A Pteridosperm fossil found in the Warwickshire coalfield.

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This pteridosperm fossil was found in the Warwickshire coalfield. The specimen contains one large leaf in the centre, surrounded by leaf and stem debris. Although it resembles a fern, this leaf actually comes from a tree. It originates from the Carboniferous period some 300 million years ago, when the land around Coventry, Bedworth and Nuneaton was covered in a forested swamp and long before the dinosaurs walked the Earth.

Taking the advice of Philip Henry Gosse’s A Naturalist’s Rambles on the Devonshire Coast, Eliot and her partner, George Henry Lewes, set off in 1856 for Devon to practice natural history along the shoreline. During this time, Eliot honed her increasingly precise naturalist’s eye: observing and taxonomizing those she met as surely as she did her specimens.