West, Ian M. 2014. Dawlish Warren Sand Spit and Langstone Rock, Devon; Geology of the Wessex Coast. Internet site: www.southampton.ac.uk/~imw/Dawlish-Warren.htm. Version: 14th October 2014.
Dawlish Warren Sand Spit and Langstone Rock, Devon - a geological field guide

Ian West,

Romsey, Hampshire
and Visiting Scientist at the:
Faculty of Natural and Environmental Sciences,
Southampton University,
Webpage hosted by courtesy of iSolutions, Southampton University
Aerial photographs by courtesy of The Channel Coastal Observatory .
Website archived at the British Library

|Home and List of Webpages | Teignmouth to Dawlish, Devon. |Budleigh Salterton and Littleham Cove, with radioactive nodules |Devon - Sidmouth and Ladram Bay |Devon - Dartmoor and Dartmoor Granite. |Torquay, Devon |Studland, South Haven Peninsula, Dorset |Sabkhas and Other Desert Environments of Qatar, Arabian Gulf

For more webpages go to: List of Webpages

Cliffs of Permian desert sandstone with dune bedding, and a view towards Langstone Rock and the Exe Estuary, Devon, UK

A conspicuous red rock of Devon, southern England - a headland of red desert breccia and sandstone of Permian age. Langstone Point, near Dawlish Warren

Click on images for large, high resolution versions!
(do not use browser zoom on the low resolution versions)

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See also associated webpage:
TEIGNMOUTH TO DAWLISH, DEVON (including Dawlish railway line and sea wall)

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INTRODUCTION:

Safety and Risk Assessment

Falling Rock
There is some risk of rock falls from cliffs in the vicinity of Langstone Rock and also on the western side of Dawlish (not considered in detail here). Hard hats should be worn when studying in close proximity to cliffs, as at Langstone Rock.
Railway Line
The railway line is not protected by any high fence between Dawlish Warren and Dawlish town. There is an old stone wall (shown in photographs below) which could be easily surmounted by anyone foolish enough to do so. There is a £1000 fine for trespassing on the railway. That, of course, is only one deterrent; the major safety factor is the very obvious level of risk of being run over by a train. No signs are needed to point out that trains are frequent and they run fast on this line. You will see a train every few minutes, and the situation is perfectly clear. Thus, if appropriate, view the cliffs of Dawlish sandstone from the safety of the sea-wall path, and in no circumstances approach them across the railway line. You can see the sandstone more closely from the bridge over the line, near Dawlish.
Sea Wall
There are no railings on the seaward side of the sea wall. There is a small risk that if a large group of students were walking along this wall without paying proper attention to safety then it is quite possible to slip off the path and the fall and fall to the beach. Individuals involved in study or photography might also on occasions be at minor risk of falling off the wall. The fall could be quite significant.
Top of Langstone Rock
There is a risk of falling from Langstone Rock if one was to approach too closely to the cliff edge. The cliff is vertical and could be dangerous. The risk is obvious but people are tempted to go fairly close to the cliff or photography or viewing. There is no significant risk in going to the top of Langstone Rock for a general view, providing there is no close proximity to the edge. Climbing on Langstone Rock from the beach may be hazardous.
Wave Wash
There is risk in storms of being washed off a sea wall or being washed into the sea from a beach. This hazard in storms is obvious but risks should not be taken.
Tidal Range
The tidal range is high here, about 3 metres or more. Risks should not be taken with regard to tide, although there are few places to the northeast of Dawlish where trapping by the tide is likely.
Other Risks
In very cold weather take precautions against hypothermia. Avoid adders (snakes) in warm weather. Do not hammer hard splintery rocks. Beware of slipping on seaweed covered rocks or on rock armour. Health problems should be notified to field course leaders or project supervisors. It is not desirable, here or elsewhere, for students to undertake field work projects entirely on their own; they should have a fellow student, a friend, or a supervisor present with them when working out on the coasts, cliffs and sand dunes etc. In general, risks to lone students almost anywhere may be quite significant now.

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INTRODUCTION:

General

This webpage is to consider the geology and geomorphology of the coast near Dawlish, Devon, particularly around Langstone Rock and at Dawlish Warren. The stretch between the town of Dawlish and the northeastern end of Dawlish Warren is the main topic illustrated and discussed here. To set the scene and to give a broader introduction to the area, some brief information and a few photographs are given, in the first part, on the coast from Teignmouth to Holcombe and to Dawlish.

The main subject of discussion here, Dawlish Warren, is a sand spit at the mouth of the Exe Estuary in Devon. Part of it is for tourism and includes holiday facilities. The northwestern part is a National Nature Reserve of the Teignbridge District Council and the Devon Wildlife Trust. For more information see the Dawlish Warren Website. Teignbridge District Council began maintaining the site as a Local Nature Reserve in 1979. The Visitor Centre was built in 1985 and the area was declared a National Nature Reserve in 2000.

There is a large car park on the beginning of th spit and toilets are nearby. Cars drive through a small tunnel under the railway to this car park. Coaches have no access here but can be left in a car park to the northwest of the railway line.

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INTRODUCTION:

Topographic Maps - General

Location Map for Geology of the Wessex Coast websites on Devon and West Dorset, including Torquay, Dawlish, Langstone Rock, Dawlish Warren, Littleham Cove, Budleigh Salterton,  Sidmouth, Beer, Seaton, Lyme Regis, Charmouth etc

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INTRODUCTION:

Geological Maps

Devon Geology Map

Old geology map of Dawlish to Budleigh Salterton, Devon, including Exmouth

Part of the 1913 Geological Survey map, Sheet 339, Teignmouth, Devon, Drift edition

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DAWLISH TO LANGSTONE ROCK

Introduction - Railway, Sea Wall and Beach

Environmental Science students from Southampton University are investigating the coastal processes in Dawlish Bay and at Dawlish Warren. Part of the work involves surveying just to the west of Langstone Rock. The photographs below show the scenery and geology of the coast here and also the students at work. A notable feature is the railway, part of the GWR, or Great Western Railway. The railway track prevents direct access to most of the cliffs between Dawlish and Langstone Rock.

East Devon coastal railway, with a Great Western Railway locomotive, Easter, 1976, Torquay, Devon

Train on the coastal line that runs northeastward from Dawlish, Devon, with Permian, aeolian, sandstone cliffs at the back, 8th April 2008

The railway line from Exeter to the southwest uses the coast here, seaward of the original cliffs. It runs along a sea wall from Dawlish Warren to Dawlish and on to Teignmouth. It was designed and built by the great engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who intended to reduce costs by using the sea-front as a relatively easy, and a scenically attractive, route. As many as 2000 navies were involved in 1845-1846 in excavating tunnels, blasting cliffs, building the sea wall, and constructing the line (Kay, 1991). It was opened in 1846. It was initially broad gauge and operated by an "atmospheric" (vacuum pipe) system without locomotives. Later it was changed to steam engines and, eventually, standard gauge.

Brunel's optimistic plan was that breakwaters would cause the accumlation of beach sand, and that the sea wall would not be touched by the sea except under severe gale conditions (Kay, 1991). However, the sea wall has long been under attack, particularly in the winter of 1872/1873, when there were major breaches. There was discussion about building a new line inland.

The sea wall has undergone much repair and rebuilding but it has no wave-reflecting curve. Sea spray and overwash frequently damages the line and lands heavily on trains. With global warming now causing a relatively rapid sea-level rise it is recognised that in within about 50 years this line may be doomed. There is at present (2008) consideration taking place of a scheme for the future of using a railway line from Okehampton to Plymouth ( BBC - News - Sea level rise means rail rethink).

Environmental Science receive a briefing prior to commencing a surveying project, west of Langstone Rock, near Dawlish, Devon, April 2008

Beach and cliffs between Dawlish and Langstone Rock, Devon, looking westward, with Southampton University students, surveying the beach, April 2008

A general aerial view of Langstone Rock and the beach accumulation to the southwest, near Dawlish Warren, Devon, courtesy of Channel Coastal Observatory

Details of surveying of the beach, west of Langstone Rock, Dawlish, Devon, by environmental science students, April 2008

Beach surveying by students, just west of Langstone Rock, near Dawlish, Devon, April 2008

Students from Southampton University surveying the beach near Langstone Rock, Dawlish Warren, Devon, April 2010

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DAWLISH TO LANGSTONE ROCK continued:

Dawlish Sands

Cliffs of Permian desert sandstone with dune bedding, and a view towards Langstone Rock and the Exe Estuary, Devon, UK

Dawlish Sands in the cliffs of Dawlish Bay, Devon, overlain unconformably by a Pleistocene, terrace gravel deposit

Minor flash flood, debris flows cutting across dune sand deposits, Dawlish Bay, Devon, 2008

Small channels at the base of debris flow deposits in the Dawlish Sand, Permian, Dawlish Bay, Devon

Comparison of Permian sand dune structures of Dawlish Bay with those of a large, Barchan sand dune of eastern Qatar

Hot work investigating the sediment in a quarry within a large barchan sand dune, Umm Said, Qatar, 1997

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Ripple marked sands, probably of aeolian origin, in the Dawlish Sandstone, Permian, of Dawlish Bay, Devon, 2008

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LANGSTONE ROCK


LANGSTONE ROCK:
General

A diagram of Langstone Rock seen from the south, with notes on particular features, near Dawlish, Devon

A conspicuous red rock of Devon, southern England - a headland of red desert breccia and sandstone of Permian age. Langstone Point, near Dawlish Warren

Natural arch in Permian breccia and sandstone at Langstone Rock, near Dawlish Warren, Devon

The Red Rock Cafe at Langstone Rock, near Dawlish Warren, Devon, 8th April 2008

Langstone Rock is a red rock of Permian sedimentary breccia with some sandy horizons at the top. The breccia is known as the Langstone Breccia and it is late Permian. The rock was once firmly attached to the adjacent cliffs of Dawlish Bay and has been separated by the contruction of a cutting of Brunel's railway line in 1846.

Originally this was Langstone Point, a promontory, not Langstone Rock. It is not composed of very resistant material and has a warning notice about falling debris. The proprietor of the cafe told me that some material falls almost every day from the rock, but there is not much obvious evidence of major cliff falls seen when visited on student field trips almost every year. The groyne has not become much separated, as yet from the rock so erosion cannot be very fast (although there has been repair work to the landward end of this groyne). East of Red Rock Cafe brickwork has been used to try to reduce erosion. A columnar structure in the sea near the cafe is the relic of a different approach to sea defence, but this method has not been continued. The remaining circular base of the structure is referred to informally at the cafe as the "Dinosaur's Nest".

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LANGSTONE ROCK continued

Wave-Cut Platform and Breakwater

A view from the breakwater or groyne towards Langstone Rocks and Dawlish Warren, Devon, in 2007

Langstone Rock of Permian Breccia, near Dawlish Warren, Devon, seen from the seaward end of the groyne, 12th April 2010

Ian West at the natural arch, Langstone Rock, near Dawlish Warren, Devon, April 2012

At the end of Langstone Rock is a large, granite breakwater or groyne, shown in photographs above (in April 2010 the groyne was showing some major cracking on both sides at the landward end and some failure at the seaward end). This holds back some sand and shingle from northeastward longshore drift. It may, thus, seem undesirable from the point of view of Dawlish Warren. However, it gives some limited protection to the railway and sea wall to the southwest of Langtone rock (i.e. towards Dawlish). That is probably why it has been built. Some sand and shingle could escape northeast through the cave or natural arch at the end of Langstone Rock, shown above. However, a barrier has been built inside this natural arch to retard loss of sand towards Dawlish Warren.

It is obvious that Dawlish Warren, once just an almost uninhabited sand spit has not been a priority in the past. Protection of the railway seems to have been the main concern.

It is interesting to see a fairly extensive wave-cut platform to the east and northeast of the breakwater. This has probably been cut by wave action using sand and shingle for abrasion. There is not much evidence of biological erosion at the foot of the cliff of Langstone Rock on the beach side (southwest). This is because the supply of beach sand and shingle here can, during strong wave action, abrade the Langstone Breccia. On the northeast side the processes may be different because, here, the platform is just above the low-tide level and there is much attached seaweed and various marine organisms.

Because sea-level, has been, and still is, progressively rising, a broad rock platform indicates that erosion has been fairly rapid. Langstone rock obviously extended much further seaward since about Roman times. Before that sea-level was significantly lower and, thus, the wave cut platform probably gives some idea of the Roman geography of the area.

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LANGSTONE ROCK continued:

Langstone Breccia - Composition

A pebble of porphyritic rhyolite or quartz porphyry, Langstone Breccia, Permian, Langstone Rocks near Dawlish, Devon

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LANGSTONE ROCK continued:

Sand Liquefaction Structures

Two sand liquefaction or water-escape structures in the Langstone Breccia, Langstone Rocks, near Dawlish, Devon, April 2008

A sand liquefaction structure or water escape pipe or pillar rising from a sandstone bed in the Permian, Langstone Breccia, Langstone Rock, near Dawlish, Devon, April 2008

A sandstone dyke of penecontemporaneous origin, and probably a water-escape structure, in the Langstone Breccia, Langstone Rock, near Dawlish Warren, Devon, 12th April 2010.

Liquefaction and disruption of thin sand beds by a water-logged, subaerial, debris flow, Permian Langstone Breccia, Langstone Rock, near Dawlish, Devon

Liquefaction structures at the base of a debris flow deposit, Dawlish Bay between Dawlish and Langstone Rock, Devon, 2008

The breccia beds of the Langstone Breccia, and also within the Dawlish Sands, have some unusual characteristics (best seen at the base of Langstone Rock). The clasts are very angular and show little effect of clast-on-clast abrasion (there is a small amount). The overall size range of the classts is limited but they are not well-sorted. There are no lag deposits of larger clasts at the base of beds. Of particular note is the fact that there are well-developed desiccation cracks on the surface of a breccia bed. Thus it was a partly cohesive sediment, probably containing a significant proportion of clay.

These features show the beds are probably debris flows. This accords with the occurrence of liquefaction structures at the base of breccia beds. This is a common characteristic of debris flows. The underlying sands have been liquefied and mobilised. In some cases they have moved upwards in a diapiric manner, as shown in the images above.

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LANGSTONE ROCK continued:
Polygonal Desiccation Cracks in Breccia

Polygonal desiccation cracks filled with red sand, Langstone Breccia exposed on the shore, Langstone Rock, near Dawlish, Devon, March 2006

Polygonal desiccation cracks in Permian, distal, alluvial fan breccia, Langstone Breccia, near Langstone Rock,  Dawlish, Devon, March 2006

Details of desiccation cracks in a bed of the Langstone Breccia, near Langstone Rock, Dawlish, Devon, 27th March 2006

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DAWLISH WARREN SAND SPIT



DAWLISH WARREN:

Introduction

Notice showing the main features and of Dawlish Warren, Devon, and its relationship to the Exe Estuary

A sketch of the sand spit of Dawlish Warren, Devon, showing some major features relating to coastal erosion problems

Dawlish Warren, Devon, a vulnerable sandspit at the mouth of the Exe Estuary, now threatened by sea-level rise from global warming

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DAWLISH WARREN continued:

Maps

Old geological map of the area around Dawlish Warren, Devon, UK

Old chart of the Exe Estuary, Exmouth and Dawlish Warren, Devon

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DAWLISH WARREN continued:

Aerial Photographs

Dawlish Warren, Exe Estuary, Devon, aerial view 2012, modified after GE

An aerial overview of Dawlish Warren and part of the Exe estuary, Devon, courtesy of the Channel Coastal Observatory, National Oceanography Centre, Southampton

The modern aerial photograph, shown above, a general view of the spit, is courtesy of, and copyright of - The Channel Coastal Observatory , National Oceanography Centre, Southampton University, Southampton.

An old aerial oblique view of Dawlish Warren, Devon, date unknown

This fairly old aerial photograph above, probably from the 1960s or 1970s seems to show a much greater development of salt marshes. These have now been replaced by mud flats. A similar change is taking place in the Solent estuarine system. See: The Lymington - Keyhaven area of the West Solent, and related Solent webpages.

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DAWLISH WARREN continued:

Rock Armour

Aerial view, courtesy of Channel Coastal Observatory, showing the use of rock armour to protect the railway line between Dawlish Warren sand spit and Langstone Rock, near Dawlish, Devon, September 2006

Between the present position of the Dawlish Warren sand spit and Langstone Rock the railway line curves fairly abruptly to run westward along the cliff to Dawlish. There is insufficient natural protection by beach material here and it is mainly a large quantity of rock armour is preventing sea erosion of the railway line. There is a sea wall but it is probably inadequate without the additional use of rock armour. It is probable that the southern boundary of the sand spit was originally positioned further south, and the retreat of this has accentuated the problem. The purchase of thousands of blocks of rock armour must have been expensive. Note, though, that in early 2014, there was major erosion of the sea wall in the bay at Dawlish, and destruction of the railway line at a place where there was no rock armour.

Granite and larvikite rock armour at Dawlish Warren, Devon, 2008

Close-up views of southwest England granite, used as rock armour at Dawlish Warren, Devon

The granite was tipped here for sea defences in about 1920 and onwards. An engineers' railway siding was constructed along what is now the footpath and railways brought the stone to the sea wall. The granite is typical Southwest England granite with large phenocrysts of orthoclase feldspar. When weathered it is slightly reddish (this can even be seen in the aerial photograph).

Blocks of larvikite from Larvik in Norway, used as rock armour at Dawlish Warren, Devon

Location maps for Larvic, source area for the Permian intrusive intermediate rock, larvikite

Particular conspicuous is the coarsely crystalline, bluish grey, igneous rock - Larvikite. The rock was termed larvikite (or laurvigite) by Brogger in 1890 after the town Larvik, not far from Oslo. This is the most important Norwegian quarried stone and there are about 20 quarries in the area. It is at the coast of the Skagerrak and is easily shipped across the North Sea to the UK or elsewhere. See the webpage of Stema Shipping Armourstone, who export larvikite.

Larvikite is very coarsely crystalline, like granite, but bluish-grey and darker than granite. It is quite hard and has no significant porosity. It shows the special feature of a beautiful blue schillerization (sparkling crystals). When polished it is often used for banks, pubs, shopfronts and for kitchen worktops. The main components, the feldspar shows cleavages, or minute fractures in the large crystals. There are also some dark, almost black mineral components.

Larvikite has been used for rock armour at Hurst Spit, Hampshire, Lyme Regis, in Norfolk (Waxham to Happisburg) and elsewhere.

Larvikite is a plutonic igneous rock; it originated as magma which has been intruded at depth during Carboniferous to Permian times (about 300 million years ago and round about the same time as the Dartmoor Granite) into the Oslo Graben. This downfaulted trough is an aulacogen (or failed arm) due to the Permo-Triassic extensional tectonics that preceded the development of the Atlantic Ocean.

Larvikite is a rock of Intermediate composition - that is partway in chemical composition between granite (a light-coloured rock - an acid rock, high in quartz and light-coloured) and gabbro (a basic rock, dark-coloured rock - without quartz but with dark iron and magnesium minerals). The conspicuous blue-grey crystals with the obvious cleavage are of plagioclase feldspar, a aluminium silicate with sodium and/or calcium. These form about 80% of the rock. Rather less obvious are crystals which in the field or the hand-specimen appear grey to almost black. These are of augite, amphibole and other mafic minerals and form about 20% of the rock. Unlike granite there is very little if any quartz.

(For more information on larvikite used as rock armour see: the Hurst Spit, Hampshire, webpage.)

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DAWLISH WARREN continued:

Tourist Facilities Area

Holiday facilities at the landward end of Dawlish Warren sand spit, Devon, 12th April 2010

Hard sea defences near the landward end of Dawlish Warren, Devon, where there are buildings on low ground, 2007

The southwest, landward part of Dawlish Warren sand spit is developed, to some extent, with amusement facilities, a restaurant and pub, car parks, toilets etc. This area is very low in relation to sea-level and at risk of being flooded by the sea during storms. As a result there is a substantial sea wall with rock armour, immediately seaward of these buildings. A major indentation a short distance further to the northeast is protected by a sloping sea wall of concrete slabs. These features can be seen on the aerial photograph above.

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DAWLISH WARREN continued:

National Nature Reserve

The visitor centre at the national nature reserve at Dawlish Warren, Devon, 2006

A close view of the Visitor Centere of the Dawlish Warren National Nature Reserve, Devon, 12th April 2010

Pond, with birdlife, in the Dawlish Warren Nature Reserve, Devon, 2010

Notice at the Dawlish Warren National Nature Reserve, near Dawlish, Devon, 2010

It may be of interest, particularly to Environmental Science and Geography students that Dawlish Warren is an area with problems of conflicting interest. Back in the past, and long before there was any nature reserve, the railway company built a station and encouraged visitors from nearby Exeter and elsewhere. Chalets, some quite substantial, were built on the far end of the once larger Dawlish Warren spit. They were destroyed by sea erosion and this, perhaps, fortunately saved the spit from eventually becoming a highly-developed urban area like the Sandbanks sand spit at the mouth of Poole Harbour. However, holiday facilites were constucted at the landward end near the railway station. They are on a limited scale and obviously desirable to holiday visitors. It seems strange, though, to see a nature reserve adjacent to them. There is no extensive transition between holiday resort through forest or farm land to nature reserve. The two are almost alongside (there is also a golf course present but that is on the estuarine side of the spit and may not conflict with the nature reserve). Inevitably some problems seem to have arisen. In particular there is some conflict of interest between dog-walkers and bird conservation. Had the area been larger and more space available for dog-walkers (as at Hengistbury Head near Bournemouth) then there might have been less problem.

Matters are further complicated by the fact that the spit is reducing in size by erosion. The holiday facilities have received expensive coastal sea defences (which stop before the nature reserve) and will probably survive longer. However, these defences have spoiled the natural environment, both in terms of nature conservation and aesthetically. Discussion of this land-use problem is not the main objective of this webpage, which is intended to be descriptive with emphasis on geology and coastal processes. Students can find out more from the wardens and from other sources, and consider a fair balance of interests. For comparison consider also Studland, South Haven Peninsula at Poole Harbour, and Calshot Spit at the mouth of Southampton Water. One of the most extremely developed sand spit is the main part of Weymouth, very urban but with a large sandy beach. A small spit, The Point, at Teignmouth has been partly concreted over as a car park, and the same has occurred to small sand spits elsewhere (e.g. Haven Houses spit, opposite Mudeford Spit).

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DAWLISH WARREN

Gabions

Gabions once buried under the dunes have now been exposed by sea erosion, Dawlish Warren, Devon, 12th April 2010

Gabions exposed by erosion of sand, Dawlish Warren, Devon, April 2012

Protective gabions used on Dawlish Warren each consist of a strong plastic network in the form of a box. These contain limestone fragments. This is a cheap form of sea-defence that is not particularly conspicuous or obtrusive. These gabions were placed on the seaward side towards the central part of the stretch of the sand spit. They were originally purposely concealed beneath sand and vegetation so as to give a natural appearance. However, the external sand has been progressively removed and they were visible in places by 2010. Later, by April 2012 they are well-exposed in places, almost to the top of the bank. Generally, at this date they have not failed, and the internal stones are mostly retained without any substantial loss.

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DAWLISH WARREN continued:

Central Part of Beach - Timber Groynes

Aerial view of a central part of Dawlish Warren, Devon, showing timber groynes, part of the nature reserve and part of the golf course, September 2006

A timber groyne at Dawlish Warren, Devon, in March 2007 showing confinement of barnacles and most of the Patellas to the upper part - has beach sand been lost?

Long timber groynes extend from the sanddunes to the sea in the central stretch of the sea coast of the spit. Groynes were installed in 1962-3, but I do not know whether the one shown above is of this date. It is peculiar that there are no barnacles or limpets (Patella) on the lower part of the groyne. Is this because this lower part was once buried within the beach sand? An alternative explanation might be that the lower part is too strongly abraded by sand and shingle for the attachment of marine fauna. Former burial seems more likely.

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DAWLISH WARREN continued:

Sand Dunes

Sand dunes at the nature reserve part of Dawlish Warren, Devon, have been eroded back to some extent by the sea, photograph 8th April 2008

Erosion of a marram grass dune ridge at Dawlish Warren, Devon

The sandspit of Dawlish Warren on the west side of the Exe Estuary in Devon is important regarding former accretion and present erosion. A marram grass dune ridge is a prominant feature on the seaward side of the sandspit.

This spit has not recently accreted though and this ridge has developed many years ago. Now it is in a serious state of erosion and much of it has already been lost. As noted elsewhere in this webpage, hard sea defences and rock armour are present at the landward end of the spit. However, the more natural and further part with sand dunes has less artificial protection and has been subjected to more erosion. The seaward line of dunes, the marram grass ridge, already has small cliffs. As a form of sea defence gabions have placed under the sand dunes at the front of part of the sand dune ridge. However these are now exposed by sea erosion in several areas on the seaward side of the sand spit.

Planting of Marram Grass on the coastal dunes of the national nature reserve on Dawlish Warren, Devon, March 2007

As noted above, the nature reserve has been narrowing to some extent and is vulnerable and is not protected by hard defences. This notice (in 2007) indicates that Marram Grass has been used to stabilise dunes. This plant is common in Britain and it tends to hold sand in place. Thus it is an aid to preventing coast erosion. However, in the long term it prevents active movement of sand dunes and converts them into a type of hummocky, sandy grassland or into heathland (as at Studland). In Oregon, in contrast, there is an effort to preserve (much larger) coastal sand dunes as active mobile features. Thus Marram Grass, which is invasive and alien there, is undesirable and removed wherever possible. Conservation volunteers help to pull it out so as to maintain the natural mobility and character of sand dunes. Southern England is in general a place where coastal sand dunes occur, but they are mostly vegetated or semi-vegetated; go to Qatar or Saudi Arabia to see active and unvegetated sand dunes.

Comparison

It may be interesting to compare Dawlish Warren to the relatively natural South Haven Peninsula, Studland, Dorset and to the contrasting and heavily built-up sand spit of Sandbanks, Dorset,. There are many other sand spits around Britain that are similar in many respects (see the GCR, or Geological Conservation Review publications in Vol. 28: Sand Spits and Tombolos - GCR Site Reports, on British sand spits of which the account by May (2007) on Dawlish Warren is an example.)

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DAWLISH WARREN:

The Narrow Neck and Inner Bay

A view towards the end of Dawlish Warren from a place where some sea defence gabions, once buried under the dunes, have now been exposed by erosion, 12th April 2010

The Inner Bay or the Bight on the northern, estuarine side of Dawlish Warren sand, Devon, near the end at Warren Point, 13th April 2010

Aerial photograph showing the narrow neck of the Dawlish Warren sand spit, Devon, in September 2006

Shown above, courtesy of the Channel Coastal Observatory, is a reduced aerial photograph of the narrow neck of the Dawlish Warren sand spit in September 2006. There has been great erosion here over the years, and obviously it is this narrow part is at risk of breaking through. There is very little separating the open sea from the Inner Bay (the embayment on the Exe Estuary side, i.e. to the north). Note the subaqueous sand dunes formed by the outflowing tidal current in the tidal delta offshore, of which the most landward part is shown.

An aerial overview of Dawlish Warren and part of the Exe estuary, Devon, courtesy of the Channel Coastal Observatory, National Oceanography Centre, Southampton

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DAWLISH WARREN continued:

The End of the Spit and Exmouth Beyond

Aerial view of the end of Dawlish Warren sand spit, Devon, 7th September 2006

The end of the sand spit of Dawlish Warren, Devon, seen from Exmouth in evening light, 2011

The end of Dawlish Warren sand spit is a low area of sand without high sand dunes. It is not far from the built up seafront of Exmouth. The end part has changed greatly over the years as shown in maps provided above in this webpage.

The northeastern, seaward part of Dawlish Warren, Devon, March 2006, with a view of Exmouth beyond

The end of Dawlish Warren, Devon, seaward side, as seen on April 12th 2010, with a view of Exmouth in the distance

Exmouth sea front, much developed, but with relicts of the former natural environment, East Devon, October 2011

The old cliff line at Exmouth, Devon

The photographs above show the end part of the Dawlish Warren spit. It approaches Exmouth, where there has been major urban development. Cliffs of Permian sandstone here are now vegetated and contain ornamental trees and plants. The foreshore has also been developed to some extent but less large building. Hotels, in particular seem to have been built in the past on the old cliff top.

The Maer is an area of Quaternary sediment accretion, and with sand dunes, in the southeastern part of Exmouth, East Devon, October 2011

The Maer is an area of sand accretion in the southeast part of Exmouth. It is alongside the outflow channel of the River Exe. Much of the sand may have been derived from Dawlish Warren and adjacent sandbanks on the other side of the river. The prevailing wind direction is from the southwest and this is likely to transport sand in this direction.

For more on the Exmouth area and eastwards to Budleigh Salterton go to the Budleigh Salterton webpage.

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DAWLISH WARREN:

Dawlish Warren - Pole Sand Tidal Delta

The Pole Sand ebb delta off Dawlish Warren, Devon, aerial view courtesy of the Channel Coastal Observatory, 7th September 2006

The outflowing ebb currents from the Exe Estuary produce an impressive tidal delta off Dawlish Warren and Exmouth. Unlike the muddy estuaries of the Solent there is a relatively large supply of sand here, and thus a large ebb delta of sand has been formed.

According to the SCOPAC report on the area: " At Exmouth, the mean spring range is 3.80m and the mean neap range is 1.48 m. Tidal current velocities are relatively weak along the open coast, but in the constricted entrance to the Exe estuary, and its approach channel, they are up to 3 ms-1 during spring tides and 1 ms-1 during neap cycles. These are high velocities, capable of moving large quantities of sediment, up to medium sized sand."

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DAWLISH WARREN

Coastal History - Introduction

Over the last 250 years the spit has reduced from 250m to only 50m wide, according to the official Dawlish Warren Website. The Outer Warren and intertidal sandbars are in a state of ‘dynamic equilibrium’ whereby material is constantly shifting within the local area of Dawlish Bay. The trend in recent centuries has been towards gradual erosion of the spit, and Warren Point has periodically disappeared or even become a detached island.

In the mid 1940s the central tidal creek of Greenland Lake, which separated the mobile Outer Warren from the stable Inner Warren, was filled in by the Water Board.

A gabion-backbone, which stretches throughout the length of the spit under the dune-ridge, was installed to prevent further sea breaches in the early 1970s, when 17 beach groynes were placed every 100m to impede long-shore drift and retain sediment.

After severe storms, there was the installation in 1992 of new rock-armour which protects the base of the spit and the railway main line ( Dawlish Warren Website). This was presumably the larvikite rock armour which is northeast of the older Dartmoor Granite rock armour. The larvikite was brought in by sea.

The sand spit is not expected to last longer than this century, but the matter is now complicated because of relatively rapid sea-level rise. This will be discussed further later in the present webpage.

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DAWLISH-WARREN continued:

Dawlish Warren and Dawlish Bay - Chronology of Coastal Events etc.

Map showing erosion of Dawlish Warren, Devon from 1851-1962, after Kidson

1642-1646
During the English Civil War there was a Royalist fort on the end of the spit ( Barber, 2001).

1715-1805
Anne Lytton (or Litten) used to make her way from Exmouth "to milk the cows grazing" on the Warren, via a series of "stepping stones". Late Victorian experts considered that Bull Hill Bank or the Shilley might been where Anne wandered ( Barber, 2001). Apparently, according to Anne's grandson, Samuel Bricknell, his ancestors vividly recalled that the main channel from the estuary into the sea was beside Langstone Point. As Barber (2001) commented there is an old sea cliff and this can be seen extending from Langstone Rock northward (and it is not greatly degraded). It would not be remarkable if an original sand spit extended southwesterly, like the present Weymouth sand spit, especially if Langstone Rock was much larger (giving protection from southwesterly winds). In any case a series of Quaternary channels run under Dawlish Warren as shown by a Durrance (1980). There is a Recent sand and clay fill of a channel down to -22.9 metres under the car park area of Dawlish Warren. A note of caution, though, is that this undated and might be quite early and it is one of many channels under the spit. Diversion eastward of a former channel is known elsewhere on the south coast and occurred in the Solent during the 1703 hurricane (Defoe, 1705). The outlet of the River Otter at Budleigh Salterton seems to have been diverted eastward by the 1824 hurricane. The River Axe at Axmouth has also been diverted eastward. (For discussion - compare to Teignmouth).

1809 - Warren Island
The old 1 inch Map of 1809 shows Warren Island, later incorporated into the Dawlish Warren Spit.
"[By 1898 - see OS map of this date] The sea ... has enlarged the end of the bank opposite Exmouth by silting up the channel between it and what was once Warren Island, whilst the Pole Sand has been driven further up stream at it landward end. The Warren Island between Exmouth and the outer sandbank was in 1809 an alluvial island, reduced to three small inlets by 1839, which had disappeared long prior to 1872." (Ussher, 1913).

1817
Five acres washed away in a single storm ( Barber, 2001). At this time there were salt pans where the Shutterton Brook met the estuary.

1824 - Gap in Outer Bank
The "Great Gale". Extreme hurricane; see the Chesil Beach Storm and Hurricane webpage for details. The hurricane was accompanied by a high storm surge. A gap was made in the outer bank of Dawlish Warren in 1824, presumably by this great storm. It was recorded by Martin (1872 and 1876 - Transactions of the Devon Association, vol. 5, 1872, pp. 84-89, and vol. 8, 1876, pp. 453-460.)

1844 - The warren extended to 300 acres, and there was a saltworks "in the heart of the dunes" ( Barber, 2001).

1846
The South Devon Railway line extended from Exeter through Dawlish Warren and Langstone Rock to Dawlish and Teignmouth. It was constructed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel after previous surveys. A deep and narrow cutting took it through the Langstone Point headland. Subsequently this cutting has been much widened to reduce the curvature of the track that the headland has now become 'Langstone Rock' ( (Kay, 1990).

1869
In 1867 the Exe Bight Oyster Fishing and Pier Company laid down 30,000 oysters in beds in Greenland Lake. In 1869 a storm ripped throught the Warren and the displaced sands were dumped on top of the oysters ( Barber, 2001).

Also in 1869 (Peacock (1869) predicted the ultimate doom of the Warren and its replacement by "a dangerous bay of shoals".

1872 - Gap in Outer Bank now Enlarged
The gap in the outer bank was now a furlong wide (approximately 201 metres). See Martin and Ussher (1913). The sea had repaired the breach by 1898.

1892
Formation of the golf course on Dawlish Warren ( Barber, 2001).

1899 - The first of the bungalows was built at the Exmouth end of the Spit ( Barber, 2001).

1900
Bungalow development on the Outer Warren continued, but there were soon problems with coast erosion and bungalows had to be moved or were destroyed by the sea.

1902 - Saturday 8th November.
There was a violent storm at Plymouth and it was bad elsewhere in Devon with very heavy rain. There was sheet-flooding on NW Dartmoor. In gusts the wind reached 86 miles per hour at Smeaton Tower on Plymouth Hoe, a record. Between gusts the speed was 50 mph. The wind was from SSW veering to West. "From seven until ten the gale at Starcross raged with great violence and rain fell heavily. .. Fortunately it was nearly neap tide. Had it been spring tide Starcross and those houses facing the river would have been swamped. As it was the waves dashed over the jetty and against the railway banks, and the wind catching the spray carried it along in blinding sheets." ... "Just about ten o'clock the wind veered [from SW] to W. and N.W., and in an almost incredible time the river was as unruffled as a millpond. Those who live close to the river can hardly remember such a sudden change. At the same time an unusual sight was noticed - the waves in the Channel could be seen rising high above the [Dawlish] Warren Sand hills."

1908-1909 - Geological Map
Old geological map of the area around Dawlish Warren, Devon, UK

1911
11 December, Saturday night and Sunday morning. Eighty mile an hour winds drove huge waves onto Dawlish Warren. Much destruction. The sea cut away, in many places, the banks of sand and wiregrass and made channels through from the sea shore to the little bay, which at high tide, divides the popular side of the Warren from the golf course. Bungalow destruction at the Outer Warren ( Barber, 2001).

1905
Warren Halt opened as an unstaffed halt at the Warren (not then known as Dawlish Warren) (Kay, 1991)

1912
Warren Halt was replaced by a new station a quarter of a mile to the north. The Great Western Railway named this "Dawlish Warren". Subsequently the peninsula took this name from the station (Kay, 1991).

1913
Storm damage and loss of bungalows of the Outer Warren (Kay, 1991).

1949-1962 - Peak Erosion.
Erosion reached a 'peak' of about 7m. per annum loss for the central part of the beach of on the outer Warren ( Kidson, 1964). The long-term average recession had been much less - about 1 metre per annum.

1950 - Prediction of 15 year life.
Kidson (1950) forecast a life of ten to fifteen years for the Outer Warren, in the absence of major defence works.

1962
New rock armour (larvikite) was added to the granite rock armour at the southwestern part of Dawlish Warren.

1963-4
There was a breach of the Warren and loss of sand. As a consequence series of timber groynes and gabion basket revetments were installed and maintained by the Environment Agency.

1963-4
In 1971 major works were commence by the Water Authority to help stabilise Dawlish Warren. These were completed in 1974 (Great Cliff, 2006).


1971.
Major works commence by the Water Authority to help stabilise Dawlish Warren.


1974.
A large section of Dawlish down platform was demolished by a storm on 11th February 1974. Work was completed on stabilising the Dawlish Warren area.


2008.
Problems with the coastal railway being affected by storms. BBC News. 2008. Sea level rise means rail rethink..
Fears about sea level rises swamping the existing main railway route to the South West mean the old line between Okehampton and Plymouth may be revived. The current line runs along Dawlish seafront and trains can be cancelled and delayed during heavy storms as waves break over the line. Long-term concerns about the line mean that the inland route, closed in the 1960s, may have to be reopened. A report for train operators says it could happen within the next 50 years.

2008 - more
Can Dawlish Warren be Saved? (10th January, 2008)
See the full version by going to link above. A summarised extract of the text is in the references below:
Can Dawlish Warren be saved? By Laura Joint.
The speeding up of coastal erosion at Dawlish Warren has raised concerns over the future of its famous beach and nature reserve. The main railway line and coastal properties might be at risk, too. The sands of time could be running out for one of Devon's best loved beaches. Dawlish Warren in South Devon is being eroded at an increasing rate - raising fears for the beach, the national nature reserve, main line railway and people's homes. Sections of the famous golden sands at Dawlish Warren beach have washed away - literally. Meanwhile, on the other side of the River Exe estuary, there appears to be more sand on Exmouth beach, and one theory is that Dawlish Warren's loss is Exmouth's gain... continues.

2010
Beach Facing Uncertain Future. The Western Morning News. Thursday, March 18, 2010. See the original article.
"Fears are growing that 3 million pounds of funding to save a popular West country beach from being washed away will come through too late. Teignbridge District Council says Dawlish Warren, on Devon's south coast, has seen "dramatic losses" in the last year, with a single storm removing around 10 metres of dune frontage and reducing the beach level by more than a metre. Erosion of the beach – a magnet for around 10,000 visitors a day at the height of the season – has long been a concern as coastal currents sweep the sand to the rival resort at Exmouth. While the Environment Agency is carrying out emergency work at the beach, further funding to "recharge" the beach could be "quite a long way off". Council leader Alan Connett questioned whether enough was being done to prevent the Warren from "over-topping"....continues [go to reference list below for more information]

2010 more
Isle of Wight sand could replenish Devon beach . BBC News, 18th March 2010. A summary of the text follows:
Dawlish Warren. The Environment Agency is already protecting dunes. Sand could be brought in from the Isle of Wight to replenish stocks at a Devon beach. Dawlish Warren has lost tonnes of sand during storms, with the beach level reducing by 1m (3ft). The council is now bidding for a 3m pound project by the Environment Agency (EA) to bring the sand back. The funding request is on the EA's approval list but more work is needed to assess the full cost benefits before final approval, said a spokesman. The agency is already carrying out 110,000 pounds emergency works to protect the stability of the dunes and flood defences at the Warren. Councillor Alan Connett, leader of Teignbridge District Council, said: "We need the Environment Agency to spend some real money to restore the beach, because the risk is if there's another bad storm, the Warren could be overrun." Geoff Wills, Mayor of Dawlish said: "Sand is vitally important for the tourism of the area. They come in the droves to see the sand and play on the sand."

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DAWLISH WARREN:

Future Prospects

It is unfortunate that the future for Dawlish Warren, with regard sea-flooding and coast erosion, does not seem very promising. Gloomy predictions have been made in publications since 1869 (Peacock, 1869) and appeared in print again in 1950 (Kidson, 1950). There has been continuing concern more recently. There are sea-defence works of various types and they give some degree of protection to Dawlish Warren (especially the landward, southwestern part), much of it is likely to be destroyed by the sea in coming years. This is because of rise in sea-level, and prospects of more frequent storms, as a result of global warming.

There are several reasons for expecting major flooding or flood damage at some future date. Dawlish Warren is a very low sand bank, much of it only a few metres above sea level. Its bedrock base is, for the most part more than 20 metres below sea level and it is situated on buried channels of the river Exe ( (Durrance, 1980). There is no solid bedrock support near sea-level. Unfortunately, it has a bad history of coast erosion and not much of the original spit is left (see maps above). Many of the early buildings, chalets and bungalows, have been destroyed, although it should be noted that these were at the distal end. The far part is particularly likely to change and is affected by currents in addition to wave action.

Dawlish Warren has already had much sea defence constuction and alteration. Emergency work was undertakne by the Water Authority in 1971. Greenland Lake has been filled in. Although gabions extend along the spit, more resistant sea defences of rock armour are only present at the southwestern part of the shore.

A recent problem is the rate of relative sea-level rise on the south coast of England has roughly doubled since the 1940s. In the Southampton area it is now about 4mm per annum, compared to 1 to 2 mm per annum in the past. A further potential problem is that the 1 in 250 year hurricane (e.g. the 1824 Great Gale and the 1703 Daniel Defoe Storm) will occur again sooner or later. The rare but extremely severe, English Channel hurricane can produce storm surges of 3 metres or more above high tide level. This would swamp most of Dawlish Warren. It would not necessarily totally destroy it as a physical feature. The damage, however, would be substantial.

Future natural repair is unlikely in the short term because there is no large stock of sand on the east side, the source area for longshore drift (southwest to northeast). Brunel's railway and sea wall have cut off the supply since 1846. It is probable that Dawlish Warren has been formed naturally in large part from supplies of sand that came by erosion from the Dawlish cliffs. The problems of the area are well-recognised. There have been statements in the press that the railway line from Dawlish Warren to Dawlish is threatened by rising sea level. It may have to be abandoned within 50 years and there is discussion in progress about future use of an inland railway line to the west.

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DAWLISH WARREN:

More on the Erosion Threat

See the following article in the BBC Homepage - Nature section.

Can Dawlish Warren be Saved? (10th January, 2008)

See the full version by going to link above. A summarised extract of the text follows:

Can Dawlish Warren be saved? By Laura Joint.

The speeding up of coastal erosion at Dawlish Warren has raised concerns over the future of its famous beach and nature reserve. The main railway line and coastal properties might be at risk, too. The sands of time could be running out for one of Devon's best loved beaches. Dawlish Warren in South Devon is being eroded at an increasing rate - raising fears for the beach, the national nature reserve, main line railway and people's homes. Sections of the famous golden sands at Dawlish Warren beach have washed away - literally. Meanwhile, on the other side of the River Exe estuary, there appears to be more sand on Exmouth beach, and one theory is that Dawlish Warren's loss is Exmouth's gain.
The estuary habitat at the warren's Site of Special Scientific Interest - home to a wide array of wading birds - is also being eroded. If the erosion continues, the main railway line will be at risk, as well as properties. The Government's environment department, Defra, has funded an investigation into the problem and a report is being drawn up by a group of organisations including the local district councils, the Environment Agency, Natural England and Network Rail. Teignbridge District Council is worried that the loss of sand at Dawlish will hit the tourism industry and local economy - a fear echoed by traders in the town. The Environment Agency deals with the threat of flooding, while Natural England is responsible for managing the nature reserve. Chris Davis of Natural England (formerly English Nature) said the Exe Estuary is a complex area and there are no 'quick fixes' to the issue of erosion. "It's a fascinating site as it is very dynamic. It moves around, and the sediment moves around as well. We have to work with it, rather than against it. We are working on a plan which is a sustainable solution." As part of the study, the agencies are looking at past changes in the estuary to assess if this is cyclical. Mr Davis said: "Erosion in this area isn't a new problem, but it has speeded up in recent years. The agencies have drawn up a plan to address the threat of any catastrophic event happening while the detailed investigation into a long term sustainable solution is ongoing. It would be a knee-jerk reaction to build up defences there now." Mr Davis said that all options are being considered - including letting nature take its course. However, he said that all interests are being considered...... -- The results of the study and details of a long-term solution are expected to be revealed in the summer of 2008. That will be followed by a period of public consultation.

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DISCUSSION

More Rock Armour Protection

The spit of Dawlish Warren already has sea defences in part, but they are only substantial at the southwestern end. Old granite rock armour has been placed near the railway, and newer larvikite rock has been brought in by barge to form an extension of this. If it was possible to add rock armour on a large scale so as to form a high wall all round the margins of the sand spit on both seaward and estuary sides then the long term survival may well be much increased. However, this would damage the pleasant sandy beaches.

Perhaps, sand from offshore sand banks could be pumped into the central area to raise the land level, but interfering with the offshore banks might cause further problems.

The problem of supplies of rock armour (or rock armor or armourock) is likely to be a more general problem in the future. Firstly, it will be less easy to purchase in a financial recession. Secondly, the greenhouse gas effect of moving rock from Norway (i.e. larvikite from Larvik near Oslo) might be regarded as undesirable in the future. Thirdly, there may be very heavy demand for rock armour elsewhere, particularly to protect the low, east coast of England as sea level rises.

It is true that local sources of hard rock are available in Devon and Cornwall. Dartmoor granite has been used in the past for rock armour, and it is an igneous rock not very different from larvikite (both are types of monzonite, but larvikite has lower Si). It would probably be very undesirable from an environmental point of view to have a "superquarry" in southwest England supplying granite to protect the Devon coast, but this might be considered in the long-term future. Masses of rock armour are much more likely to be used in front of highly developed urban areas, though, rather than at nature reserves like Dawlish Warren.

To discover more about the sea-flooding risk in the region consult the Environment Agency flood maps. These will show the location of sites liable to flooding.

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DISCUSSION:

Discussion in 2010 about Dawlish Warren and Possible Import of Sand.

Beach Facing Uncertain Future. The Western Morning News. Thursday, March 18, 2010. See the original article. A condensed text follows:

"Fears are growing that 3 million pounds of funding to save a popular West country beach from being washed away will come through too late. Teignbridge District Council says Dawlish Warren, on Devon's south coast, has seen "dramatic losses" in the last year, with a single storm removing around 10 metres of dune frontage and reducing the beach level by more than a metre. Erosion of the beach – a magnet for around 10,000 visitors a day at the height of the season – has long been a concern as coastal currents sweep the sand to the rival resort at Exmouth. While the Environment Agency is carrying out emergency work at the beach, further funding to "recharge" the beach could be "quite a long way off". Council leader Alan Connett questioned whether enough was being done to prevent the Warren from "over-topping". He said: "I was shocked to see just how much sand has been lost from the Warren when I walked along the front. "I am told that storms since the start of the year have resulted in the loss of more sand. "The Warren has national and international designations for its wildlife and the way the sand is being eaten away must be a very real worry to the Environment Agency." The agency has confirmed it is in the process of trying to get £2.9 million funding from the Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (Defra) for a beach recharge scheme. While the funding submission sits on the Environment Agency's "sanctioned" list waiting for approval, more work has to be done to assess the economic value of committing the public funding. The bid has to be put before technical specialists on the agency's National Review Group before it can be approved. The whole process could take two to three years. In the meantime, the Environment Agency has committed 110,000 pounds for emergency works to be carried out to protect the stability of the dunes and flood defences. The money has bought block stone and hardwood timber to repair and protect the dunes and groyne structures. A spokesman for the Environment Agency said the emergency work would be completed by May this year. He said: "Clearly we are taking the precautions needed at Dawlish Warren very seriously. "The amount of money that is needed that Coun Connell refers to is nearly 3 million pounds. "That has to go through a strict process. That's quite a long way off." Some blame the beach's precarious state on the closure of Exmouth docks in the 1980s, which ended dredging of the Exe. Criticism has also been levelled at the Environment Agency for not promptly replacing the wooden groynes that line and protect the beach from the sea. To the chagrin of the tourism industry, countryside quango Natural England has suggested the Warren, part of which is also a protected nature reserve, should be left to revert back to a "natural state"

.

See also:

Isle of Wight sand could replenish Devon beach. BBC News, 18th March 2010. A summary of the text follows:

Dawlish Warren. The Environment Agency is already protecting dunes. Sand could be brought in from the Isle of Wight to replenish stocks at a Devon beach. Dawlish Warren has lost tonnes of sand during storms, with the beach level reducing by 1m (3ft). The council is now bidding for a 3m pound project by the Environment Agency (EA) to bring the sand back. The funding request is on the EA's approval list but more work is needed to assess the full cost benefits before final approval, said a spokesman. The agency is already carrying out 110,000 pounds emergency works to protect the stability of the dunes and flood defences at the Warren. Councillor Alan Connett, leader of Teignbridge District Council, said: "We need the Environment Agency to spend some real money to restore the beach, because the risk is if there's another bad storm, the Warren could be overrun." Geoff Wills, Mayor of Dawlish said: "Sand is vitally important for the tourism of the area. They come in the droves to see the sand and play on the sand."

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MISCELLANEOUS TOPICS:

Uranium in the Exmouth and Langstone Rock Area

Map of radon in stream water around the Exe Estuary, Devon, after Durrance (1980), and relationship to the Littleham Cove radioactive nodules

An investigation of radon in stream water by Durrance (1980) resulted in the map shown above. There is a remarkable concentration around the mouth of the Exe Estuary. The content is higher here (but not dangerous) than even in the area of the famous radioactive nodules of Littleham Cove, near Budleigh Salterton (east of the Exe Estuary).

The distribution has not been explained. An underground accumulation of radioactive minerals such as uranium minerals is needed to account for this. The possibilities are as follows:

1. The presence of veins of uranium ore (pitchblende) like those associated with the granites of southwest England occurring in the Langstone-Exmouth area.
- unlikely (such an occurrence would have to be very deep, because the appropriate strata (Devonian, Carboniferous) are only at great depth).

2. The Permian breccias, such as the Langstone breccia contain some uranium minerals, either in the clasts (fragments) or in the associated sand.
- quite likely, but unproven.

3. There is some process of concentration of mineral grains derived from Dartmoor in the beach sands or in Pleistocene gravels of the area of the mouth of the Exe Estuary.
- less likely, but not impossible

4. The radioactive nodules of the Littleham Cove Mudstones of Littleham Cove represent an example of a type of sedimentary uranium deposit that is better developed in (older) Permian, playa lake deposits, somewhere underground near the mouth of the Exe Estuary.
- possible (with remote possibility of economic uranium deposits in the area)

At the moment the answer to this mystery does not seem to be known.

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I am very grateful to the staff and students of the Environmental Science section of the School of Civil Engineering and the Environment, Southampton University. Most of the photographs in this webpage have been taken during Southampton University, field courses, based at Exeter University. I particularly thank Dr. Malcolm Hudson, Dr. Paul Kemp, Dr. Simon Kemp, Dr. John Jones, Dr. Elizabeth Williams and other members of staff. I thank Oleksandra Pedchenko for kindly providing some photographs of Dawlish Warren and Langstone Rock. Many students have kindly agreed to allow photographs of themselves taken during fieldwork to be used on the internet. I am very grateful to the staff of the Dawlish Warren Nature Reserve for explaining the features of the area during various student field courses in the past.

I am very grateful to the The Channel Coastal Observatory , National Oceanography Centre, Southampton University, Southampton, for permission to use their aerial photographs.

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REFERENCES AND SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY


.
Anonymous 2010. Beach Facing Uncertain Future. The Western Morning News. Thursday, March 18, 2010. See the original article. A condensed text follows:

"Fears are growing that £3 million of funding to save a popular West country beach from being washed away will come through too late. Teignbridge District Council says Dawlish Warren, on Devon's south coast, has seen "dramatic losses" in the last year, with a single storm removing around 10 metres of dune frontage and reducing the beach level by more than a metre. Erosion of the beach – a magnet for around 10,000 visitors a day at the height of the season – has long been a concern as coastal currents sweep the sand to the rival resort at Exmouth. While the Environment Agency is carrying out emergency work at the beach, further funding to "recharge" the beach could be "quite a long way off". Council leader Alan Connett questioned whether enough was being done to prevent the Warren from "over-topping". He said: "I was shocked to see just how much sand has been lost from the Warren when I walked along the front. "I am told that storms since the start of the year have resulted in the loss of more sand. "The Warren has national and international designations for its wildlife and the way the sand is being eaten away must be a very real worry to the Environment Agency." The agency has confirmed it is in the process of trying to get £2.9 million funding from the Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (Defra) for a beach recharge scheme. While the funding submission sits on the Environment Agency's "sanctioned" list waiting for approval, more work has to be done to assess the economic value of committing the public funding. The bid has to be put before technical specialists on the agency's National Review Group before it can be approved. The whole process could take two to three years. In the meantime, the Environment Agency has committed £110,000 for emergency works to be carried out to protect the stability of the dunes and flood defences. The money has bought block stone and hardwood timber to repair and protect the dunes and groyne structures. A spokesman for the Environment Agency said the emergency work would be completed by May this year. He said: "Clearly we are taking the precautions needed at Dawlish Warren very seriously. "The amount of money that is needed that Coun Connell refers to is nearly £3 million. "That has to go through a strict process. That's quite a long way off." Some blame the beach's precarious state on the closure of Exmouth docks in the 1980s, which ended dredging of the Exe. Criticism has also been levelled at the Environment Agency for not promptly replacing the wooden groynes that line and protect the beach from the sea. To the chagrin of the tourism industry, countryside quango Natural England has suggested the Warren, part of which is also a protected nature reserve, should be left to revert back to a "natural state"
.
Barber , C. 2001. The Story of Dawlish Warren. Obelisk Publications. 32 pp., paperback, with many old monochrome photographs and much detailed and informative text. By Chips Barber, author of many other publications on Dawlish, Exeter, Dartmoor etc. First published in 2001 by Obelisk Publcations, 2 Church Street, Pinhoe, Exeter, Devon. ISBN - 1 903585 07 4. Price only £2.50p. Usually available at the Nature Reserve Visitor Centre, Dawlish Warren. [Very interesting account of the history of Dawlish Warren, with much information on the since destroyed bungalow territory of the Outer Warren, or Exmouth Warren.]
.
BBC News . 2008. Sea level rise means rail rethink.
Website: - BBC News. 2008. Sea level rise means rail rethink..
Fears about sea level rises swamping the existing main railway route to the South West mean the old line between Okehampton and Plymouth may be revived. The current line runs along Dawlish seafront and trains can be cancelled and delayed during heavy storms as waves break over the line. Long-term concerns about the line mean that the inland route, closed in the 1960s, may have to be reopened. A report for train operators says it could happen within the next 50 years.
Faster route: Transport consultant Jim Steer, who wrote the report for the Association of Train Operating Companies, said: "I think it's important not to get too romantic about reinstating the railway lines that Dr Beeching closed in the 1960s. "Instead we should looking at the real transport needs and in this case it is a faster route into Cornwall and a route that avoids the risk factor around the coastal route that are the motivations." Developers are already trying to raise £10m to reopen part of the route, from Tavistock to Plymouth. The 5.5 mile (9km) Drake line was closed off at Bere Alston in 1968.

BBC News, 2010
Isle of Wight sand could replenish Devon beach. BBC News, 18th March 2010. A summary of the text follows:

Dawlish Warren. The Environment Agency is already protecting dunes. Sand could be brought in from the Isle of Wight to replenish stocks at a Devon beach. Dawlish Warren has lost tonnes of sand during storms, with the beach level reducing by 1m (3ft). The council is now bidding for a 3m pound project by the Environment Agency (EA) to bring the sand back. The funding request is on the EA's approval list but more work is needed to assess the full cost benefits before final approval, said a spokesman. The agency is already carrying out 110,000 pounds emergency works to protect the stability of the dunes and flood defences at the Warren. Councillor Alan Connett, leader of Teignbridge District Council, said: "We need the Environment Agency to spend some real money to restore the beach, because the risk is if there's another bad storm, the Warren could be overrun." Geoff Wills, Mayor of Dawlish said: "Sand is vitally important for the tourism of the area. They come in the droves to see the sand and play on the sand."

Dawlish Warren Website. This is the official site dedicated to the wildlife of Dawlish Warren recording area, based around the Teignbridge District Council NNR and Devon Wildlife Trust reserve. This area is situated at the mouth of the River Exe in South Devon. This website is recommended reading.
This website has sections on Geological History, Tourism History, Conservation History, Site Habitats, Birdwatching, Butterflies, Moths, Dragonflies, Plants, Weather and Tides etc.
.

Durrance , E.M. 1978. Radon in the stream waters of East Devon. Proceedings of the Ussher Society, 4, 220-228.

Durrance, E.M. 1980. A review of the geology of the Exe Estuary. Essays on the Exe Estuary, Devon Association for Advancement of Science, Literature and Art. Special Volume No. 2. pp. 41-71.

"Hot deserts and Ice Ages", the geology of the Exe Estuary presents a picture of contrasts. The rocks which underlie and border the estuary are of Permian age and form part of the New Red Sandstone Series, a sequence of sediments which were deposited in a hot desert environment; while the form of the estuary itself, and the deposits which infill its channels, largely owe their origin to events that occurred during the glacial periods of the Pleistocene.
During Permian times Devon occupied the interior of a continental area situated between the equator and about lO degrees N, and experienced a generally arid climate. However, only some of the Permian sediments, particularly the dune sands, indicate arid conditions; the greater proportion is waterlain and indicates periods of flash-flooding. Beneath and to the west of the Exe Estuary the sediments are usually coarse breccias and breccio-conglomerates, formed as alluvial fans. These represent deposition at the base of the New Red Sandstone of material eroded from a highland area which lay to the west. Away from these highlands and higher in the succession, to the east of the Exe Estuary, the New Red Sandstone largely consists of sandstones and mudstones deposited in a flood plain environment, although at Budleigh Salterton a coarse fluvial horizon comprises the Pebble Beds which also marks the base of the Triassic System in Devon.
Little evidence now remains of the geological history of the area of the Exe Estuary between Triassic and Cretaceous times, but prior to the deposition of the Cretaceous Greensand which is still preserved as a roughly horizontal capping to the Haldon Hills and the East Hill-Peak Hill ridge, the Permian and Triassic rocks were gently tilted to the east. At the end of Cretaceous times a general uplift of the area occurred, and easterly flowing rivers worked the flint gravels which mantle the Cretaceous rocks in Devon.
During Tertiary times, southerly tilting and further warping occurred, and downcutting of southerly flowing rivers, like the Exe, caused the drainage pattern to become superimposed on the New Red Sandstone, Devonian and Carboniferous rocks. Relative sea level continued to fall throughout Tertiary and Quaternary times, leading to the formation of the terrace deposits recognised at different heights within the valley of the Exe; but during the Pleistocene, glacial periods were accompanied by such dramatic falls in sea level that the last two episodes (Wolstonian and Devensian) had sea levels very much lower than that of the present day. Certainly two phases of buried channel formation consequent upon these low sea levels, have been recognised in the Exe Estuary. However, whether these are of Wolstonian and Devensian age, or represent two periods of low sea level within the Devensian, is uncertain.

Durrance, E.M. and Laming, D.J.C. (Editors) 1982 (reprinted 1985, paperback, and 1993). The Geology of Devon . University of Exeter Press. 346 pp. ISBN 0 85989 247 6. This is a key publication on the area.
"Preface: Geological Field Work: It has often been remarked that geology is a subject best studied by actually looking at rocks, minerals and fossils, and their structures and relationships, in the field. Therefore, although this book mainly deals with descriptions from an interpretative viewpoint, at the end of each appropriate chapter a number of localities are listed which will serve to illustrate the main points dealt with in the text. The localities are mainly arranged in subject groupings, although some geographical subdivision is also present. Excursions to specific areas of Devon, to include visits to a number of sites of different character, may thus be constructed with the aid of the appropriate ----- and Geological Survey maps, according to individual requirements. Excursion Guides to different parts of Devon are also published by the Geologists' Association:
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East Devon District Council. 2006. The Background (regarding sea defences at Exmouth and Dawlish Warren). Available on the internet - pdf - opr08DF9.
The Exmouth sea wall. This wall is believed to have been constructed by John Smeaton in 1841/42, (not the 18th Century lighthouse builder of the same name) and is a masonry wall supported on timber piles sunk into the sand. The Beach Gardens section of the wall is also constructed of masonry, and lies forward of the original 1840's structure.
Why is Exmouth sea wall in need of repair? The overriding problem arises from the general reduction and variability of beach levels on the Esplanade and Beach Gardens frontage over the past ten years. In recent years the beach has been seen to vary in height by 1 to 2 metres over the period of 1 or 2 tides. On many occasions in recent years the beach level has fallen below the top of the foundations of the wall, exposing them to erosion and undermining by the tides, currents and waves. Although the mid 19th century Esplanade sea wall itself is in good condition, the exposure of the timber foundations in this way increases the risk of it collapsing. If the wall were to collapse, Exmouth sea front and town centre would be at an increased risk of flooding. The vulnerability of the wall had been reported in 2002, and arrangements were being made to address this problem. However, in October 2004, severe south easterly storms coincided with high spring tides which caused the beach to be lowered and resulted in damage to both the Esplanade and Beach Gardens sea walls. During the October 2004 storms, the foundations of the Beach Gardens were exposed and undermined sufficiently to cause partial subsidence of this section of wall and subsidence, cracks and damage to the footway behind. Rock armour was placed in front of this section of wall as a temporary measure to prevent further damage to the wall.
The latest protection works will be carried out in two phases as described on the following sheets.... [continues]

Exe Estuary Coastal Management Study. Why are we doing a study? Recent storms and the associated damage to the defences at Dawlish Warren and Exmouth seafront have highlighted the need for a long-term, sustainable coastal management strategy for the area. With the possibility of climate change and sea level rise, we need to determine whether our current management practices at these sites are the most sustainable for the future.
Some history. From previous studies, the supply of sand to Dawlish Warren appears to be limited. Following a breach of the Warren and loss of sand from the site in 1963/64, a series of timber groynes and gabion basket revetments were installed and maintained by the Environment Agency. These help to maintain a healthy beach and dune system, which provides a coastal defence for the Warren and the Exe Estuary. To reduce the risk of flooding and erosion to the amenity site at the western end of the Warren, a seawall was also built in the 1990s.
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Great Cliff. 2006. A Brief History of the Railway at Dawlish.
(Part of the website of:
Luxury Self Catering Accommodation in Dawlish Devon - Welcome to Great Cliff a Great Place for that South Devon Holiday.)
Example extracts:
1962. New generation of diesel hydraulic locomotives gradually replace steam locomotives. Ballast washed out at Marine Parade on 8th March due to storm - Dawlish down platform also damaged.
1971. Major works commence by the Water Authority to help stabilise Dawlish Warren.
1974. Large section of Dawlish down platform demolished by a storm on 11th February. Work completed on stabilising Dawlish Warren area
[continues with similar information]
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Joint , L. 2008. Can Dawlish Warren be Saved. By Laura Joint. See the webpage below:
Can Dawlish Warren be Saved? (10th January, 2008)

See the full version by going to link above. A summarised extract of the text follows:

Can Dawlish Warren be saved? By Laura Joint.

The speeding up of coastal erosion at Dawlish Warren has raised concerns over the future of its famous beach and nature reserve. The main railway line and coastal properties might be at risk, too. The sands of time could be running out for one of Devon's best loved beaches. Dawlish Warren in South Devon is being eroded at an increasing rate - raising fears for the beach, the national nature reserve, main line railway and people's homes. Sections of the famous golden sands at Dawlish Warren beach have washed away - literally. Meanwhile, on the other side of the River Exe estuary, there appears to be more sand on Exmouth beach, and one theory is that Dawlish Warren's loss is Exmouth's gain.
The estuary habitat at the warren's Site of Special Scientific Interest - home to a wide array of wading birds - is also being eroded. If the erosion continues, the main railway line will be at risk, as well as properties. The Government's environment department, Defra, has funded an investigation into the problem and a report is being drawn up by a group of organisations including the local district councils, the Environment Agency, Natural England and Network Rail. Teignbridge District Council is worried that the loss of sand at Dawlish will hit the tourism industry and local economy - a fear echoed by traders in the town. The Environment Agency deals with the threat of flooding, while Natural England is responsible for managing the nature reserve. Chris Davis of Natural England (formerly English Nature) said the Exe Estuary is a complex area and there are no 'quick fixes' to the issue of erosion. "It's a fascinating site as it is very dynamic. It moves around, and the sediment moves around as well. We have to work with it, rather than against it. We are working on a plan which is a sustainable solution." As part of the study, the agencies are looking at past changes in the estuary to assess if this is cyclical. Mr Davis said: "Erosion in this area isn't a new problem, but it has speeded up in recent years. The agencies have drawn up a plan to address the threat of any catastrophic event happening while the detailed investigation into a long term sustainable solution is ongoing. It would be a knee-jerk reaction to build up defences there now." Mr Davis said that all options are being considered - including letting nature take its course. However, he said that all interests are being considered...... -- The results of the study and details of a long-term solution are expected to be revealed in the summer of 2008. That will be followed by a period of public consultation.
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Kay , P. 1990 (Second Impression 1991). Rails along the Sea Wall. Platform 5 Publishing Ltd., Lydgate Lane, Sheffield. 60pp. By Peter Kay. [This discusses the history of Brunel's railway line along the coast of south Devon, including the stretch between Dawlish sea front and Dawlish Warren. This paperback book (was only 6 pounds) contains much useful historic information and contains numerous superb old photographs of the railway line, the sea wall and coast in general. I purchased it at the Red Rock Cafe at Langstone Rock.]
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Kidson, C. 1950. Dawlish Warren: A study of the evolution of sand spits across the mouth of the River Exe in Devon. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 16, 69-80.

Kidson, C. 1962. Denudation chronology of the River Exe. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 31, 43-66.

Kidson, C. 1963. The growth of sand and shingle spits across estuaries. Zeitschrift Geomorphol. 7, 1–22.

Kidson, C. 1964. Dawlish Warren, Devon: late stages in sand spit evolution. Proceedings of the Geologists' Association, London, 75, 167–184.
Abstract:
Detailed recording of small-scale changes for more than a decade has made it possible to suggest reasons for the accelerating erosion of this sand spit across the mouth of the River Exe. It is suggested that the processes operating in this site are characteristic of those at similar sand spits in a late stage of development. Attempts to halt or slow down erosion are reviewed and possible developments in the future are touched upon.

[Example text - Introduction] "In common with most other coastal sand and shingle structures, Dawlish Warren has a history of continual change. For roughly the last hundred years the cumulative effects of these changes have, from time to time, led to fears for the stability of this composite sand spit at the mouth of the River Exe in Devon. This is not surprising since much depends on it. It is an important element in the natural sea defences of the main railway line, which runs along the western shore of the estuary, of the harbour at Exmouth and of the entrance to the Exeter canal at Turf. It does much to reduce wave action in the estuary and so is important in the functioning of navigation, including that of the Exmouth to Starcross ferry. Quite apart from this coast defence aspect, Dawlish Warren has great amenity value in itself. Many thousands of holiday-makers throng its beaches in the summer and golfers use it throughout the year.
The ultimate doom of the Warren and its replacement by 'a dangerous bay of shoals' was forecast almost one hundred years ago (Peacock, 1869). Three papers by J. M. Martin (1872, 1876, 1893) discuss the changes in Dawlish Warren up to the end of the last century and put forward a number of ideas to account for the continuing erosion. R. Hansford Worth (1907) felt that fears for the safety of the Warren had been 'somewhat exaggerated' and suggested that the changes taking place indicated 'rearrangement rather than destruction'. The present writer (Kidson, 1950) forecast a life of ten to fifteen years for the Outer Warren, in the absence of major defence works, and suggested that the next paper on the subject might well describe the realisation of Peacock's oreboding.
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Laming , D. J. C. 1954. Sedimentary processes in the formation of the New Red Sandstone of south Devonshire. PhD Thesis, University of London.

Laming, D. J. C. 1958. Fossil winds. In Polar wandering and continental drift - a symposium, Journal of the Alberta Society of Petroleum Geologists, 6, Calgary, 179-183.

Laming, D. J. C. 1965. Age of the New Red Sandstone in south Devonshire. Nature, London, 207, 624-625.

Laming, D. J. C. 1966. Imbrications, palaeocurrents and other sedimentary features in the Lower New Red Sandstone, Devonshire, England. Journal of Sedimentary Petrology, 36, 940-959.
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Leeder, M. 1999. Sedimentology and Sedimentary Basins: from Turbulence to Tectonics. Blackwell Science Ltd., 592 pp. ISBN-13:978-0-632-04976-9, paperback. For information on sediments of the type occurring in the Permo-Trias of Devon, see Alluvial Fans and Fan Deltas, p. 330-339; and Aeolian Sediments in Low-latitude Deserts, pp. 295-306.


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Marsden, C.J. 2009. Dawlish Sea Wall: The Railway between Exeter and Newton Abbott. Ian Allan Publishing. 96pp. Large paperback By Colin J. Marsden, first published 2009. This is the best publication that I am aware of, with numerous photographs, modern and historic, of the Dawlish and Teignmouth sea walls and railway lines. About half the photographs are in colour with the others in monochrome. Some colour photographs are very large and cover two pages. This books contains valuable historic information in the old photographs. Original price £14.99
(See also the smaller book on a related topic: Kay, 1991)
Example extract p.3:
"Introduction: Firstly welcome to: Dawlish Sea Wall: The Railway between Exeter and Newton Abbott. Over the years much has been written about the 21 miles of railway line between Exeter and Aller, west of Newton Abbot which is affectionately known as the Dawlish Sea Wall line. There is probably no other section of railway line in the world which attracts the interest that the Dawlish Sea Wall generates. Locations such as Dawlish, Langstone Rock and Cockwood Harbour are without doubt the most photographed locations anywhere, with only on some occasions, when special or unusual locomotives have passed by, upward of 200 photographers being recorded. There are likely to be many reasons why the route has attracted such interest - its splendid scenery, ease of access and wide variety of train types the most common reasons, but the not infrequent inclement weather with waves crashing over the line inflicting structural damage to the fabric of the line also attracts interest, especially if people can stand and watch the storm seas crashing over the line and into the streets.". ... continues


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Martin, 1872. Exmouth Haven and its threatened destruction. Report and Transactions of the Devon Association for the Advancement of Science, Literature and Art, vol. 5, 1872, pp. 84-89.

Martin, 1876. The changes at Exmouth Haven. Report and Transactions of the Devon Association for the Advancement of Science, Literature and Art, 8, 1876, 453–460.

Martin, J.M. 1893. The changes at Exmouth Haven. Report and Transactions of the Devon Association for the Advancement of Science, Literature and Art, 25, 406–415.


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May , V.J. 2007. Dawlish Warren. Extract from the Geological Conservation Review, Vol. 28: Sand Spits and Tombolos - GCR Site Reports. Site: Dawlish Warren (GCR ID:1838). OS Grid Reference SX985795. By Professor Vince May of Bournemouth University. This can be downloaded online as a pdf file: Dawlish Warren, by V.J. May.
Introduction: The coastal spit at Dawlish Warren is a classic landform that extends from the western side of the Exe estuary (see Figure 8.2 for general location) and diverts the main channel towards Exmouth. This complex sand spit at the mouth of the estuary is dominated by two parallel ridges, the more seaward of which has a broad distal end. Extensive sandbanks to seaward affect the low-tide and intertidal wave-energy distribution, but the beach form is largely the product of a combination of wave patterns at high tide levels and the discharge of the estuary, so that currents may control the sediment distribution more than waves (Figure 8.10). The site is now partly modified by gabions buried beneath the shoreline dunes and by a wall at its proximal end. Erosion has become acute here in recent years following protection of the cliffs to the south-west that had formerly provided at least part of the former sediment supply. ... [continues]. [This account contains an interesting aerial photograph, undated, from the Cambridge University Collection of Aeriel Photographs. It seems old and may be from the 1950s or thereabouts. It shows some sort of huts, buildings or excavations on the landward end of the spit. At the end, Warren Point, the vegetation has been eroded. Compare to the CCO aerial photographs in the present account].
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Mottershead , D.N. 1986. Classic Landforms of the South Devon Coast. Classic Landform Guides, No. 5, Geographical Association, Sheffield, 48 pp.
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Morris, S. 2007. Millionaire left with even better sea view after cliff landslide. The Guardian Newspaper, Tuesday, 6th February 2007. By Steven Morris. [Short article with a photograph].
A luxurious clifftop home being built for a wealthy businessman now boasts an even better view after a large chunk of land crumbled into the sea. The landslide, in which 25m (82ft) of land and several large pine trees vanished, left the house, which has:a glass spiral staircase and indoor pool, perched close to the clifftop. The landslide was witnessed by carpenter Daniel Julyan and his father, Philip, as they put the finishing touches to the house in Dawlish, south Devon. Daniel, 19, said: "Quite often we'll hear a rumbling when a train goes by on the local railway line. But this just kept going and got four or five times louder. It was like thunder. We looked over the edge and there was a mile of red dirt and branches and stuff floating inthe ocean. I suppose the only good thing is it's opened up an even better view." Daniel said the garden fell away close to where he and his father usually sit and eat their lunchtime sandwiches. He said: "It's quite scary to think we usually eat about 15 metres away from the bit that fell. We'll be eating lunch somewhere else from now on." The house is being built in the garden of millionaire Nick Skilton and is due to be finished in the summer. However, the L-shaped chunk of land that slipped away was owned by a property developer, Character Homes, which is building a block of luxury apartments nearby. Though the landslide brings both Mr Skilton's home and the new house closer to the clifftop he insisted he was not concerned: "I am not a bit worried about my home." Michael Hogg, owner of Character Homes, said: "There is just a sheer drop there now. I went to see it and I am trying to find reasons why this happened. "We really have no reason to be concerned. We have just lost a few trees and snowdrops. But it has put the new house very close to the cliff face indeed."
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Newell, A. J. 2001. Bounding surfaces in a mixed aeolian-fluvial system. Marine and Petroleum Geology, vol. 18, no. 3, pp. 339-347.
The Dawlish Sandstone Formation is a Late Permian succession of mixed aeolian and fluvial deposits in the Wessex Basin (SW England). It is used to illustrate two contrasting types of fluvial/aeolian bounding surface (planar and incised). Planar bounding surfaces separate tabular bodies of fluvial conglomerate and aeolian dune sandstone. They were produced primarily by wind scour to groundwater table, with the later emplacement of conglomerates resulting in local fluvial erosion of cemented aeolian dune sandstones. Incised bounding surfaces were produced by fluvial downcutting. The erosive relief was infilled with mixed aeolian/fluvial deposits. The Dawlish Sandstone Formation may provide the first outcrop example of these incised valley fills, which have recently been identified as a major component of the subsurface Rotliegend in the Southern North Sea Basin. The potential variability of aeolian/fluvial sedimentary architecture has important implications for well-to-well correlation and reservoir modelling.
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Nichols , G.J. and Fisher, J.A. 2006. Processes, facies and architecture of fluvial distributary system deposits. Sedimentary Geology. The full version is available online a corrected proof from Science Direct.
Abstract: There is evidence from the stratigraphic record of examples of fluvial deposits that were the products of deposition from river systems which had decreasing discharge down-flow and transitions from proximal, channelised to distal, unconfined flow. These deposits form fan-shaped bodies several tens of kilometres in radius, and their stratigraphic architecture is aggradational, with no evidence of deep incision driven by base-level fall. The fluvial systems that generated these deposits formed under conditions for which there is no complete analogue today: an endorheic basin with a relatively arid climate adjacent to an uplifted area with higher precipitation. A conceptual model for fluvial systems of this type has therefore been built on the basis of outcrop examples and a consideration of the controls on sedimentation. Proximal areas are characterised by amalgamated coarse, pebbly and sandy channel deposits with little preservation of overbank facies. Channel dimensions are generally smaller in the medial areas, but sizes are variable: deposits are of braided, meandering and simple channels which show varying degrees of lateral migration. The channel-fills may be mud or sand, with overbank flow processes playing an important role in filling channels abandoned on the floodplain after avulsion. The proportion of overbank deposits increases distally with sheets of sand deposited as lateral and terminal splays by unconfined flow. Interconnection of sandstone bodies is poor in the distal areas because channel-fill bodies are sparse, small and are not deeply incised. The radial pattern of the sediment body forms by the repeated avulsion of channels: active channels build up lobes on the alluvial plain and rivers switch position to follow courses on lower lying areas. The term ‘fluvial distributary system’ is here used to describe a river system which has a downstream decrease in discharge and has a distal zone which is characterised either by terminal splays on to a dry alluvial plain or a lake delta during periods of lake highstand.
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Nowell , D. 2008. Coastal land is only leased from the sea. Letter and emails to the Editor, Guardian Newspaper, Monday, April 21, 2008, p. 33.
When it comes to coastal erosion (Waves of destruction, G2, April 17), unlike most other European countries we don't have a solidarity fund to compensate people for such natural disasters, and so the last owner is expected to pay when their house is demolished.
To stop a perverse game of beggar-my-neighbour where the unscrupulous try to sell to unsuspecting buyers, we should be leasing such coastal properties from the sea. Any land that is likely to disappear within a century would in effect become leasehold and the time left stated on the title deeds. In addition to a solidarity fund, limited compensation could be paid if such estimates proved to be wrong. The British Geological Survey, which already undertakes coastal surveys, could provide fairly reliable estimates revised every decade for places with cliffs like Happisburgh. This would be rather more problematic further south along the Norfolk coast since a major breach to this narrow barrier could happen any time this century.
Once breached, the northern Norfolk broads and several villages would be lost, and so a proper cost/benefit analysis is urgently required. Coastal defences would interfere with the movement of sediment down the east coast of England and have to be balanced against any likely impacts further down the coast.
David Nowell, Fellow, Geological Society
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Peacock, G. 1869. On the encroachment of the sea on Dawlish Warren. Advancement of Science (British Association for the Advancement of Science), 39, 166.
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Perkins , J.W. 1971. Geology Explained in South and East Devon. David and Charles, Newton Abbot, 192pp. By John W. Perkins. Clearly written with very good, well-labelled, sketch illustrations by the author.
Extract from the Introduction:
"The basic ingredients of the county's rolling landscape are the high moorland centre, the surrounding low lands bevelled to various heights and deeply trenched by rivers, and the sinuous coastline with its penetrating estuaries and grand cliffs. Written for all who love South Devon, either as a tourist area or a place to live in, this book aims to deepen their understanding and enjoyment. It may also help to popularise geology in a wider sense, and should remind us that we are tenants of a heritage millions of years old, and one that we must do our best to conserve. It has been assumed throughout that the reader will constantly have a compass, a one-inch geological map and a one inch ---- map at hand."
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SCOPAC. Holcombe to Straight Point (including Exe estuary). SCOPAC report online. Go to:
Holcombe to Straight Point (including Exe estuary)
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Sims , P. 1988. Dawlish Warren and the Sea. South Devon Thematic Trail No. 1, Thematic Trails, Oxford Polytechnic, Oxford, 40pp. Booklet by Peter Sims, Department of Geographical Sciences, Plymouth Polytechnic, October 1988. With aerial view of the spit on the cover.
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Ussher, W.A.E. 1913. The Geology of the Country around Newton Abbot. By W.A.E. Ussher, F.G.S., with contributions by Clement Reid, F.R.S.; J.S. Flett, M.A., D.Sc.; and D.A. MacAlister, A.R.S.M. Memoirs of the Geological Survey of England and Wales, Explanation of Sheet 339, Newton Abbot. Published by order of the Lords Commissioner of His Majesty's Treasury, H.M. Stationery Office. 149pp. with two plates of photomicrographs and with an Appendix - List of Principal Works on the Geology of the District.

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Copyright © 2014 Ian West, Catherine West, Tonya Loades and Joanna Bentley. All rights reserved. This is a purely academic website and images and text may not be copied for publication or for use on other webpages or for any commercial activity. A reasonable number of images and some text may be used for non-commercial academic purposes, including field trip handouts, lectures, student projects, dissertations etc, providing source is acknowledged.

Disclaimer: Geological fieldwork involves some level of risk, which can be reduced by knowledge, experience and appropriate safety precautions. Persons undertaking field work should assess the risk, as far as possible, in accordance with weather, conditions on the day and the type of persons involved. In providing field guides on the Internet no person is advised here to undertake geological field work in any way that might involve them in unreasonable risk from cliffs, ledges, rocks, sea or other causes. Not all places need be visited and the descriptions and photographs here can be used as an alternative to visiting. Individuals and leaders should take appropriate safety precautions, and in bad conditions be prepared to cancell part or all of the field trip if necessary. Permission should be sought for entry into private land and no damage should take place. Attention should be paid to weather warnings, local warnings and danger signs. No liability for death, injury, damage to, or loss of property in connection with a field trip is accepted by providing these websites of geological information. Discussion of geological and geomorphological features, coast erosion, coastal retreat, storm surges etc are given here for academic and educational purposes only. They are not intended for assessment of risk to property or to life. No liability is accepted if this website is used beyond its academic purposes in attempting to determine measures of risk to life or property.

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Dr Ian West, author of these webpages

Webpage - written and produced by:


Ian West, M.Sc. Ph.D. F.G.S.

.

at his private address, Romsey, Hampshire, kindly supported by Southampton University,and web-hosted by courtesy of iSolutions of Southampton University. The website does not necessarily represent the views of Southampton University. The website is written privately from home in Romsey, unfunded and with no staff other than the author, but generously and freely published by Southampton University. Field trips shown in photographs do not necessarily have any connection with Southampton University and may have been private or have been run by various organisations.