Musical Maps

ScreenHunter_01 Jun. 27 12.13I’m not sure what use these resources might have in the classroom – maybe some bright spark will come up with an idea how they could be used constructively in lessons. However, if nothing else they are a bit of geo fun!


This original world map sound bite was created by John Keats, and uploaded onto You Tube in February, 2017.

It is an example of ‘MIDI art’, or an image created via a careful arrangement of musical blocks. MIDI stands for ‘Musical Instrument Digital Interface’, and is basically a sequence programming protocol that allows musical equipment (like an electric piano or a synthesiser) to communicate with a computer. After the original version went viral, numerous other versions began to appear, and You Tube now overflows with musical geography!




Just type ‘musical maps’ or something similar into You Tube, and you can find many more. Let me know your favourite!


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GeoText Expedition 4 – Chasing Geography Textbooks In A Camper Van: Hay Tor, Dartmoor.



Image: P Berry

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The journey continues – this time to Hay Tor on Dartmoor.

TextbookWhen teaching about granite scenery, I often made reference to this textbook photograph.

The image came from a textbook titled ‘Landforms’ by Ian Galbraith and Patrick Wiegard. Some of the more mature geographers out there might remember using this publication as well?


Hay Tor is popular with both visitors and locals partly as it is one of the more easily accessible of the Dartmoor tors, but also because of the spectacular views it commands across Dartmoor and the South Hams. I chose a clear day to visit, and with the rocks of Hay Tor standing at 457 metres above sea level, I was rewarded with an outstanding vista stretching towards Devon’s south coast:


Image: P Berry


Image: P Berry

Tors – the craggy granite outcrops synonymous with Dartmoor – were formed some 280 million years ago when the area now known as south west England was involved in a period of mountain building. Rocks from the Devonian (415 – 370 million years ago) and Carboniferous (370 – 280 million years ago) periods were forced up in Alpine proportions. Around the same time, magma cooled and solidified from a temperature of between 900 and 1000 degrees Celsius as it was pushed up underneath the older rocks above, creating the granite of Dartmoor. The overlying rocks were slowly eroded away to expose the granite at the surface, subsequently shaped by processes of weathering and erosion – particularly during the freezing and thawing processes during the Ice Ages – to form the distinctive appearance of the many tors found on Dartmoor.

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Image: P Berry



Image: P Berry

Just below Hay Tor, is Haytor Quarry. This was the largest of five granite quarries in this area, and was worked from the late eighteenth century and sporadically throughout the nineteenth century until the 1860’s. In 1825, Haytor granite was used for the foundation stone of London Bridge. The quarries are now secluded sites of some beauty, with ponds in the old workings alive with dragonflies, newts and fish. A keen eye can spot evidence of old quarrying methods by spotting the shot holes in the quarry faces, piles of waste cut granite slabs, and the distinctive marks left by feather and tare cutting. – Here, a line of circular holes was driven into the granite using an iron bar (known as a jumper), and into these holes were set metal wedges (known as tares) supported on either side by pairs of concave metal pieces, called feathers. The tares were hit by a hammer until the stone split along the line of the holes.


Image: P Berry


Image: P Berry

The old quarries are linked by a tramway, built in 1820 to transport the granite down to the Stover Canal, where it was then taken on to Teignmouth Docks. Horses were used to draw the 3 ton trucks along the track of granite setts, rather than iron rails. The tramway now forms part of the Templer Way walking trail.



Although I am inclined to favour the ‘pocket park’ of Exmoor which is on my doorstep, I do love to visit Devon’s second National Park, and hope to return in the near future for further exploration. All suggestions for interesting sites gratefully received!

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GeoText Expedition 3 – Chasing Geography Textbooks In A Camper Van: Cheddar Gorge


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The next adventure took us to Cheddar Gorge in Somerset.

When teaching about limestone scenery, I often made reference to this textbook photograph:


TextbookThe image came from a textbook titled ‘Investigating Physical geography’’ by Neville Grenyer. Maybe the more mature geographers will still remember this publication?

Cheddar Gorge is a limestone gorge lying on the southern edge of the Mendips Hills in Somerset. It is almost three miles long, and has a maximum depth of 137 metres. There is a near-vertical cliff-face to the south, and steep, grassy slopes to the north.


E2125A17-4456-4340-9331-7BF52DFD3170aCheddar Gorge is not a collapsed cavern – as many people believe. It is actually a gorge cut by a surface river which later disappeared underground. The gorge was formed by meltwater floods during the many cold periglacial periods over the last 1.2 million years. During these arctic episodes, the development of permafrost blocked the caves with ice and frozen mud making the limestone rock impermeable. Snowmelt floods during the brief summers were then forced to flow on the surface, carving out the gorge in the process. During the warmer interglacial periods, the water flowed underground again through the permeable limestone – leaving the gorge dry.


Contrary to popular belief, Cheddar Gorge is not a collapsed cavern, but a fine example of a gorge cut by a surface river, and since left high and dry as drainage went underground.

Image: Made using ‘Photo Mapo’ app



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The nearby village of Cheddar is full of tourist services, and there are a number of show caves found there which were created by an underground river that flows through the area. These are accessible to the public, and receive around half a million visitors each year. One of them is the location where the oldest complete human skeleton in the UK was discovered back in 1903 – estimated to be over 9,000 years old. Others contain even older human remains, as well as excellent examples of stalactites, stalagmites and pillars.


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Map made using ‘Strava’ and ‘Relive’ apps

There is a pleasant circular walk of around 5 miles that takes you along the high cliffs on each side of the gorge. There is a bit of a steep pull to endure when leaving the village – but the effort is rewarded when you reach the top with views both into the gorge itself, and across to the opposite cliff walls. However, I personally prefer walking away from the village on the cliff top and then returning along the road through the floor of gorge. There is plenty of traffic to be wary of, but some great views looking up at the sides of the gorge to contrast the earlier views from above.


While visiting these textbook locations, we have been making use of our ‘Brit Stops’ membership ( This enables a camper van to park for free in selected locations – usually pubs with car parks, but sometimes other interesting locations like farm shops, vineyards and the like. There is no obligation to use the services at your site, but we normally choose pubs and pop in for a meal and a couple of pints of local ale.

If anyone is planning to visit Cheddar for themselves and require further information, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

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GeoText Expedition 2 – Chasing Geography Textbooks In A Camper Van: Dawlish Warren



Image: P Berry


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We managed to make a start last autumn with a visit to our first textbook location – Hurst Castle spit in Hampshire. This was written up in an earlier blog at:

However, the expedition was really planned to start in 2018. So, for the first ‘official’ visit we ventured to another coastal spit a bit closer to home – Dawlish Warren.

When teaching about coastal geography and coastal processes, I often used Dawlish Warren as an example of a spit, and for many years I made reference to this textbook photograph:


This image of Dawlish Warren came from a textbook titled ‘Landforms’ by Ian Galbraith and Patrick Wiegand, (p82). Maybe the more mature geographers will still remember this publication?




Image: P Berry

Dawlish Warren has always been one of my favourite beaches in Devon, and the warren itself is a giant sand spit that extends for around 2 kilometres into the mouth of the river Exe. It has developed due to longshore drift from the west side of the river, and pushes across the estuary almost to the town of Exmouth on the eastern side. Only a narrow channel to the sea remains, kept open by the strong outward flow of the river Exe itself. The Dawlish Warren spit is around 500 metres wide through much of its length, but thins dramatically in the middle before extending further to the tip of the spit, Warren Point. The narrowest part of the spit is backed by a band of sand dunes, and behind these a large salt marsh has developed. Much of the area has been designated as a National Nature Reserve (and some of it a SSSI), containing several rare habitats.



New coastal management at the head of Dawlish Warren beach.

Image created using ‘Photo Mapo’ app

Dawlish Warren has suffered from erosion for a number of years – with the narrowest part (‘the neck’) particularly at risk of being breached by storms and sea level rise. There has been an increasing risk of flooding at Dawlish Warren village, along with other settlements in the estuary like Starcross and Lympstone. To allow the spit to continue to act as a barrier to storm waves, a lot of management work has been carried out over the last year or so to stabilise the beach and dunes.


IMG_2642The Dawlish Warren Beach Management Scheme (DWBMS) was put into place by the Environment Agency along with Teignbridge District Council at the cost of around £14 million. It was completed in October 2017, following 9 months work. This was my first visit to the site since the engineering had been completed.


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The purpose of the DWBMS is to reduce flood risk to homes, businesses and critical infrastructure within the Exe estuary. It was also designed to deliver long term improvements to the Warren’s natural environment and to the beach’s amenity value. It consists of 5 main components:

# Beach nourishment (or re-charge) – extra sand added to the beach from off-shore dredging
# Maintenance of current sea wall and revetments at base of spit
# Construction of a new giant-sized sandbag defence underneath of the dunes at the neck to hold it in place and help shelter the estuary from storm waves This involved filling a 460 metres ‘geo textile’ tube with sand, and burying it into the back of the dunes, where it is designed to remain even under severe storm conditions.
(See blog entry:
# Repair, replacement and extension of 14 timber groynes to help hold sand on the beach
# Removal of old metal gabions to help dunes repair and behave more naturally
# Construction of new flood defences close to the Visitor Centre to reduce the risk of tidal flooding



Installing the geo-textile tube. Image; Teignmouth Council

Since completion of the scheme, the beach has changed shape following spring tides and recent storms. Further beach and sand dune movement is expected in the future – and in the long term (beyond ten years), the beach is likely to lower and the dunes will roll back. It is also likely there will be flooding behind the dunes at high tides. There is obviously a degree of uncertainty here, but further management will almost certainly be needed. However, without the DWBMS, it has been estimated that there would be a permanent breach of the narrowest section of the spit by the year 2030 – increasing wave heights and water levels in the estuary.


I look forward to making future visits to monitor conditions at this wonderful location. If anyone is planning to visit for themselves and require further information, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

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Blue Anchor Hotel – The Next Holbeck Hall?

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In a recent article on his excellent ‘Living Geography’ blog (, Alan Parkinson (aka @GeoBlogs) mentioned the Blue Anchor hotel in west Somerset.

The hotel is currently in an extremely precarious position – threatened by cliff failure. Alan compared the situation to Holbeck Hall – a four star hotel near Scarborough which was destroyed by landslides in 1993 – and I do remember using this as a case study example in my teaching. Blue Anchor would make a great up to date and current case study for exam work or for key stage three studies, and also a great spot to visit for an interesting afternoon walk for a geographer – with or without a group of students.

As the village of Blue Anchor is in my local area, and just a short trip across to the Somerset side of Exmoor, I thought I would pop over to take a closer look. After visiting the hotel for a most wonderful pint (or two) of Otter Ale, it soon became clear that if nothing is done about the current condition of the cliffs, they will soon collapse into the sea below – taking the 16th century hotel along with them. The situation here has become more pressing in recent months following severe spring storms that have caused huge new cracks to appear in the top of the cliffs very close to the hotel buildings.

Costs of defending a coastline can be astronomically high, and outside help has not been forthcoming. Over a number of years, Somerset County Council has set aside resources in order to apply for funding towards coastal protection at Blue Anchor – but a bid to the Environment Agency failed in 2014.



There is currently no immediate threat to the hotel buildings, and the hotel is still open for business – although as a precaution, all overnight bookings at the hotel have been cancelled. There is no doubt though that the hotel is in real need of a lifeline from somewhere – because if the cliffs are left to natural processes, there is only one possible conclusion to this story.



Image: British Geological Society

The cliffs in this part of Somerset represent a sharp contrast with the higher hog’s back cliffs of the Exmoor coast to the west and the low, estuarine mud flats and fringe dunes around the mouth of the river Parrett to the east. The geology here is particularly interesting – and the cliffs can be safely viewed from the wide beach platform exposed at low tide. Just a few hundred metres from the hotel, one of the most obvious fault lines in the country is clearly visible, even to an untrained eye.

Fault at Blue Anchor Bay, Somerset, England

Image: Bristol University


Image: P Berry

This is a normal fault, and to the left as viewed from the beach can be seen blue- grey Jurassic rocks, while to the right there is the sharp contrast of the red Triassic mudstones.

At this fault, the younger Jurassic rocks have been downthrown by tectonic forces as the crust pulled apart to slide down and sit alongside the older Triassic rocks. There is a continental to marine transition here, with the Jurassic grey rocks being of marine origin, while the soft, crumbly Triassic red rock to the east of the fault are of continental origins.
These red rocks directly below the hotel are the Keuper Marls of the Mercia Mudstone group, and it is these folded and faulted beds that are the main cause of the hotel’s problems – being attacked at the base by the erosive power of the sea at high tides, as well as sub-areal processes (weathering and mass movement) from above. Incidentally, the unusual name for the village comes from the colour of mud residue left on ships’ anchors when moored in the bay.



Image: P Berry

If do get the opportunity to visit this location, try to time your stay around a decent low tide. Not only will this make it much safer for you to study the cliffs below the hotel, it will allow you to extend your walk eastwards along the coast to the village of Watchet.





Image: P Berry

Along the way, you will pass some really interesting and unusual cliff formations and also have a chance to collect some fossils. Between Blue Anchor and Watchet, the rocks forming the cliffs contain alabaster – a translucent form of Gypsum. Pink and white seams of varying widths stripe the red marl cliffs and loose blocks on West Beach and in Warren Bay like abstract paintings. It is also possible to find veins of of white fibrous gypsum, some which have been deformed by later earth movements, in tension cracks and along fault planes on the beach.

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Image: P Berry

The rocks around the village of Watchet are from the Lower Lias – set down 200 – 215 million years ago when the first part of Jurassic period merged with end of Upper Triassic. This is a great place to search for fossils, including gryphea (Devil’s Toe Nails), ammonites, corals, fish, oysters, as well as various plant traces. The small (free) museum in Watchet has some interesting local specimens on show – including a complete ichthyosaur and a plesiosaur rib bone. Beach fossils in this area are regularly refreshed by erosion of the soft local rocks – so can easily be picked up on the beaches without the need for the use of a hammer. Probably the best location for fossil hunting is Helwell Bay – just five minutes east of Watchet harbour. With patience, numerous mineralised specimens can be collected, while many are too large to take away – best photographed and left for others to enjoy.

The village of Watchet is well worth a visit at the end of your walk, and you could finish your day with a train ride on the West Somerset Steam Railway.

If anyone would like further information about any of the locations mentioned in this blog, do not hesitate to get in touch.



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Web Resources For The Classroom – Weblinks 1: Population



I have spent a bit of time recently re-organising my favourite geography web sites, and thought it might be useful to share some of them on this blog.

Under a title of Weblinks, and using a separate theme for each blog entry, they might provide some useful resources to use in the classroom or for research for particular lessons. Once I have run through a series of blogs, I intend to compile all of the links into a single e-publication.

First up is a list of web sites connected to the theme of :



This site is packed with real-time counters showing changes in world population totals, birth rates, death rates, and a wealth of other development data. Great to,have it displayed as students enter a classroom, and kept ‘live’ in a corner of the whiteboard while the lesson progresses.

Worldometers Data (2)Worldometers Data (1)

Breathing EarthThis is another real-time simulation that shows birth rates, death rates and also carbon emissions of countries across the world. A great visual to start a lesson.

This site contains another great visualisation of world population growth – watch the digital counter click away while you teach your lesson. There are also some great map graphics representing death rates and environmental dials showing rates of deforestation, desertification etc. If you search through this site, there is a great depth of dynamic data that could you used to help illustrate a range of lesson topics.

Poodwaddle Clocks (2)

worldlifeexpectancyThis site is packed with great map graphics and raw data about different life expectancies and different causes of deaths.


worldpopulationhistoryThis site mixes a map (with overlays) and a timeline to identify key events and moments in the history of the world’s growing population. It also contains high quality video material as well as a range of specific resources for teachers to use in the classroom.

Use this site to examine population pyramids for any country of the world from 1950 to 2010. Regions of the world can also be examined. There are also world map graphics for a huge range of population data, including migration, birth and death rates, infant mortality, urban growth etc etc.


popmatters‘Population Matters’ examines the environmental effects of an unsustainable world population growth. It includes a real-time world population total counter, and a wealth of articles and video material that could be used in GCSE and A Level lessons.

The Population Media Centre produces high quality video material focused on population issues, gender matters and environmental protection. It also has a world population counter on the home page, which calculates how much the world population has grown since first logging on to the site.

pop media

against all oddsThis is a simulation that puts students in the place of refugees.



This is the home site of the Population Research Bureau. Teachers can search the multimedia resources on this web site for any aspect of population.



If you have never explored this site – then you need to do so immediately! It is full of wonderful world maps where territories are re-sized according to the subject of interest. There is a huge range of data to explore, and the maps make great wall displays.

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The Laird Report is a respected blog Summary of world economic and population data. It is packed with animated graphs and Population pyramids, and a wide range of data about topics like projected population growth in different countries, changes in dependency ratios etc. Good for cherry-picking impactful facts and graphics to use in presentations.

This site can be used to explore surnames

This site contains some great map visualisations of population topics such as population density, urban population etc. Delve into the analysis key on each of the maps to find raw data that could be used in class.

On this site, it is possible to access information about migration at a number of key stages in the history of Britain’s population.

The Population Estimation Service allows you to estimate population totals and related statistics within a user-defined region. Click on the ‘Population Estimator Web Map’ button, and select your region using a circle or polygon tool:

Just click on a country to see data and a map visualisation for both in-migration and out-migration.

This is a comic strip story – suitable for students over the age of fourteen. It tells Almaz’s story a 22 year old from Ethiopia who left her hometown in the Bale Mountains in the hope of providing a better life for herself and her family. On her journey she encounters human trafficking, and the sad consequences that followed.

This site visualises the estimated net immigration by origin and destination between 2010 and 2015. Hover over a circle to see the migration flows in and out of an individual country.

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

‘My Life As a Refugee’ – this app has been produced by the United Nations Refugee Agency, and allows students to choose a refugee character and then consider a variety of decisions that character would need to make in order to survive war, persecution or environmental disasters in their home countries.

‘China Population Mystery’ – one of a series of ‘thinking skills’ mysteries produced by ‘Reflective Thinking’:
These work well as collaborative exercises, and there are a range of geographical titles in the series on flooding in Boscastle, flooding in Bangladesh, Haiti earthquake, volcanic eruptions etc. This one is titled “Why is Stan Lui still looking for a girlfriend?”. If you have used any of David Leat’s mysteries (or written your own) you will be familiar with this format that works well on a digital platform.

‘Factbook’ , ‘The Economist World in Figures’, ‘IMF Data’, and ‘WDI Data Finder’ – one or more of these are worth having for up-to-date population and economic information on individual countries of the world. Textbooks and paper atlases soon fall out of date, and geography teachers should constantly update the data they use in the classroom.

‘Universal Counters’ – real-time counters for a wide variety of population data.

‘World Touch’ – stunning maps and graphs for a range of population data sets. Tap on the book symbol (top right) to open a huge range of information.

Note – some of these apps may not have been updated recently to fully function with IOS 11

Twitter users may want to follow @onlmaps for a treasure chest of interesting map resources, many of which relate to population issues. Here are a couple of examples I have saved from recent tweets:


Asia Upside Down Map @onlmaps

Upside Down Asia Map


Straight Lines From Iceland Map @onlmaps

Iceland In A Straight Line



Also, ‘Population Matters’ – @PopnMatters


I intend to produce further lists on different themes over the coming weeks – if you have any extra suggestions, send them on, and I will include them in my compendium document at the end of the project.


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Airpano – Stunning 360 Degree Images And Videos For The Geography Classroom

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Have you made use of the ‘Airpano’ resources in your classroom yet?

The Airpano web site is free to use, and contains hundreds of 3D virtual tours of different locations across the world. This is a great resource to introduce some ‘awe and wonder’ into lessons, and showcase particular cities, mountains, waterfalls, volcanoes etc. relevant to the lesson content. The images and videos can act as a great stimulus for students for descriptive and creative writing – particularly when examining a sense of place.

The website interacts with a tablet and the built in tablet gyroscope makes it possible to move around and visit the detail in the chosen locations. By panning your device around, the image moves with you, in stunning high definition. This looks great in the classroom when mirrored to an interactive whiteboard through Apple TV, Airserver or other such connector. Students will love operating the image for the rest of the class!

The 360 degree images also make great viewing through a VR headset – just open the Airpano web site, and click on the VR button in the bottom left corner. To watch 360 degree Airpano videos in a headset, access through the Airpano You Tube channel – ace!

There is also a dedicated Airpano app available on IOS and Android that allows you to access the images directly with the gyroscope functionality built into your tablet. The IOS version costs just £2.29, while the Android version is free – but you then need to purchase individual tours.

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Teaching about the marine environment or marine pollution? Why not kick off with the Airpano video of a dive with turtles in Cuba? Use your mouse to pan through the video!


Teaching about waterfalls? Why not use the Airpano video of Angel Falls – the highest waterfall in the world?


Teaching about extreme environments or climate change? Why not introduce the topic through the Airpano video of icebergs in Greenland?


Finally, what about volcanoes? Airpano has a 360 video of the Bromo Volcano in Java, Indonesia:


There is an earlier blog on this site about using Airpano aerial views of cities as lesson starters – check it out at:

Since writing this, so much more has been added to Airpano – particularly 360 video –  and there should be loads of relevant resources for your teaching. Give it a try – and let me know of any successes you have.


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