Making Infographics For The Classroom

ScreenHunter_41 Jul. 01 10.44

I’ve finally found time to have a serious attempt at constructing some infographics. I have found a number of potential sites to explore to help me with this, and I started with Piktochart.

Piktochart is free to begin with, but once you have discovered exactly how much can be done with the tools on offer here, it is likely you will want to fork out for for one of the upgrade plans. There is a wide range of templates available, using colour, style and data to make the visuals appealing. However, the site is so easy to navigate and has so many easy to use tools, that is really easy to build your infographic from scratch.

There is a wide range of backgrounds to pick from, and a multitude of graphics and clip art available to illustrate your work. There are also some photos, and it is dead easy to upload your own. Text and data can be added in a number of interesting ways, and for me the best tool is the graphing button which allows you to input your own data and convert it into line graphs, pictograms, bar charts etc

Piktochart works by building a series of blocks that flow neatly into an extended infographic. Here is my first attempt capturing some key information for the topic of tourism growth in Iceland:


Piktochart’s classroom application includes allowing the teacher to create innovative presentations or posters that distill information into understandable chunks. Students should respond well to the sleek designs possible. Also, students can easily create their own infographics, reports, or presentation slides for any subject or data provided. Grouping and organizing information, as well as creating clever designs, will help them to develop analytical and spatial thinking skills.

Piktochart can also be used to create single slide graphics for use on posters, or as individual slides in a PowerPoint presentation. The site also includes detailed video tutorials for each step of the process.

I have been very impressed with the ease of use of Pictochart, and the results that it can achieve. However, I intend to try some alternatives in later blogs – including: Canva, Venngage, and Visme.

If you have any favourites that work well for you – please let me know.

Posted in Curriculum, General Geo, Iceland, Students, Teachers | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Geography South West Web Site – A New Resource Hub for Students and Teachers

ScreenHunter_39 Jun. 19 16.52

ScreenHunter_35 Jun. 19 16.51

The new ‘geographysouthwest’ website is now live!

Thanks to the efforts of geographers Simon Ross, John Davidson and Emma Espley, the new ‘geographysouthwest’ website is live!

ScreenHunter_36 Jun. 19 16.51The site includes resources for primary, key stage three, GCSE, and university level.  There are also dedicated sections for initial teacher education, fieldwork, NEA, CPD, visiting speakers, geography news, and climate change. In addition, there is a section titled, visit SW’, which includes suggestions for places to visit, places to walk, inspiring places, and places to eat.

The site will continue to grow over time, and with added contributions from all the geographers out there, should develop into a key resource hub not just for the region, but for the whole country and international community.

There is a great opportunity here for people to share their resources, ideas, and writing and have them publicised, and shared with fellow professionals. The more contributions the site receives, the more successful it will be – for us all. So, get writing!

ScreenHunter_37 Jun. 19 16.51I have a particular interest in the development of the site, as I have been responsible for setting up the Visit SW’ section. I have already uploaded a number of suggestions for special places in the region to visit and to walk – and look forward to receiving more content to build up this section into something really special.

ScreenHunter_38 Jun. 19 16.52


Posted in General Geo, Human World, Maps, Physical World, School, Students, Teachers, Travel | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Thunder & Lightning For Seven Year Olds



Here in Devon, we experienced some pretty impressive thunder and lightning this week. My seven year old Grandson enjoys the storm drama, and wanted to know exactly what was going on. So, in an attempt to simplify a complex bit of science, this is what I came up with.

We started off making some static electricity by rubbing our stockinged feet on the dining room carpet, and then giving each other shocks by putting our fingers on our necks.

Then, the simple summary: Lightning is really electricity. When clouds get full of electricity from the collision of ice and water particles, the electricity moves from the cloud to the ground below or to another cloud. This movement causes a bright jagged flash of light. This is the lightning that we see during a storm. Thunder is the sound caused by lightning.



A bit more detail: Where does the electricity in the cloud come from? – Within a cloud, many small bits of ice (frozen raindrops) bump into each other as they move around in the air. All of those collisions create an electric charge. After a while, the whole cloud fills up with electrical charges. The positive charges or protons form at the top of the cloud and the negative charges or electrons form at the bottom of the cloud. Since opposites attract, that causes a positive charge to build up on the ground beneath the cloud. The grounds electrical charge concentrates around anything that sticks up, such as mountains, people, or single trees. The charge coming up from these points eventually connects with a charge reaching down from the clouds and – zap – lightning strikes!

Where does the sound of thunder come from? When a lightning bolt travels from the cloud to the ground it actually opens up a little hole in the air, called a channel. Once the light is gone the air collapses back in and creates a sound wave that we hear as thunder. The reason we see lightning before we hear thunder is because light travels faster than sound!

How far away is the storm? You can use the sound of thunder to tell how far away a storm is. If you count the number of seconds between when you see the lightning and hear the thunder, and then divide that number by 5 – that will tell you how far away the storm is in miles. For example, if you counted 10 seconds between the lightning and the thunder, the lightning is 2 miles away!

Alternatively, you could flip this around. Count how many seconds pass between each clap of thunder and the first flash of lightning; multiply by five to estimate the distance. For example, the thunder is about 15 miles away if three seconds elapse.

Some safety measures if you are outside: If you hear the sound of thunder, go to a safe place immediately, perhaps inside a building or inside a car (make sure the windows are shut). If there is no shelter around you, stay away from trees. Crouch down in the open area, keeping twice as far away from a tree as far as it is tall. If you’re with a group of people stay about 15 feet from each other. Stay out of water, because it’s a great conductor of electricity. Stay away from clotheslines, fences, and anything metal.

Monitoring thunder and lightning: There are a number of excellent web sites that track the progress of thunderstorms and make interesting viewing when a storm is imminent:




There are also some really good apps that provide the same sort of information:

My Lightning Tracer & Alerts
Lightning Alarm
Live Lightning Map Storm Radar

Then, of course, there is You Tube: Takes a bit of searching to find age-appropriate material, and unfortunately, quite a lot of it is American:


Posted in Curriculum, Physical World, Teachers | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Web Resources For The Classroom – Web Links 4: Volcanoes

Previous blogs in this series of web resources for the classroom have covered themes of ‘Population’, ‘Weather & Climate’, and ‘Rivers and Flooding’. This time, for Web Links 4, I have put together a list of web sites under the topic of:



ScreenHunter_11 May. 23 19.11


This is the ‘Volcano World’ site from Oregon State University. It contains a detailed index of world volcanoes, with further details available on each one:

ScreenHunter_12 May. 23 19.14

ScreenHunter_13 May. 23 19.15

There is a detailed section covering the science of volcanoes, a glossary, and a wide range of teaching resources for use in the classroom.

ScreenHunter_14 May. 23 19.20

This site is run by the United States Geological Survey, and focuses on volcanoes as hazards. It covers all world volcanoes on a searchable map, includes a lot of scientific information about volcano hazards, and also offers educational resources.

ScreenHunter_15 May. 23 19.21

ScreenHunter_16 May. 23 19.26

This is the official web site for a tour company in Iceland offering trips INSIDE a volcano. The Þríhnúkagígur volcano or ‘Three Peaks Crater’, is dormant, and visitors take a short hike before being lowered into the volcano itself. The site contains some interesting photos, and makes a good link between volcanoes and tourism.

ScreenHunter_17 May. 23 19.35
This website describes the science behind volcanoes and volcanic processes. It is sponsored by NASA, and is intended for the education of university students of geology and volcanology and teachers of earth science.

ScreenHunter_18 May. 23 19.37This site has been created by Laura Sproule to allow Geography pupils and teachers to access Geography resources for the curriculum. It contains a wide range of links to downloadable resources, videos etc about volcanoes.

ScreenHunter_19 May. 23 19.43





ScreenHunter_20 May. 23 19.45

Good site for younger students to get started with. Contains many links to other resources.

ScreenHunter_21 May. 23 19.48

The Cambridge Volcano Seismology group explores many applications of volcano seismology, from what we can learn about movement of magma in the Earth’s crust and rift zone dynamics, to the very structure of the Earth itself. Good section about current research in central Iceland, and also a section on a career as a seismologist.

ScreenHunter_22 May. 23 19.51

Everything you need to know about Iceland’s volcanoes!




A regular blog from twovolcanologists – Alison Graettinger, Ph.D., and Janine Krippner, Ph.D. Includes information about volcano science, research, hazards, and experiments.

ScreenHunter_24 May. 23 19.57

This website has sections about volcanoes, volcano news, volcano photos and recently, earthquakes all over the world.

ScreenHunter_25 May. 23 19.59Range of blogs and other resources about volcanoes across the world.



ScreenHunter_26 May. 23 20.02

Detailed information about world volcanoes. Excellent map and section on currently active volcanoes, with detailed up to date bulletins.  Loads of background information FAQ etc.

ScreenHunter_27 May. 23 20.06

ScreenHunter_28 May. 23 20.09



ScreenHunter_29 May. 23 20.11

ScreenHunter_30 May. 23 20.12

ScreenHunter_31 May. 23 20.15Good starter site packed with clear and colourful diagrams, links to resources and videos etc.

ScreenHunter_32 May. 23 20.17Lots of stunning images and information about volcanoes on other planets.

ScreenHunter_33 May. 23 20.20Good site for younger students.




In addition to the web sites, I have added a few IOS apps for you to take a look at:

‘Disaster Alert’ – Free app that offers real-time updates about different active hazards as they unfold around the globe.
*** STAR APP *** ‘Volcanoes’ – Everything about volcanoes! Includes maps and alerts of new volcanic activity.
‘My Volcano’ – Information about world volcanoes, and a chance to contribute information yourself.
‘Earth Girl Volcano’ – Prepare for different volcano hazards by choosing the best tools to minimise damage (by Earth Observatory of Singapore)
‘Volcanoes & Earthquakes’ – Good volcano database, volcano alerts and activity
Your Guide to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park’ – Travel companion                                  ‘Geology of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park‘ – Includes excellent photographs     ‘Earth Primer’ – Create volcanoes and control the forces of nature in games and simulations

TWITTER users may wish to follow these accounts:

@USGSVolanoes @janineKrippner @volcanodiscover @volcanocafeorg @icevolcanoes

At the end of the series, I intend to complie all of the web links into a single e-document for download.

To check out earlier blogs in this series, follow these links:




Posted in Physical World, Students, Teachers | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bring Statistics Alive In The Classroom

ScreenHunter_02 May. 22 13.22

This web site can be a bit of fun, but it also has some relevant statistics that could be used in the geography classroom.

Web link:

ScreenHunter_03 May. 22 13.23It is simple to navigate, and involves entering a birth date to see how certain data sets have changed since that time to he present day. Entering a more senior teacher’s age obviously produces rather more dramatic results, and the figures in the screenshots here are from my ancient birth date. However, it is also really interesting to show students how aspects of the world have changed even during their limited time on this planet.

The ‘fun’ bits include checking on things like how many heartbeats have passed in a lifetime, how many times you have blinked, how many days have passed since your birth, how many days you have spent asleep, and so on:

ScreenHunter_04 May. 22 13.24



ScreenHunter_05 May. 22 13.24

Some of the more relevant data available on the site could be used as a starter for a lesson, a stimulus for discussion, a start point for individual research, or as a direct resource to use in specific lessons on development, climate change etc. Data available includes:









ScreenHunter_07 May. 22 13.25

ScreenHunter_06 May. 22 13.25

ScreenHunter_11 May. 22 13.27

ScreenHunter_10 May. 22 13.27

ScreenHunter_09 May. 22 13.27

ScreenHunter_08 May. 22 13.26

** When typing in your birth details, you need to the put the month in numbers, eg 06 for June.


Posted in Curriculum, General Geo, Human World, Students, Teachers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Eyam Village Has Been Here Before – Social Isolation in the17th Century



In these dark days of COVID 19 confinement, I have spent time researching some of the social geography associated with the virus. I was particularly interested in finding out about aspects of community confinement, self-sufficiency, and adaptation across the United Kingdom, and as usual, disappeared into a range of Google rabbit holes in the course of my task. However, random search directions can sometimes lead to interesting and unexpected findings, and I was intrigued by a fascinating account of a Derbyshire village that experienced social confinement in a completely different era – way back in the 1600s.

The village is Eyam – often referred to as the ‘Plague Village’. For 14 months, spanning across 1665 and 1666, residents of this Peak District community committed to an extra-ordinary act of self sacrifice by cutting themselves off from the outside world to prevent infections from the Bubonic Plague (or ‘Black Death’) spreading to the nearby towns of Sheffield and Bakewell.



The plague arrived in Eyam in September 1665, carried by fleas in a bale of damp cloth that had been ordered from London, where the disease had already taken the lives of  thousands of inhabitants. A tailor’s assistant called George Viccars was said to have opened the bale and hung the cloth in front of the hearth to dry, unwittingly stirring the disease-ridden fleas contained within the parcel. He became the first of the plague’s victims in the village.

The village rector, William Mompesson, despite being an unpopular figure with his parishioners, managed to persuade the villagers to quarantine themselves. With human to human contact with the outside world eliminated, the disease was confined within the village where the London fleas caused mass devastation.

August of 1666 saw the highest number of victims, with a peak of 5 to 6 deaths each day. During this month, Elizabeth Hancock buried 6 of her 8 children along with her husband close to the family farm. They all perished in the space of just eight days. The graves are known as the Riley Graves, after the farm where they lived.


The Riley Graves (under guardianship of the National Trust). Photo:

Curiously, the village gravedigger – Marshall Howe – survived the plague, despite having to handle numerous infected bodies.

The enforced isolation proved to be remarkably effective. By September and October, the worst of the pestilence was over – and by November, the disease had gone.

However, by then, the village had suffered severe consequences. In just over a year, 260 villagers from no fewer than 76 different families had died. This was from a village with an estimated population of between 350 and 800 before the plague struck. During the outbreak, Eyam’s mortality rate was much higher than that suffered by the citizens of London as a result of the plague.

Today, Eyam has various plague-related places of interest that has made the village something of a tourist attraction. Apart from the various grave sites scattered throughout the surrounding countryside, a number of the buildings display poignant information about the days of the plague. The parish church dedicated to St Lawrence has a wonderful plague window commemorating the historic event, and within the building a register of deaths is on display.


Church window. Photo:

A number of ‘plague stones’ can be found around the perimeters of the village, serving to mark the boundary that at the time should not be crossed either by inhabitants of Eyam or visiting outsiders. One is named the ‘Coolstone’, where villagers would come to place money in six holes drilled into the surface (usually soaked in vinegar as it was believed to kill the infection) to pay for food and medicine left by kindly neighbours.



There is an excellent museum in the village that receives over 30,000 visitors a year. It tells the story of the plague, and also traces how the village was able to return to a state of normality.

Eyam was soon reborn following the disaster. Less than a century after the terrible disease had run its course, Ralph Wain, working from a factory in the village invented a revolutionary new method of reproducing designs in silk. The area has always had an important history of lead mining, and later, the village became a centre for skilled spinners and weavers of cotton and silk, boot and shoe makers, other artisan craftsmen, and even poets and writers. In the modern age, a transition from industrial village to a tourist-based economy was completed.

So, what can we learn today from Eyam? Despite the massive impact the plague had on the village, the sacrifice of the self-imposed quarantine certainly prevented the spread of the disease leading to an even bigger death toll occurring. There has been much discussion over our government’s social isolation policy in response to the recent Covid 19 outbreak, but perhaps it will eventually prove to be similarly effective. The sacrifices made by people today, however, surely cannot compare to those of the 17th century village of Eyam.

Eyam came through its dark times and eventually managed to recover to become a thriving community once more – even if it had to evolve into different economic directions. Perhaps the UK communities that have suffered their own social isolation in recent times can take heart from Eyam’s example, and look forward to a prosperous future – although they too might have to look to reinvent themselves into something new or different in their quest for the ‘new normal’.

Posted in General Geo, Human World, Teachers, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Valley of the Rocks – A Coastal Mystery in North Devon


Castle Rock, Valley of the Rocks (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Being confined to home due to the Covid-19 virus problem has certainly been frustrating – but at least it has provided plenty of time to plan events for when the situation changes for the good.

I have been researching a number of trips and walks for later in the year, and have included here the details for a coastal walk I enjoyed last summer on the north Devon coast in the Valley of the Rocks, near Lynton.

ScreenHunter_02 Jul. 31 14.23

This is one of many descriptions for routes in the west country I have prepared, and they will feature as part of a new web site to be made live later this year. The site will be titled ‘Geography South West’ and is the brainchild of renowned geographers Simon Ross and John Davison. It will provide a hub for resources for geographers covering a range of areas including primary geography, key stages three and four, A level, University geography, ITT, fieldwork, CPD, exploring the south west, and climate change. When the site is ready to launch, I will make it known through this blog.


ScreenHunter_01 Apr. 17 16.34

This circular walk along part of the South West Coast Path starts and finishes at the Lynton cliff railway station. It totals 5 miles in length, although the shorter version reduces the length to 3 miles. It takes you through a unique periglacial dry valley running parallel to the coastline, with coastal sandstone tors, and high hog’s back cliffs.

1. The walk starts at the grade two listed Lynton cliff railway station. This unique water-powered funicular railway was opened in 1890, and was built to connect the harbour of Lynmouth with the cliff-top town of Lynton. Before the railway was constructed, packhorses and donkeys were used to haul goods up to the town. It is the only fully water-powered railway in Britain, and one of just three examples in the world.
To begin your journey, leave Lynton’s cliff railway station, and follow the track to the town’s main street. Turn left here, passing the Valley of Rocks Hotel before reaching the church dedicated to St Mary the Virgin. The church tower dates back to the 13th Century, but most of the rest of the building is of Victorian age. According to local legend, the church was first sited on the Barnstaple road, but disapproving pixies spirited building materials away every night, until the frustrated builders gave in and built it here instead.

2. At the church, turn left down North Walk Hill. At the bottom of the hill, you will cross a bridge over the cliff railway line, and from here there are great views over the town of Lynmouth, and along the coast to the Foreland Point Lighthouse. You then join the South West Coast Path (also part of the Tarka Trail), which follows North Walk towards the Valley of the Rocks.

3. Continue along North Walk, passing a number of guest houses before the road eventually turns into a path. You will pass through a wooden gate, and it is important to make sure it is closed after passing through in order to stop the feral goats wandering into the town.


Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The 11th Century Domesday Book recorded 75 goats in the Manor of Lyntonia, and a herd continued to roam in this valley until the middle of the 19th Century. However, the goats were often responsible for head-butting valuable sheep off the steep cliffs, so they were culled. Later in the early 20th century, it was realised that the goats provided a useful service by maintaining control on the scrub vegetation in the valley and keeping the rock faces clear, so a replacement herd of goats was introduced. By the mid 1960s, the goats had perished due to severe weather conditions, but in 1976 the current herd of hardy Northumberland goats was introduced. Numbers have increased dramatically since then, reaching at one time to over one hundred individuals. The goat herd is a controversial topic amongst local residents, some believing them to now be an important part of the valley landscape, while others have tired of the damage to town gardens and support a regular cull.

ScreenHunter_02 Apr. 17 16.38


Valley of the Rocks from Hollerday Hill (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

4. After around half an hour’s walking, look for the craggy tor called ‘Rugged Jack’ to the left of the path. The local sandstone is riddled with joints and bedding planes, and rain, frost and wind has enlarged these lines of weakness to create the mystical shapes of the rock tors found in the Valley of the Rocks. The shapes of these tors are exposed by the removal downslope of surrounding less resistant material. Local legend claims that long in the distant past, some Druids were having a wild party here at Rugged Jack one Sunday. Then suddenly, the Devil appeared amongst them and turned them all to stone.
Continuing onwards, the towering crags of Castle Rock tor will come into view ahead of you, resembling a high fortress looking out over the hog’s back cliffs across the waves of the Bristol Channel. You have now entered the heart of the ‘Valley of the Rocks’.
This deep valley was cut by the flow of a river over thousands of years, but today the valley has been left completely ‘dry’ – in other words, lacking any surface drainage.
So, what happened here to the river that cut the valley? There are two different theories that might reveal the answer.


Firstly, around 125,000 years ago, it could have been the case that the East Lyn river originally flowed westwards here, parallel to the sea, before joining it near Lee Bay. On its journey, the river would have carved out the steep-sided valley of the Rocks (see left). At this time, the coastline would have extended further north, but years of erosion caused the cliffs to retreat inland.




As the cliffs retreated, the ridge of land between the river and the sea became narrower. Eventually, it became easier for the river to simply flow over the cliffs and down to the sea at Lynmouth rather than continue to flow westwards through the Valley of Rocks (see right).



dddThe second theory has a connection to ice. This valley was located at the southern end of a vast ice sheet that pressed against the Exmoor cliffs in the penultimate cold period of the Ice Age between 120,000 and 200,000 years ago. Once the ice arrived it blocked the path of the Lyn rivers causing them to overflow and create a lake. The lake eventually overflowed and the waters ran west (aided by meltwater) to carve a new channel – the Valley of the Rocks. Years later, when the ice retreated, the river returned to its original course, and the Valley of the Rocks drained to be left dry.
The footpath eventually connects to the road that runs through the valley. As you reach the road, look to the right and try to identify the shape of the ‘White Lady’, formed by cracks and fissures amongst the boulders of Castle Rock. On the opposite side of the valley to Castle Rock is the rocky area known as ‘The Danes’ that includes the feature called ‘The Devil’s Cheese Ring’ – home to the white witch Mother Meldrum (the White Lady herself), a character from R D Blackmore’s famous novel ‘Lorna Doone’.


Can you spot the ‘White Lady’ in this old postcard image?

5. It is possible to shorten the walk from here, and return to Lynton. If so desired, turn left on the road, and stride out past some car parks, a picnic area and a toilet block. There is also a café alongside the road if you are in need of refreshment. Continue past one of the most picturesque cricket grounds in the country to find a path leading off to the left and signed to Lynton and Lynmouth via North Walk. This will lead you back to the coastal path whereupon you can retrace your steps back to Lynton. Alternatively, for a shorter but less scenic walk, you can follow the road back directly to the town.

6. To complete the longer circular route, turn right at the road to follow a combination of path and road (still the South West Coast Path) westwards to the impressive Gothic mansion buildings of Lee Abbey. An old manor house once stood on this site, occupied by the Wichehalse family from 1628 to 1713, initially because plague threatened their Barnstaple home. The present ‘Abbey’’, a mansion of no ecclesiastic origins, was built in 1850 for a private owner, but later became a hotel. It is now home to a vibrant international Christian community, and a venue for retreats, conferences and holidays.

7. When you reach the Abbey, turn off the road on a track to the left that leads via some switchback bends through Six Acre Wood. It eventually passes through Six Acre Farm, and then on to form a junction with Lydiate Lane.

8. Turn left into Lydiate Lane, immediately passing a caravan and camping site. Continue along this peaceful country lane back into the town of Lynton. There are plenty of independent shops and cafes here to enjoy before you end your walk.

9. Work your way through the streets of Lynton to the Town Hall which also houses a tourist information centre. On the left of the façade is a bust of local businessman Sir George Newnes who funded the cliff railway. Head from here back to the cliff railway station where your walk began.

Posted in Fieldwork, General Geo, Maps, Physical World, Teachers, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Red Coast – A Geology Walk From Exmouth to Sidmouth


Honeycomb weathering. Photo: P Berry

Being confined to home due to the Covid-19 virus problem has certainly been frustrating – but at least it has provided plenty of time to plan events for when the situation changes for the good.

I have been researching a number of trips and walks for later in the year, and have included here the details for a geology walk I enjoyed last summer on the Jurassic Coast from Exmouth to Sidmouth.

ScreenHunter_02 Jul. 31 14.23This is one of many descriptions for routes in the west country I have prepared, and they will feature as part of a new web site to be made live later this year. The site will be titled ‘Geography South West’ and is the brainchild of renowned geographers Simon Ross and John Davison. It will provide a hub for resources for geographers covering a range of areas including primary geography, key stages three and four, A level, University geography, ITT, fieldwork, CPD, exploring the south west, and climate change. When the site is ready to launch, I will make it known through this blog.



ScreenHunter_01 Apr. 02 11.51

This walk of 12.5 miles (20 km) covers a stunning section of the 95 miles Jurassic Coast, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its geology includes Permian and Triassic rocks overlain in part by rocks from the Cretaceous Period. It is informally known as the ‘Red Coast’ due to the colour of the cliffs.

Orcombe Red Rocks Sign

Photo: P Berry

The walk begins from the car park close to the sea front to east of the town of Exmouth town – past the Maer recreation ground, and by the lifeboat station at GR SY0121 8000.
From the start, there is a brief moment to admire the sandy beach of Exmouth before making for the cliffs at eastern end of esplanade. Here, the cliffs of Rodney Point give the first decent view of the red geology.


Geoneedle. Photo: P Berry

From here, the path climbs to Orcombe Point, where it is possible to stop and take a look at the geoneedle, a monument that marks the start of the Jurassic Coast. It is made of Portland Stone, but the central column of the obelisk displays the rock types from the main formations seen along this stretch of coast. The cliffs by the geoneedle offer excellent views of the Exe Estuary, Dawlish Warren, Teignmouth and beyond.

Straight Point And Devon Cliffs 2

Straight Point and Devon Cliffs Holiday Park. Photo: P Berry

The coast path continues towards the Devon Cliffs Holiday Centre that overlooks the sheltered beach of Sandy Bay. The sandstone cliffs show clear evidence of extensive cross-bedding, and provide nesting sites for kittiwakes and cormorants in summer months. After the caravan site, the path turns inland and then on to Littleham Cove to avoid the Royal Marines rifle range that occupies the headland of Straight Point. Resistant sandstones on this coastline form headlands jutting out into the sea, while interbedded mudstones form bays in between. At Littleham Cove the steep cliffs are unstable, with many landslips evident. It is hard to get to the beach here, but if you can find your way there at low tide, it is possible to spot radioactive nodules in the cliff. They appear like flattened fried eggs measuring up to 7 cm in diameter. Although they are not necessarily dangerous, it would be wise not to carry any home, certainly not in your pocket!


Sea birds nesting on cliffs in Sandy Bay. Photo: P Berry

The cliffs after Littleham Cove are known as ‘The Floors’ and are very unstable, with many land slips and areas of recent collapse. The coast path rises to West Down Beacon – an escarpment of pebble beds – and then descends through woodland by the side of the East Devon golf course, and on to Budleigh Salterton.

(Above) Budleigh Salterton Pebble Beds. Photos: P Berry

The path leads to a slipway (opposite toilets) that runs down to the pebble beach. Head a few metres westwards (to your right as you walk onto the beach) to take a close look at West Cliff. Here, you can see the famous Budleigh Salterton Pebble Beds in all their glory. Keeping a safe distance from the cliff face, you should be able to pick out a clear layer of pebbles around 25 to 30 metres thick in places. The pebble beds are a formation packed with large round pebbles cemented by sand. These are the most-travelled pebbles in Europe, having started life 400 million years ago in Britanny. They have since been transported in the Triassic Period by large fast flowing rivers from high mountains here to the south coast of England. Around the pebble beds, you can also see some excellent examples of honeycomb weathering in the cliff geology, caused by wind and salt erosion.

Budleigh Salterton town is worth a visit, and marks the halfway point of this walk. The town got its name from the salt pans (salterns) that can be found at mouth of river Otter at the east end of the beach. Salt was extracted here from at least Domesday times.


Rhizocretions. Photo: P Berry

Head eastwards along the pebble beach and look out for a sign that points out the location of some interesting fossils found in the sandstone cliffs. These are groups of vertical, tube-like features called rhizocretions. During the Triassic period around 235 million years ago, ancient plants grew here amongst the shifting streams of a desert river system. The roots of these thirsty plants burrowed down into the soft red sand of the desert, drawing on any water they could find. Minerals that were dissolved in the water grew in crystals around the roots and encased them. As time passed, the streams moved and the plants died. But the encased roots remained as fossil evidence for us to examine.


Otter Ledge and shingle spit. Photo: P Berry

As you reach the end of the beach, you can see how a shingle ridge has grown to almost block the journey of the river Otter to the sea. This shingle spit was enlarged greatly in the great storms of 1824, and prior to this, small ships of up to 60 tons could pass up river. The path winds inland from here to cross the Otter estuary, through the Otter Estuary Nature Reserve – a 57 acre SSSI. Salt marshes and mud flats have developed behind the shingle spit, and the area is rich in bird life, particularly wintering wildfowl and waders.


Otter Estuary Nature Reserve. Photo: P Berry

The path loops back on the east side of the river to Otterton Ledge. From here, the coastline consists of vertical cliffs of Otter sandstone up to 60 metres in height, but is fairly straight with a few small headlands.


Ladram Bay. Photo: P Berry

The path eventually reaches Ladram Bay, a delightful secluded bay with a flint and chert pebble beach. The main features here though, are the sandstone cliffs, caves, and impressive sea stacks. These structures contain numerous fractures and vertical joints that are eroded by the sea to form caves at sea level, which then develop into arches as the sandstone headland is attacked by wave action from both sides. The roofs of these arches eventually became so unstable they collapsed to leave the stacks we see at Ladram today. In 1925, the last arch in Ladram Bay collapsed to isolate a stack. Old postcards and photographs in the Pebbles restaurant show views of the old arches from the beginning of the 20th Century, and an excellent noticeboard in front of restaurant clearly explains how processes of erosion have shaped this landscape. Given time, the stacks themselves will be undercut and collapse as well, overcome by the force of the sea.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

(Above) Ladram Bay. Photos: P Berry

It is interesting to consider why stacks appear here at Ladram, but not further along the coast. Certainly, faults and joints are more common here, and there are also hard beds of rock that form a tough platform on which the stacks sit, resisting sea erosion.
A wide wave cut platform is exposed at low tide at the far western end of the bay, leaving numerous rock pools to explore.


Cross bedding in cliffs at Ladram Bay. Photo: P berry

The cliffs and stacks below the restaurant display superb examples of cross bedding. Here, thin curved layers in the rock cut across each other – a sign of either wind or river deposition. In deserts, layers of sand build up in dunes which then migrate and change direction with the wind. This creates a crisis-cross pattern. Changing river channels can produce the same effect, and this is what we see here at Ladram Bay.

The path from Ladram Bay to Sidmouth rises to the Upper Greensand rock of High Peak, where a modern plantation hides the evidence of an old iron age hill fort that once existed here. Glimpses of the red cliffs can be caught through the bushes and trees. On this stretch of the walk, the lower half of cliffs is made up of Otter sandstone which forms a vertical cliff face. The upper half of the cliff is Mercia mudstone, which is less resistant to weathering and erosion and produces a less steep profile. This rock contains a number of rare but important fossil fish, amphibians and reptiles that help us reconstruct past from 230 million years ago. Below High Peak are the impressive stacks of Big Picket and Little Picket.

The path descends from High Peak via an area known as Windgate to Peak Hill. All of this area is Mercia mudstone, and the route crosses many distinct hollows that provide evidence of old disused marl pits. Marl is mudstone with calcareous content, and is spread on fields to improve soil quality. The descent from Peak Hill leads into the town of Sidmouth. The path runs through the open Cliff Fields where numerous benches offer a chance to rest and enjoy the views to the distant chalk cliffs of Beer Head.

Jacobs Ladder 2

Jacob’s Ladder, Sidmouth. Photo: P Berry

Sidmouth itself is framed by Peak Hill to west and Salcombe Hill to east. Before entering the town, and just before Connaught Gardens, it is worth descending the white steps of Jacob’s Ladder to take you down to the beach. Here, you can see a large north to south trending fault extending out across foreshore – particularly obvious at low tide. To the west are Mercia mudstones, and to the east are Otter sandstones. Some cross bedding in the Otter sandstone can also be seen at foot of cliffs by Jacobs Ladder.

Complete your walk by strolling along the fine esplanade to reach the river Sid – confined into narrow space between a shingle ridge and sandstone cliffs just like river Otter.

Posted in Fieldwork, General Geo, Maps, Physical World, Teachers, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Geography Teacher Poem


While weeding out some old notes, I came across this poem titled “The Geography Teacher”, by Brian Patten. Thought it was worth a share –

“Our teacher told us one day he would leave

And sail across a warm blue sea

To places he had only known from maps,

And all his life had longed to be.

The house he lived in was narrow and grey

But in his mind’s eye he could see

Sweet-scented jasmine clinging to the walls,

And green leaves burning on an orange tree.

He spoke of the lands he longed to visit,

Where it was never drab or cold.

I couldn’t understand why he never left,

And shook off the school’s stranglehold.

Then halfway through his final term

He took ill and never returned,

And he never got to that place on the map

Where the green leaves of the orange tree burned.

The maps were redrawn on the classroom wall;

His name was forgotten, it faded away.

But a lesson he never knew he taught

Is with me to this day.

I travel to where the green leave’s burn

To where the ocean’s glass-clear and blue,

To all those places my teacher taught me to love

But which he never knew.

Posted in General Geo, School, Teachers | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Flag Maths In The Classroom

ScreenHunter_10 Jan. 31 23.48

When I was teaching, I always had a number of geography students who were obsessed with country flags. I am sure they would have loved to play around with flag designs in this ‘maths meets flags’ exercise I came across on Twitter. Thanks to @simongerman600 for this example (originally from


Posted in General Geo, Students, Teachers, Travel | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment