Monday, 24 November 2014

Coastal Erosion and the City Under the Sea

As sand, soil or rock is eroded (worn away) from one place it has to end up somewhere else! When it settles we call this Sediment - which is taken by the action of wind, water, or ice, and/or by the force of gravity to a new place.

You can see this at the coast. Sand is sometimes washed off the beach so a sandy beach becomes stony, and that sand is washed somewhere else. On some beaches it settles just out to sea, to form a sandbank. Coastlines can change quite dramatically over a period of time as this coastal erosion occurs.

The BBC Bitesize website explains this well, but it's in the Key Stage 3 section (but then all Dorothy's readers are pretty smart, right?) but this little diagram explains the process well. I've changed the information so you can understand what happens.

Erosion is usually a very slow process, it happens over hundreds of years, but sudden changes can happen if enough erosion happens underneath the surface!

To find out more, Dorothy and her friends went to visit the village of Dunwich, in Suffolk. 

Dunwich - the City Under the Sea

The tiny village of Dunwich is on the Suffolk coast.
Over the centuries Dunwich has been a Roman fort, the capital of a Saxon Kingdom and the base from which St Felix, the first Bishop of Dunwich, converted East Anglia to Christianity. At the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066 it was the most important sea ports on the East Coast, and the tenth largest place in England!!

There is lots more information here about medieval Dunwich, which has nearly all been washed away into the North Sea. A full kilometre (1000m has been washed away - this map from Dunwich museum shows it well - the far right line was the coast in 1300.
(That was 200 years before the Tudors!)

About 1000m is lost every 1000 years, so that's 1 metre every year. Which is actually quite a lot - especially if you are staying 10 metres from the cliff edge!!!

The cliffs are still being eroded by the wind and the waves and Dunwich Heath is now owned by the National Trust to protect as much as possible, although fighting the weather and the tide is rather a difficult task!! All that remains today are the damaged walls of the Medieval Friary. There is a museum at the beach and you can follow an excellent trail available here.

There are many stories about Medieval Dunwich. People say that whilst you are on the beach, you should stop for a moment and listen. The ancient bells of Dunwich Church are said to be heard from beneath the waves.......


  1. I recently visited one of my favourite places in South Devon and was sad to see just how much erosion has taken place over the last year; they have scaffolding up at the moment. Ideally they need to create a path through someone's garden so only time will tell if the land owner will permit that.

  2. We see it in action all too close up here on the Jurassic Coast, have been some terrible cliff falls recently and at least one death.

  3. It's so sad to watch all the cliffs being eroded and really scary too, it makes some walks so dangerous. That's such a dramatic photo of some of the cliff on its own out to sea.

  4. I took my kiddies there a couple of years ago, absolutely fascinating!

  5. It's amazing how powerful nature is - and terrifying too! My aunts live on the IOW and it's the same there!

  6. It's so evident here in the Jurassic Coast, and some part of me fears constantly that we do this planet no favors with our lifestyle. That said, I'm glad that all this information equips the next generation with tools and knowledge to live better than we did! Great images and post :) x

  7. This reminds me of my Uni days. The world is cyclical which makes it so interesting. There is constant taking away and then putting back ... not good if you live near the coast!

  8. So sad how destructive nature can be. Am loving that little face.

  9. Made for very interesting reading. An all too stark reminder of how little humans can do when it really matters!

  10. It is scary how fast those cliffs are eroding. Very interesting post.

  11. We considered a house 200m from the beach but due to coastal erosion in the region is wouldn't be a smart move to buy it :-(

  12. Whilst in Majorca we saw part of S'illot that had been eroded and there was a before, during and a now picture to show it.

  13. We live on the jurassic coast and the storms last year really changed our coastline too

  14. That is a lot lost every year, I hadn't realised it would be as much as that

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Thank you for commenting!
Dorothy xx