Text contributed by M-L; pics by Andy and various.
Despite a yellow wind warning (more of which anon) about 12 IOGers gathered in front of Southwold Pier at 9am on Saturday morning to explore the cliffs of Southwold under the guidance of geologist Colleen Nunn and her friend Pam.
We began by threading our way along the slightly slippery upper level of the concrete stairs edging an uneasy sea to a pile of boulders and concrete slabs that I personally found a bit of a test (but not nearly as much of a test as when returning, considerably less fresh, a few hours later).
We then strolled up the beach (with the wind behind us) until Colleen and Pam reached a spot they felt exemplified the formations on that stretch of shore.
According to Colleen:
The cliffs here are formed of glacial deposits over the Wroxham Crag Formation, which in turn overlies the Norwich Crag. [The layers, dating back nearly 2.5 million years and still clearly visible in the cliff faces, were pointed out by our enthusiastic guides, who described how the area was once part of the Rhine Delta.] The deposits are quite variable [some having travelled all the way from Scandinavia] and include intertidal mudflats, offshore sand and pebble banks as well as marine and fluvial deposits. Our two guides also pointed out sedimentary structures in the cliff face including ice wedge casts, cross bedding and former channels. Apparently the cliffs here can contain mammalian fossils although these are from a particular ‘bed’ which is only present in part of the cliff and finds are few are far between now as the cliff has eroded and there is only a small outcrop left.
Naturally, as the cliffs are part of an SSSI, we observed but did not touch.
From there we made our way past Covehithe Cliffs and Benacre Broad – marvelling at the erosion and the precarity of a house whose garden was already on the beach – before heading inland to follow narrow lanes and woodland tracks back to the partially ruined church at Covehithe for a lunch break.
It was a relief to be out of the worst of the wind, which was picking up, but there was no way around returning to the beach at Covehithe for an unrelenting slog into an oncoming sandstorm for over 3 miles (according to the pace recorded by Lou’s GPS and the time taken). Heads went down and, apart from the irrepressible Tess and Colleen, people made their way back up the beach in dogged solitude – and at a spanking pace.
Fortunately, all things must pass and after negotiating the slabs of concrete once again, we were all free to revive ourselves in time-honoured style.
A fascinating walk, the usual great company, and many thanks to Colleen and Pam for their enthusiasm and willingness to share their expertise. There is talk of checking out some chalk in the future.