Ascertain average depth of wells, inclination of strata, and springs. Does the water from this country crop out in springs in Holmsdale or in the valley of the Thames? Examine the fine springs in Holmsdale.

The valleys on this platform sloping northward, but exceedingly even, generally run north and south; their sides near the summits generally become suddenly more abrupt, and are fringed with narrow strips, or, as they are here called, "shaws" of wood, sometimes merely by hedgerows run wild. The sudden steepness may generally be perceived, as just before ascending to Cudham Wood, and at Green Hill, where one of the lanes crosses these valleys. These valleys are in all probability ancient sea-bays, and I have sometimes speculated whether this sudden steepening of the sides does not mark the edges of vertical cliffs formed when these valleys were filled with sea-water, as would naturally happen in strata such as the chalk.

In most countries the roads and footpaths ascend along the bottoms of valleys, but here this is scarcely ever the case. All the villages and most of the ancient houses are on the platforms or narrow strips of flat land between the parallel valleys. Is this owing to the summits having existed from the most ancient times as open downs and the valleys having been filled up with brushwood? I have no evidence of this, but it is certain that most of the farmhouses on the flat land are very ancient. There is one peculiarity which would help to determine the footpaths to run along the summits instead of the bottom of the valleys, in that these latter in the middle are generally covered, even far more thickly than the general surface, with broken flints. This bed of flints, which gradually thins away on each side, can be seen from a long distance in a newly ploughed or fallow field as a whitish band. Every stone which ever rolls after heavy rain or from the kick of an animal, ever so little, all tend to the bottom of the valleys; but whether this is sufficient to account for their number I have sometimes doubted, and have been inclined to apply to the case Lyell's theory of solution by rain-water, etc., etc.

The flat summit-land is covered with a bed of stiff red clay, from a few feet in thickness to as much, I believe, as twenty feet: this [bed], though lying immediately on the chalk, and abounding with great, irregularly shaped, unrolled flints, often with the colour and appearance of huge bones, which were originally embedded in the chalk, contains not a particle of carbonate of lime. This bed of red clay lies on a very irregular surface, and often descends into deep round wells, the origin of which has been explained by Lyell. In these cavities are patches of sand like sea-sand, and like the sand which alternates with the great beds of small pebbles derived from the wear-and-tear of chalk-flints, which form Keston, Hayes and Addington Commons. Near Down a rounded chalk-flint is a rarity, though some few do occur; and I have not yet seen a stone of distant origin, which makes a difference--at least to geological eyes--in the very aspect of the country, compared with all the northern counties.

The chalk-flints decay externally, which, according to Berzelius ("Edin. New Phil. Journal," late number), is owing to the flints containing a small proportion of alkali; but, besides this external decay, the whole body is affected by exposure of a few years, so that they will not break with clean faces for building.

This bed of red clay, which renders the country very slippery in the winter months from October to April, does not cover the sides of the valleys; these, when ploughed, show the white chalk, which tint shades away lower in the valley, as insensibly as a colour laid on by a painter's brush.

Nearly all the land is ploughed, and is often left fallow, which gives the country a naked red look, or not unfrequently white, from a covering of chalk laid on by the farmers. Nobody seems at all aware on what principle fresh chalk laid on land abounding with lime does it any good.

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19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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