Arriving in Lorca the previous night and chowing down on a surprisingly delicious meal from the Hotel Felix restaurant, in which we were each served a three-course meal meant we were reasonably psyched for the first full day of fieldwork. This day consisted of a tour of the main areas in which we would be working. Our first stop was Lorca Castle in which we were briefed on what kind of fieldwork we would be undertaking as well as gathering notes and taking some great photos of the greater Lorca area. Another notable stop was at the town of Puerto Lumbreras which was the location of a natural disaster back in 1973 in which 86 people were tragically killed when a sudden influx of heavy precipitation in the upper catchment of the area rushed down the river channel where a market was held. We took a very good look around the river channel as our tour coach became stuck in the extremely dry surface of the channel! After waiting around 2 hours for help to arrive we were finally able to hop on a replacement bus and continue our orientation of the area. Another notable stop was a visit to the Puentes Dam which is a key feature of the local water system. A lovely three-course meal consisting of delicious Paella starter, chicken leg and potatoes for the main course and a slice of chocolate ice-cream cake for desert was waiting for when we arrived back to hotel after an extremely long day! A trip to the local bar for some well-deserved drinks and to watch Gareth Bale’s debut for Real Madrid rounded off our first day before heading to bed for some much needed sleep.
After a satisfying jam covered breakfast and a trip to the local bakery we were all set to head out on our second day of orientation. Our first stop was the scenic area of Cabo Cope in which we had quite a long talk about the different geomorphological processes that formed the surrounding cliffs, and also why there were different types of rock within the same cliff. After Cabo Cope we headed to the nearby coastal town of Calabardina for a short break. Some people headed off for some shade whilst others (myself included) headed into the sea to cool off and catch a tan! Needless to say the cool water didn’t make much of a difference when we arrived at our next location as it was blisteringly hot! The next location was the La Hoya region of Murcia which is the location of the suspected fault line which caused an earthquake in 2011. We had the opportunity to view the suspected fault close up and have a group talk with Janet and Andy about the formation of the surrounding Alluvial Fans and the development of the area throughout the Holocene. Our next and penultimate stop was the Torrealvilla channel in which we had a quick talk about how the recently constructed dams that we had visited the previous day were affecting the area and how human quarrying has altered the topography. We then headed back to Lorca for a well-earned break before heading off to the local bar once again to watch the Barcelona game with a few drinks.
Our third day was based solely around guided group projects. After a breakfast consisting of a pain au chocolat and a nice sugary coffee I was good to go. The guided projects were designed to introduce us to working individually in preparation for our unguided, assessed projects in the following two days. We were divided into groups of six and each group did five different types of fieldwork, including the assessing of nearby land usage, topography and species diversity within a quadrat area. After each group had completed one of their assignments we would move location. As we were heading towards our first location we were stopped by the Spanish military who were testing some form of missile interception system which wouldn’t be a coincidence considering the proximity to Gibraltar and the recent tensions! Eventually we ended up in the nearby Badlands which had treacherous terrain and temperatures reaching 40°c. Due to these conditions, the fulfilment of the fieldwork in this area was optional and only a small handful of people actually went down into the Badlands (including myself) to take pictures and take some quick measurements. When we were finished we headed back to the hotel and had a pretty quiet night in in preparation for the tough fieldwork and the Liverpool match the following day.
Day 4 marked the beginning of our unguided group projects which are to be assessed. My group consisted of myself, Ben Phillips, Phillip Ellis, James Misra and Rob Dietz and we decided to focus our investigation on how a microclimate, land usage and the area geology/geomorphology all have an impact on the surrounding surface temperature. These projects were set over the course of two days. Today would be located at Nogalte, the location of a small, newly-constructed dam. The day was very laid back as we only had to take surface and air temperature, humidity and wind speed measurements every 15 minutes. Between these measurements we tried keeping ourselves entertained as best as possible, which included swatting away several pesky wasps (the area was infested with them). Half-way through our measurements a construction worker doused the soil in water, which forced us to move our measurement location ever so slightly as it would have affected our results! Phil also thought it’d be a great idea to take some sneaky footage of myself trying to keep myself busy and turn it into a mini video for all of Facebook to see… nice one Phil! After 6 or so hours of measurements we headed back to the hotel to get ready for the big game! We decided to eat out at a pizzeria located in the self-proclaimed “Concert Square” before hunting around for a bar which had the Liverpool game on. A tough draw was enough to maintain our top-of-the-league status and give us Liverpool fans bragging rights for the remainder of the trip!
Day 5 consisted of exactly the same thing but in a different area (Torrealvilla, the location of a large aqueduct). The good news was that there were only pesky flies to contend with rather than wasps but it was a much hotter day than the previous and there was very little shade. There was lots of time spare between each measurement that we took so we had a great opportunity to look around the area and appreciate the vast landscape here. We gathered our data over the next 6 hours and found a significant disparity between the two sites that we had chosen to measure, even though they were only 200m or so apart. When finished we returned to the hotel to put our data into a spread sheet ready for when we return to Liverpool. We had a lovely final meal which was complimented by free Limoncello by the restaurant staff, and a complimentary glass of champagne from the hotel owner! As this was the last day everybody went to “Concert Square”. After a sociable night we returned to the hotel for our final sleep before departure. A select few may have got a little bit too drunk and needed to be carried home… always the sign of a brilliant night.
Benefits of the Field Class
By participating in the field class with experts in their fields I feel that I have gained a solid understanding of how extreme geomorphological conditions can affect the severity and likelihood of flooding. I have also gained a good understanding of how humans can mitigate against flooding and a lack of rainfall by constructing dams and aqueducts to divert the scarce water resources to much needed areas. My project focused on how microclimate, land usage and the geology of an area can affect the surrounding temperatures and I think from taking some great quantative data I am now able to better understand why south-east Spain is so semi-arid, and why some areas (such as the bad lands) are much more desert-like
Brandon Kinson (BSc Geographer, Year 2)