The Devil Went Down to Leicester

A few months ago, I passed comment to J that you never see Devil’s Toenails anymore;

“What are they?” he asked

“Stones.  They are shaped a bit like a toenail, which I suppose is why they’re called what they’re called…have you never seen one?” says I

“Nope” says he

“Odd” says I.

The recent trip to Leicester brought this conversation back to mind, particularly because I was doing a bit of weeding in mum’s garden and came across a Devil’s Toenail.  I picked it up and brought it inside to keep to show J, and then I thought I’d do a bit of Googling to see if they were actually a thing.  And it turns out they very much are.

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Devil’s Toenails (or Gryphaea to give them their posh name) are fossils from extinct oysters, which made me feel a bit stupid, as in all my years I hadn’t realised (or maybe I’d just forgotten) that they were fossils, and are so called because of their shape.  When I looked at the one I’d found more closely, I could see lines on it, which it turns out are growth bands.  I think they are quite common across Britain, but Googling also shows they seem particularly so around the Midlands.  I had a bit more of a dig around the gravel and found quite a few more, I showed them to the kids and explained what they were; they didn’t seem very impressed.  Anyway I collected two of them (the ones I decided were prize specimens) and have now brought them home and they are being displayed in our treasures jar.

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This is a jar of nice stones, feathers, pieces of wasp nests, fossils, shells, sea glass, a dried up starfish (it was dead and dried when I found it) and other bits and pieces we have picked up over the years when out and about.  In my head, one day I will sit with the kids and go through it all, talking about what the things are, how they feel, what they look like etc etc.  However the only time I have tried this with the girl I found it all too stressful, as she either tried to eat it all, or smash things together, and so I hurriedly put everything back in the jar (just so) and tried to distract her from it for days after.  An educational opportunity for another day perhaps.



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