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Department of Earth Sciences


Learning in the Field

Field trips allow students to put all the theory that they learn in the lecture theatre and practical lab into context—expanding knowledge and understanding of the natural world. There are six main taught residential field courses over the four-year undergraduate course: 

Between second and third years, students will often undertake an independent piece of fieldwork as part of a group—the part II mapping project. More information about the mapping project can be found in the Part II pages.

Fieldwork Logistics

Students are not expected to be experienced outdoor enthusiasts, who have spent years hiking around wild moorland in the pouring rain. The aim of all our field trips is to introduce our students to geology in the field—helping to further their understanding of lecture material, and build up practical observation and interpretation skills.


Field trips are heavily subsidised by the Department, but students are charged around £80 (£65–130 depending on the trip) to cover some of the costs. Exact field trip costs and payment deadlines are included in the relevant course guides.

The Department has a Fieldwork Fund (sponsored by alumni) to ensure that fieldwork is an exceptional experience for all our students—giving them the same opportunities as their predecessors. Students can apply to this hardship fund to help cover any fieldwork costs. Contact our  for more details.

Financial support is also available from individual colleges, so students should contact their college to see what help is available to cover fieldwork costs.


A secondary cost to all fieldwork is equipment. Essential outdoor gear for all field trips is:

  • A rucksack
  • A pair of walking boots
  • A good waterproof jacket and waterproof trousers
  • A hand lens

Specific kit lists for each trip are provided in the relevant course guide.

Obtaining these items need not be expensive, so please ask for advice from older students if you need it. Contacting a member of the Sedgwick Club committee would be a good starting point, otherwise drop into the library and ask someone.

Course structure

The exact itinerary for each field course will differ, with more details available on individual field trip pages, but in general they involve:

  • 09:00–17:30 in the field.
  • Minibus or coach travel from the accommodation to the first locality.
  • 30–60 minutes spent at each locality—allowing students enough time to examine the outcrop, discuss their observations with demonstrators, fill in their notebook, and then debrief with the course leader.
  • 3–5 outcrop localities each day—on some trips students will walk between localities (e.g., Arran and Sedbergh), on others students are transported by minibus or coach (e.g., SW Trip and Greece).
  • A break for lunch—food is either provided by the accommodation or bought on the way to the first locality.
  • Evening presentations—students, in groups of 2–3, present their observations and interpretations of outcrops that they've seen that day. On mapping courses (Sedbergh and Skye), the evenings are used for inking in maps, rather than presentations.
  • Free time after presentations in the evenings.


On all field courses, everyone stays in either B&Bs, apartments, hotels, or cottages—as the point of the course is to learn geology, and not outdoor skills, a good night's rest and good food is a priority.

Field safety

When out on fieldwork, you need to be aware of your health and safety, and what responsibilities you have to look after yourself and your colleagues. Please refer to the Safety Handbook before each field trip.

Useful links

Term dates






All course materials can be found on the Earth Sciences Moodle course pages.

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Health & safety

Whether in the lab or out on fieldwork, you need to be aware of your health and safety, and what responsibilities you have to look after yourself and your colleagues. Please refer to the Safety Handbook.

Safety Handbook

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