Richard Bell's Wild West Yorkshire nature diary

Rocks & Blocks

Friday, 30th March, 2007
THIS AFTERNOON Barbara and I got to meet my namesake – Richard Bell, no relation, a retired geologist from Toronto, who, with his wife Mary, came up on the train from London, where they’re staying for a week.

Richard started in forestry before moving on to geology and, in particular, prospecting for uranium ore. Along the way he and a colleague were the first to point out that North America and Australia were once connected, long before the supercontinent Pangaea formed and split apart again.

Richard, Mary and Richard
Richard T Bell, Mary Bell & Richard A Bell


Top: Leopard Wood from Australia (but this specimen was grown in South America), Tamarack, used in railway ties, from Larder Lake, Ontario
Bottom: White Oak - notice the medulary rays radiating across the grain - Canada, and Black Walnut from Stratford, Ontario.


Pocket-sized Stromatolite

He brought me a small fossil of a stromatolite - a layered, cabbage-like structure created by marine micro-organisms such as bacteria and algae - from a Canadian rock formation. When I think of stromatolites I picture the lagoon in Shark Bay, Australia, where they are the size of coffee tables – they can be the size of a small hill, Richard tells me – but in the fossil he gave me they are no larger than button mushrooms.

Oak, Pine and Walnut

He’s kept his interest in timber and, along with the fossil, he gave me these polished off-cuts. He tells me our doors are Monterey Pine – a fast-growing species, as you can tell by the well-spaced growth rings. It’s often planted and it makes good timber as it’s so stable.

What's Cooking?

He can identify many timbers by smell alone – different species have a characteristic smells and, to my surprise, when we were in the garden he was able to identify one of our herbs by smell alone from 3 yards away.

“Is someone cooking a curry?” he asked.

It was our curry plant. I could smell it when I rubbed the leaves in my fingers but I wouldn’t have picked up the spicy fragrance from that distance. And, unlike Richard, I’ve never smoked.