Disappearing Coastlines



Photo: Mercury Press – drone image from James Loveridge

I recently played golf at Bridport, and clearly remember the 15th hole which flirts very close to the cliff edge. This week, a significant cliff collapse (of 2000 tonnes of rock) added an extra hazard to this hole, and caused the coast path to be closed to walkers.


 It was a clear demonstration of how transient and temporary our coastal landscape is, and led me to re-read this article I recently saved:




Photo: dreamstime.com

The article reflects on the recent loss of the Azure Window, a beautiful arch in Malta which suddenly collapsed into the sea. It goes on to outline some of the recent major changes to our own coastline here in the UK, making reference to Arch Rock in the Isle of Wight, that collapsed in 1992, Lulworth cliff collapse in 2013, and the recreation of a sandy beach at Dooagh in Ireland earlier this year.



The article also examines some UK coastal landscape attractions that are under serious risk from sea level rise and aggressive coastal processes – so much so that they will probably not be around for much longer for us to enjoy. A kind of ‘endangered species’ list for coastal features:



Photo: dreamstime.com

1.       The Old Man of Hoy – Britain’s tallest stack made up from Devonian sandstone and located in the Orkney Islands. Over a hundred years ago, this stack looked very different indeed, with an arch running through a much wider base. Now, this narrow chimney of rock faces constant erosion from gale force winds and high energy waves, and currently has a 40 metre vertical crack in the top of its south face.


2.       Bow Fiddle Rock – a sea arch located near Portknockie on the north eastern coast of Scotland.

3.       Durdle Door – possibly the most famous English sea arch in Dorset.

4.       Chesil Beach – a 29 kilometre shingle spit in Dorset.

5.       The Green Bridge – an arch in Pembrokeshire well on its way to collapse to form a new stack.



Photo: visitpembrokeshire.com


Do you have any coastal landforms near you that could be added to this list? Perhaps an arch ready to collapse, a stack being undercut, or a stretch of coast threatened by flooding following sea level rise?

 As geographers, we can reflect in our lessons on coastal landshaping processes, rising sea levels, and human interference – but should also recognise the emotional attachment people can develop to special coastal features, and how much of a shock it can be for them when they suddenly disappear. At least we know that the natural cycle of processes will inevitably create new wonders to take the place of those that will become lost.

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Gruffalo Hunting in Cornwall

ScreenHunter_01 Jun. 24 16.30

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I am really pleased that my Grandson has started to develop a genuine interest in the outdoors. While on a recent holiday in Cornwall, I was able to take him Gruffalo Hunting, and combine a great woodland walk with some fun technology.

 ScreenHunter_04 Jun. 24 16.31The Forestry Commission has established a number of ‘Gruffalo Spotters Trails’ in its forests and woodlands across the whole of the UK, and these can be found on a map on the web site listed at the end of this blog. The trails are interactive, and allow you to follow a series of clues to help you track down different characters from the Gruffalo books.


ScreenHunter_03 Jun. 24 16.31A footprint marker is found at the location of each individual character, and this is where the technology comes into play. After downloading a free augmented reality  Gruffalo Spotter app onto your smart phone before you visit, you can now point your camera at these marker signs and bring the different characters to life.





Photo 26-05-2017, 11 51 24My Grandson knew the story and all of the characters, and the excitement built up as we worked towards the Gruffalo footprints at the end of the walk. All of the family had fun with the augmented reality images, finding it strange being photographed next to the sign boards and then seeing the results of themselves alongside the characters in the photographs taken!


ScreenHunter_05 Jun. 24 16.32We visited the beautiful Cardinham Woods, near Bodmin, where there is a good choice of walks of different lengths – as well as bike trails, forest school camps, and an excellent café. 





ScreenHunter_02 Jun. 24 16.30Before we started we purchased (for £3) a Spotters Activity Kit in the café at the trailhead. This allowed Grandson Luke to take on the role of a real ‘nature detective’, using the evidence bags, activity cards, magnifying glass, ruler, pencil and stickers along the route.



I also downloaded the Forestry Commission’s ‘Sensory Trail’ PDF (available below) to take along with me. This is full of tasks, questions and ideas to help get youngsters to think a little more about the woodland environment they are walking through, and use their senses to explore its contents.

Sensory Trail:  PhoneTrail_sensory_adventure_2016

To find out more about Gruffalo Spotting trails, log on to: https://www.forestry.gov.uk/gruffalo




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World Poverty Clock Web Site


ScreenHunter_02 May. 16 13.10

The ‘World Poverty Clock’ web site can be very impactful starter for geography lessons on themes of development.

It is a real-time graphic estimate of the numbers of people in the world living in poverty, and can be projected into the future to monitor the progress against ending extreme poverty – the United Nations’ first Sustainable Development Goal.

After discussing the figures with a class, you can use the slider towards the bottom of the screen to look into the future. What progress is being made? Is it fast enough? What else can be done to reduce some of these figures?

You can also click on ‘methodology’ at the top right to get detailed information for a number of case study countries.



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How Far Do Children Roam?

I came across this interesting graphic recently from the Wildlife Trusts:

C_jK2EkXgAA3cruI fully realise social conditions have altered considerably since 1915, but perhaps a good dose of geographical education at school might help our future parents-to-be to explore the outdoors with their children?

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The World At Night Quiz

Here’s a nice little test for geographers – can you identify these cities from night-time photographs taken by astronauts on the International Space Station?

Try these tasters, and then go to the full quiz via the link below:



I wont give the answers away – they are part of the full quiz!

Link to full quiz:



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Can You Draw A Decent World Map?

I have always believed that young people (as well as adults!) should have a decent ‘mental map’ of the world if they are to begin to understand the complexities of the world in which they live.

I have to say I was pretty impressed by the ability of this Chinese teacher in reproducing a world map on his blackboard (remember those?)

These versions might be a good place to start with students –

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The World’s Newest Countries



Image: Toronto Sun

I always cringe in our local pub quiz when the geography questions come along – and pray that they refer to something I know in order to maintain my street-cred.


In a recent quiz, a couple of questions referred to ‘new’ countries of the world, and it led me to check that I was up to speed with all of the newest countries to gain world recognition.

Here is my list:

  1. South Sudan – declared independence from Sudan in 2011, and is currently the newest sovereign country of the world, and a member of the United Nations.
  2. Timor Leste – formerly East Timor, which gained independence from Indonesia in 2002. timor-leste-010211
  3. Eritrea – annexed by Ethiopia in 1962 after a long civil war, eventually gained independence in 1993.
  4. Palau – Gained independence in 1994, and now exists in free association with the USA which is responsible for its defence and foreign affairs.
  5. Kosovo – part of the former Yugoslavia, broke away from Serbia and unilaterally declared independence in 2008. Recognised by the UK and many other United Nations countries, but is not actually a UN member state.
  6. Montenegro – joined with Serbia in 1992 after the collapse of Yugoslavia – but Montenegro withdrew from this alliance in 2006.
  7. Serbia – formed in 2006 after the alliance with Montenegro collapsed.
  8. Slovakia – born as a nation in 1993 following the dissolution of Czechoslovakia.
  9. Czech Republic – created in 1993 following the disintegration of Czechoslovakia.
  10. Bosnia & Herzegovina – created in 1992 following the break up of Yugoslavia.
  11. Croatia – formed in 1991 following the break up of Yugoslavia.
  12. Slovenia – formed in 1991 following the break up of Yugoslavia.

In addition to these, the earlier disintegration of the USSR gave rise to 15 new countries – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.

And what of the future? Maybe these will be the next ‘new’ countries to figure in pub quizzes –

Catalonia – a region of Spain located on the north east coast and bordering France and Andorra; Flemish Republic – (Belgium) Flanders differs greatly from Wallonia in terms of language and culture; Venito – some in Venice envision the city becoming a European version of Singapore; Scotland – calls for Scottish independence are still alive; Abkhazia – this region has been disputed for centuries, and tried to separate from Georgia when it was made independent; South Ossetia – recognised by Russia as an independent nation; Transnistra – currently an unrecognised state within Moldova; New Russia – Donetsk and Luhansk, 2 self-declared republics in Ukraine; West Papua – western half of New Guinea; Somaliland – a state within Somalia




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