Holderness Coastline, a case study of coastal management in the UK
The Holderness Coastline is in the North of England and runs between the Humber Estuary in the south and a headland at Flamborough Head.
It has a fantastic array of coastal features including;
1. A headland with caves, stacks and stumps at Flamborough Head
2. Beaches accumulated along the whole coastline
3. The deposition of sediment along the spit at Spurn Head
4. Cliffs from Flambrough Head southwards towards the spit
It has the unenviable reputation as the number one place in Europe for coastal erosion, and in a stormy year waves from the North Sea can remove between 7 and 10m of coastline. It is one of the fastest eroding coastlines in Europe as a result of its geology. The coastline starts with blowholes, stacks and stumps at Flamborough, and culminates with Spurn Head, a very large spit that runs across part of Humber Estuary.
The geology runs in bands, with a chalk layer at Flamborough in the North, Boulder clay or till (lain down in the last ice age) south of that and finally river deposits in the Humber Estuary. Because the clay is an unconsolidated WEAK mass of clay particles and boulders it erodes more rapidly than the more resistant rock of chalk in the north. The processes of erosion and weathering occurring are numerous but include hydraulic action, freeze thaw, abrasion, solution and carbonation (on the clay)
This has left a bay where the clay is and a headland jutting out to sea at Flamborough head. Although wave refraction focuses the wave’s energy on the layered and faulted rocks of Flamborough head, eroding the calk, the incredibly weak nature of the clay still means that it erodes faster than the chalk. The chalk headland has stumps and blowholes.
The coastline today is around 4km inland from where it was in Roman times, and there are many LOST villages of the Holderness coastline that have long disappeared into the sea. Indeed, today, farmland, tourist sites such as caravan parks and villages remain under threat. The weak clay, stormy nature of the North Sea, and rising sea levels of 4mm per year mean that the future is bleak for parts of this coastline. In addition to the clay being vulnerable to erosion, it is also prone to slumping. This is because water enters cracks and pore spaces in the rock, adding weight and making it slump.
Defending the Holderness Coastline
There is a debate about whether or not human beings should attempt to defend coastlines. In the case of the Holderness coastline, its geology (weak clays) waves (destructive during North Sea storms) and Geomorphology (the shape of the coastline allows the waves to break at the base of the cliffs) make erosion almost inevitable. However some defences have been attempted.
The beach and rock groynes at Mappleton, by Helen Wilkinson via Wikimedia Commons
Mappleton is a small village that could become village number 30 lost to the sea. The road running through it, the B1242 links towns along the coastline and would have been lost to coastal erosion if protection measures were not put into place. It was decided that the cost of coastal defence for a village of only 100 people was less than the cost of building a new road. So, blocks of granite were brought in and placed along the cliff base and 2 rock groynes were put into place to trap sediment moving because of longshore drift.
This has caused CONFLICT, this is because the farms south of the village of Mappleton have been starved of sediment as it is being retained up current. This has led to the loss of a defensive beach and a loss of people’s farmland. Should the farmers suffer at the expense of protecting a village and its road?