trust’s promotional campaign to raise awareness about the restoration of the unique Geology Gallery at Biddulph Grange, had been sold out for some weeks.  However, on the day itself our dedicated team met up with a number of other visitors to the beautiful gardens and we even gave away some fossils to visitors who had been unaware of the event and “popped into the tent to have a look around”.

Preparing the Tables to Help Identify the Fossils

Everything Dinosaur at Biddulph Grange Gardens 2016.

Fossil trays laid out at Biddulph Grange Gardens.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Giving Away Fossils

We put lots of gravel into the trays on the floor and then carefully added a variety of fossils so that visitors could have a go at spotting fossils amongst the stones.  There were shark teeth, bivalves, brachiopods, fossilised wood, trilobites, ammonites, belemnite guards and even pieces of fossilised bone.  We certainly had a busy day, our early arrival allowed us to get organised and lay out all the helpful fossil identification charts that we had prepared.  We had to keep up topping up the fossil hunting trays, the visitors were finding so many specimens.

The early arrival also allowed Everything Dinosaur team members to visit the partially restored Geology Gallery.  When completed (late spring 2017), the gallery will house many fossils and casts that help explain about prehistoric animals and life in the past.  Mr James Bateman, the former owner of Biddulph Grange and Gardens, built a wonderful gallery dedicated to uniting the ideas of a biblical creation with the newly emerging sciences of geology and palaeontology, scientific ideas that were beginning to take root in the 1860’s.

Day V (Five) in the Geology Gallery

Biddulph Grange Geology Gallery.

Part of the Geology Gallery at Biddulph Grange Gardens, ready for restoration.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture above shows the spaces in the walls where the original fossils were housed.  The large, almost triangular space at the top of the photograph was the location of a partial Ichthyosaur skull (Temnodonotosaurus platydon).  Sadly, very little documentation regarding the gallery and its contents have been preserved.  One of the fascinating problems associated with this particular restoration project is trying to work out what fossils went into the various spaces.  Only one of the original fossils remains, a section of Lepidodendron bark with its characteristic diamond shaped leaf scars.

The Lepidodendron Bark Fossil in the Geology Gallery

A piece of fossilised bark (Lepidodendron).

The Lepidodendron fossil (ancient bark).

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Although the term Lepidodendron is used to refer to a genus of tree-sized lycopsid, strictly, only the scale bark on the uppermost part of the plant is named Lepidodendron.  Plants are rarely preserved as whole fossils but normally occur as isolated fragments, often representing different parts of the organism, the leaves, roots, trunk, stems, fruiting bodies, flowers and such like.  As these different parts are found separately, each plant tends to get a separate scientific name.  Hence, the roots of this lycophyte are referred to as Stigmaria and the base of the trunk is called Knorria.

Lepidodendron is derived from the Greek, it means “scale tree”, a very apt description for the diamond-shaped leaf scales which can be clearly seen in the Biddulph Grange fossil.

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