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Learning about geology is the nearest thing we have to time travel. Our lifetimes (even if you are lucky enough to live to 100 years young) are but a blink of an eye in Geological Terms. Rocks can tell us far more about life, death and the passage of time than any person I have met! The Rocks in Maidencombe, although not the oldest in Devon, date back to the Permian age 250-300 million, yes MILLION years ago.
On one of my 'Extreme Geology Tours' I will take you on a mind bending journey back through time, exploring and explaining the many features on this unique piece of undiscovered coastline (before we leap off like crazy fools). I may also throw in a few ghost stories for good measure just to bring to life some of the more recent smuggling history - we don't want you bored now do we! During the Carboniferous age, 360-300 million years ago, a continental collision to the West of what is now Torbay formed a high mountain range. Large canyons were carved in the mountains leading to the east where a desert plain, now east Devon would collect the Permian sediments. The rocks in Maidencombe show fantastic evidence of flash floods in these mountains and plains which produced breccia style sandstones - sedimentary sandstones with large gravel fragments throughout which show minimal rounding/smoothing by water. These rocks can be a challenge for coasteerers as the breccia fragments can come off in your hand or fall from the cliffs. We minimise these risks by adopting a unique climbing style and by not spending too much time in the 'danger zones' identified in our risk assessments.
Devonian rocks, dating from between 415 and 360 million years ago are the oldest rocks found in the county and represent a time when Devon was under the sea near the equator. Limestone formed during this time can now be seen in Torquay, pockets of which helped form most of the fantastic caves around Maidencombe. After the Devonian period it was all change with a sequence of mountain building, volcanic intrusion and eruptions. The mountains were slowly eroded over the next 100 million years (Permian and Triassic) while Devon entered a very arid period similar to the Sahara desert today. Sea level eventually rose and flooded Devon, this signified the start of the Jurassic period which gives it's name to the Jurassic coast moving east of Torquay. This stretch Chronicles 250 million years of evolution in and around the sea with many splendid fossils to be found. The rocks 'dip' to the East and the succession gets younger the further east you travel.
The Rocks in Maidencombe find themselves at the base of this succession, a baron and ancient landscape which pre-dates life on the land. Sitting here you can contemplate the vastness of time, the trials and tribulations of the creatures that eeked out an existence here, and, looking to the east you can contemplate the journey which lead to the evolution of man.
The more recent geological history is just as fascinating, Watcombe Head cave would have been one of the very first places that was inhabited by early nomadic homo sapiens. I always make the point to welcome people home when they enter the cave (if they make it that far) as it is almost a certainty that yours and their ancestors dwelt in the cave and hunted on the plains that stretched out before. Come on a time travelling coasteer to have YOUR mind blown.
Maidencombe is a forgotten wilderness on your doorstep! Nestled between Shaldon and Torbay, down steep and windy lanes, hides one of Devon's secret gems. As a life- long local with an intimate relationship with the area I want to share this magical place with you and unlock it's secrets -under the water and on land.
Some of our most popular residents here in Maidencombe are the seals. The most that I have seen at any one time is five! They normally bask on the rocks at low tide then slip into the water to come and say hello. I always carry masks with me so if an encounter does happen the lucky group can make the most of it and really get a unique view of these inspiring wild animals. You will be amazed at how big but gentle they are. On one recent session a gorgeous female sat in the kelp below while excited (some scared) stags looked down in amazement. They will often be seen around spider crab cove and bell rock.