The geography department took their elite group of Year 10 GCSE students on a field trip last week near Exmoor. The weather was on our side as the glorious British summer had eventually arrived and bathed out trip sparkling sunshine. The trip was based in a Field Study Centre called Nettlecombe Court. This beautiful manor house is set within a valley of stunning rolling hills without another house or road in site. It is within the Exmoor dark skies zone, where the low light pollution means you get wonderful views of the night sky. The students had two fieldwork days, one on rivers and another on coastal management.
The students learnt about the river Holford’s drainage basin and planned out their research methods. The aim of their investigation was to explore how and why the river’s velocity changed. While it may seem intuitive that river flow will be faster in the higher, steeper parts of the valley, the theory on rivers suggests the opposite of this. Students got the chance to test out the theory against the behaviour of a real river system. The fieldwork started right from the mouth of the River Holford. The river emerged from a spring in the upper hills and we walked along several kilometres of its course, through narrow steep valleys down to the open fields around the hamlet of Holford. The river crossed over distinct breaks in the local geology resulting is dramatic changes in its behaviour. The students measured the river velocity and the channel characteristics at five locations downstream. Fortunately none of the students got washed away, however, there were some rather soggy socks at the end of the day and we had to pull one student out of the mud at one stage as she was wellington boot deep in and sinking deeper! Amazingly our group won the prize for losing the least equipment ever during the day, not a single piece went missing! Great work year 10.
Following this adventure, the students tucked into some freshly baked chocolate cake back at the field centre and started preparing for the next study. On the following day, the students examined the coastal defences at Minehead. This small tourist town has recently spent over £12 million on a wide array of dramatic coastal defences, including several kilometres of sea wall and vast rock boulders placed along the seafront. The students conducted a cost-benefit analysis of these defences and also collected questionnaire data to see if the defences were effective. Despite all this hard work the students somehow managed to find time to sneak in some fish and chips and lots of ice-cream. Well, we were by the seaside, and the sun was shining. The students were all great and we collected some useful data to analyse back at school.