Tourism has impacted along the Hengistbury Head and Mudefort Split area

Categories: BeachSeaTourismWater

The hypothesis that my group have chosen to investigate is:

"Tourism has impacted along the Hengistbury

Head and Mudeford Spit area. This has resulted

In more coastal problems."

Throughout this piece of coursework, I will gather information from sources to either agree, or disagree with my chosen hypothesis.

These are the areas that I will be investigating:

* Tourist Facilities

* Reasons why tourist facilities are needed

* The coastal defences

* Damage done to the coast - natural and human

* Effects damage has done to the landscape

* Cost Vs Revenue

I am also going to be expanding this hypothesis by also investigating the impact that tourism has done to the Highcliff high street and Highcliff beach area.


For this piece of coursework, need to gather information to either agree or disagree with my chosen hypothesis.

I am going to gather information by going to the Hengistbury Head and Mudeford Spit area. To collect the information there I'm going to be using a number of resources.

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I will be using a camera to take pictures of the tourist facilities and the costal defences. Also I will do a number of sketches of the landscape to show the damage done by erosion and weathering. I am going to do a land use survey of the shops on Highcliff high street to make a list of the shops that are there.

I will then use the Internet, textbooks and various handouts to research other general information about the Highcliff and Hengistbury Head area.

I am also going to be writing and investigating the schemes being used on the areas to try an prolong the life of the Headland, which will inevitably separate from the mainland due to the effects of erosion and weathering, and what is being done to stop this happening.

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Costal Protections

On and around Hengistbury Head, there are many examples of the costal defences and prevention of costal erosion and weathering by the sea. Here is a list of all the protection schemes and how they work.

* Gabions - Steel mesh cages containing large pebbles, built onto the cliff face above a seawall. These pebbles absorb and take the force of the pressure applied by the waves to cut down erosion. These are cheap and fairly effective, but they are ugly and un-natural to look at.

* Groynes - These can be wooden or stone structures placed along the length of the beach at regular intervals and at right angles to the beach. They can be anything from 50 meters out to sea. They are designed to stop long shore drift, but they also stop new beach material reaching other beaches.

* Boulders - Boulders piled up on beaches where erosion of cliffs is likely to occur to stop the force of the waves getting to the cliffs. They are rather like gabions, but without the metal cage so they look more natural and cheaper still, but the can be moved by the sea so they need moving back, or replacing regularly to maintain protection.

* Scaffolding - This gives the cliffs extra support and helps it to stay together and upright. Although it can look extremely ugly.

* Drainage - Drains excess water away from the cliffs. This helps to prevent weathering and also gives the cliffs more support.

Erosion Problems

Erosion has been a continuous problem at Hegistbury Head since the sea reached it a few thousand years ago. However the natural costal defences provided by the Iron Stone Doggers had ensured that the erosion had slower over the past two thousand years.

Unfortunately though, a number of man-made events have taken place mainly in the last 150 years, had destabilised both Poole and Christchurch Bays. Action was taken and helped the situation, but erosion still occurs at Hengistbury Head.

The main erosion problems faced at Hengistbury Head are driven by wave action. Before the costal defences now were installed, and after the Iron Stone Doggers had been removed, the sea had direct access to the base of the head. In storm conditions, the waves targeted on the soft rocks and caused sections of the Head to collapse. After hitting the beach, the waves become loaded with sand and other beach material. This then smashes against the Head and erodes it significantly. This material then gets deposited further along the beach, long shore drift.

The original defence against long shore drift were the Doggers. They were usually too heavy to be moved by the sea and formed a makeshift groyne. They also formed a reef like structure off the coast, which absorbed a lot of the energy of the waves. Due to these, high-energy waves seldom reached the cliff and also partially stop long shore drift, but also let some beach material get to other beaches as well.

The removal of the Doggers in 1960 is the main reason for the accelerated rate of erosion that has taken place. However there are other factors that have also helped the erosion continue.

One factor that sped up long shore drift in the area has been the flattening of the profile of Poole Bay. As Hengistbury head has reseeded, the wind coming from the southwest has driven long shore drift at an even sharper angle. The removal of a clay headland, which formed a small cove, had also possibly worsened the problem. This headland would of provided a natural groyne.

The sea defences at Hengistbury Head have significantly slowed the erosion and returned a lot of the stability back to the area that was lost with the removal of the Doggers. Some new ideas have come forward which may help resolve the few remaining problems, some of which have already resulted in action, whilst others are still being debated.

Along with a new set of groynes either side of the original 1938 long groyne, a new gabion has been built to protect the weakest point in the eastern end of Hengistbury Head, just before it rises up to Warren Hill. Over time the structure in-fills with wind-blown sand and other materials, even when a cage structure does break the general shape and structure still remains.

One idea used at Hengistbury Head is to regularly replenish the beach with shingle. Shingle is less prone to long shore drift and reduces overall loss of sand, but it doesn't completely solve the problem and has to be repeated roughly every 10 years. This will also upset the regular tourists who visit the area and enjoy the renowned sandy beaches.

Another idea is to build an artificial reef off Hengistbury Head. While the main driving force of this idea is to provide a tourist attraction, it would also, if positioned correctly, possibly replace the original marine Iron Stone reef removed in the 1850's.

How Erosion Takes Place

High cliff

The town of High cliff is situated on the border of Dorset and Hampshire. The town centre is usually busy throughout the year due to the vast amounts of tourists who visit the area and the locals.

From High cliff, a good view of the isle of white and the famous chalk stacks - The Needles is available on a good clear day. High cliff has also recently won "Best Urban Community".

High cliff is very much a tourist-orientated settlement. This is clear from the numerous tourist facilities found in the near-by area. The town also has access to its own castle, which can be easily not far away from the beach.

Unfortunately, High cliff has to thank the costal protection schemes for keeping the natural beauty of the area in place. These are worth it at this present time but before long the money is going to be wasted as all the work going in for restoration will be undone by the constant effects of erosion and weathering.


Here I'm looking at the shops along Highcliff High street.

1) Department/Variety Stores 8

2) Clothing/Shoe Stores 4

3) Convenience Stores 10

4) Furniture/Carpet Stores 9

5) Specialist Stores 15

6) Personnel Services 19

7) Catering/Entertainment 13

8) Professional Services 6

9) Vacant Premises 1


Unfortunately there was some rubbish at Hengistbury Head, Mudeford Spit and at the Highcliff area, which may have been contributed to by tourists. Here is a simple tally chart and a graph to show the litter we saw.

Rubbish Seen

Tally Chart

Bar Chart Pattern

Plastic bags


Ice-Cream & Sweets




Drink Cans & Bottles


Paper & Food Wrappers






Sketch Of Mudeford Spit

Hengistbury Head

Hengistbury Head is a 35 Meter high sandstone headland approximately 1 kilometre in length. It is situated about half way between the entrances to Poole Harbour on Hurst Spit south coast of England. It is the main landform that separates Bournemouth and Christchurch Bays.

The formation of Hengistbury Head dates back nearly 60 million years, although newer deposits are still being laid down. Until quite recently in geological time, Hengistbury Head was several Kilometres inland.

Hengistbury Head forms a natural breakwater protecting a small natural harbour formed it. A long sand spit has formed trailing off the end of the Head, Mudeford Spit. Without Hengistbury Head it is probable that most of the town of Christchurch and all of Christchurch Harbour would not be there as Bournemouth Bay and Christchurch Bay would join and become one.

It has been subject to erosion since the sea breached the chalk ridge that connected the Needles on the Isle Of White to the Old Harry Rocks near Studland. The sea invaded the river valley between the ridges and rapidly eroded the soft rocks from the inside of the Head.

A detailed archaeological survey was conducted in 1915 and found that there were a number of iron age defences known as the double dykes. It has also been designated as a Site Of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), along with most of Christchurch Harbour and the lowland marshes of Stanpit that lie at the junction of the rivers Stour and Avon.


First we looked at the Highcliff High street area. This had many shops for tourists to use. There were quite a few gift shops for tourists selling things such as postcards, sticks of rock and other souvenirs. There were also a number of shops selling things for use on the beach such as buckets, spades, bat and ball sets and other things like that. A number of restaurants and caf�'s were also along the high street and although these would be used by the locals, they would also get a lot of business from tourists wanting a meal out or a quick small meal from the caf�'s. As well as the restaurants and caf�'s, there were also a number of take-away's with a vast range of types of food, also getting a lot of business from tourists. Banks were also very frequent along the high street from all the major chains.

These would be used by locals and tourists alike for obvious reasons. There were 2 small supermarkets and a number of other basic food shops like a fruit stall and a butcher's; again these would be used by both tourists and locals. On the whole, the high street was very clean tidy and relatively litter free. This may show that the area is more appealing to older people or adults as it is mainly the younger people that drop litter. From just looking at the high street it is fairly obvious that the shops are aimed at tourists and get a lot of their trade from tourists by looking at the things they sell. A lot of the shops sell souvenirs, postcards beach things. And therefore Highcliff High Street is a very tourist orientated area. So tourism has affected this area due to the wide range of shops selling items that would appeal to tourists, but this also has nothing to do with any extra costal problems.

After we had done all we had to do looking at the high street, we moved on to have a look at the Highcliff Beach. We started off by looking at the beach from the cliff. There were a number of coastal defences placed along and on the cliff to stop it collapsing. Although we could still see some evidence of the cliff collapsing in the past. (Picture 1). The costal defences placed upon the cliff were a fence running along the top to separate the footpath from the cliff to stop people climbing on the cliff and making it unstable. There was also some scaffolding and metal rods pushed into various places along over the length of the cliff to give it extra support at the weakest points. And finally there was a drainage system by the cliff to export any rain and seawater from the cliff as quickly as possible to minimise the effects of freeze-thaw weathering. Looking out onto the beach from the top of the cliff we could see a number groynes sticking out to sea. (Picture 2).

These groynes were placed about 100 to 200 meters apart, spreading across the length of the beach. They were put there to minimise the effects of long shore drift of the beach material. Although this is prolonging the life of Highcliff's beach, at the same time it is also starving the beach at Lobs Hol of beach Material. (Picture 3). Due to the beach being starved of sand and beach material, the sea is constantly pounding at the relatively soft rock of the cliffs, which are reseeding at an alarming rate. This is endangering the tourist resort at the top of the cliff at Lobs Hol, as if the cliff collapses much more it will take with it some of the tourist resort. (Picture 3).

Once we had got to the bottom of the cliff at Highcliff Beach, we could see that the different layers of rock, and some evidence of the cliff that had collapsed a little. (Picture 4). At the bottom of the cliff we also saw more of the drainage systems and metal rods in the ground to prevent and slow down the effects of freeze-thaw weathering and erosion. Freeze-thaw will weather the cliff by rain or seawater running into the cracks of rocks. In turn this freezes and expands, making the cracks larger, and therefore more water is able to get into the cracks and expand further. This process will continue until the rocks on the cliff become too loose and fall off taking more rocks with them on the way down and opening more cracks for this to start again.

After we had finished at Highcliff, we moved on to Hengistbury Head and onto Mudeford Spit. Here we also saw some groynes again to stop and slow down long shore drift. We also saw some gabions in place, these were built to protect the weakest point in the eastern end of Hengistbury Head, on the south beach, just before the Head rises up to Warren Hill. (Picture 5). Gabions are large wire cages mage in to a wall shape and filled with large pebbles. They are designed to absorb some, if not all of the force of the waves and therefore slowing down the forces of weathering and erosion, thus preventing Hengistbury Head from becoming Hengistbury Island. We also saw a long groyne coming of the tip of the Head as a further prevention to long shore drift. But as we can see from this aerial photograph, it is preventing the natural production of new land by trapping the sand and other beach material. (Picture 5 & Picture 6). The aerial photograph demonstrates very well the direction of the long shore drift and how the sand is kept on the beach by the groynes as it is all piled up on one side of the groynes.

This picture is the view out across Christchurch Harbour and Mudeford Spit. It also vaguely shows the beach huts and fairly clearly shows the groynes in place.

(Picture 7).

Also at Mudeford Spit we started to see some of the damage done to the area by tourism. This was mostly in the form of litter. Although this doesn't directly affect the coastal defences or impact in to any costal problems, it is still a form of pollution, which does effect the residents and anyone who visits the area as it is extremely unpleasant.

Once we had done everything relevant to what we had to investigate, we went up onto Warren Hill. Here we could see the Site Of Special Scientific Interest. (Picture 7). This is the view from the top of Warren Hill. From here you can see the spit in the middle, the SSSI on the middle left, you can also see some of Christchurch Harbour and in the distance you can see Christchurch Village.

The results from this analysis and what we found out about the amount that tourism has impacted on these three areas, Highcliff, Mudeford and Hengistbury Head is indicated over the next few pages.

Damage Done

There has been a lot of damage done in the area by both natural and human factors and some damage done where both human and natural affects contributed.

The most obvious damage done to the area is through humans littering. This is a form of pollution that affects how people think about the area and it is very unpleasant for everybody using the area, be they tourists or residents.

One more example of the damage done by humans was when the Iron Stone Doggers were removed from the area. This left very little natural protection for the beaches which left them prone to constant erosion until they were replaced with other protections which in some cases harm other areas or make the area ugly to look at.

The building of groynes is another example of damage done by humans to the area. This prevents beach material getting to other parts of the coastline and thus giving no protection from the waves crashing against the cliffs. Although this erosion is a natural happening it would not be as bad if there were a beach to protect the cliffs from the waves.

This erosion and weathering is the base for all the damage done to the coastline and landscape naturally long shore drift is also an example of natural damage happening to the area. It is also the case with these two natural examples of damage that they would not occur as bad and harmful to this particular area and surrounding areas if humans left the coastline alone. All the tampering that the humans have done in the interest of tourism has just escalated the rate of erosion and weathering and damage to other beaches.

Cost Vs Revenue

At this moment, millions of pounds are being spent on prolonging the life of the headland, which will inevitably separate from the main land; it is jus a matter of time.

Weather it is worth saving all depends on your point of view on the subject and how it would affect you if it were to separate.

If you owned one of the beach huts on the spit, you would want the area to be saved and money spent on protecting it, as the beach huts can cost anything upwards of �20,000. So money spent protecting the area would be a good thing, as it would also protect the value of the beach huts. You would also want it to be further protected if you were a conservationist due to the Site of Special Scientific Interest. There is also the Iron Age settlement on the headland so if you had the point of view of a historian you would also want the area to be protected.

Whereas if you don't have any connections with the area then it seems like a waste of money. This is my point of view on the situation. I feel that it is a waste of money spending it on the area that will eventually separate from the main land.


After looking at the information and studying information I have gathered, I have chosen that the hypothesis that I have chosen has been neither proven nor disproved.

I say this because the tourism has impacted along Highcliff, Hengistbury Head and Mudeford Spit and tourism has contributed to the costal problems but it has not altogether resulted in more costal problems.

The evidence that tourism has impacted is that due to tourist frequently visiting the beach at Highcliff, groynes were put down to stop the effects of long shore drift and to keep the beach material there so tourist will keep visiting that beach. This is in turn starving Lobs Hol of beach material, so once the entire beach at Lobs Hol had been washed away by long shore drift, there was nothing coming to replace it. So the sea went straight into the cliff and began to erode it. This is both a result of natural and human impact on the area combined. Human for putting the groynes in place but natural for weathering and eroding the near-by cliffs.

Also the Iron Stone Doggers being removed which considerably sped up the erosion and weathering was not due to the tourism. But this was still a human effect on the area causing more costal problems yet nothing to do with tourism.

So overall my hypothesis is neither correct nor wrong as tourism hasn't resulted in more coastal problems, but it has contributed to them along with natural weathering and erosion.


The data I collected was sufficient to answer my hypothesis. I found that the collection of the data was fairly easy, as I had planned the data that I needed to collect in advance of the visit to the Hegistbury Head area. My results could have been different if I had collected them at a different time. For example if I went back on a summer's bank holiday weekend then there would be more tourists and people around in which case the litter would almost certainly of risen dramatically. Also if I had repeated the study then I would of taken more photographs of the area. Although the ones I did take were enough, I could of taken some more to give further support to back up my answer to the hypothesis.

I found that my results were accurate because when I compared them with the other people in my group they were roughly the same with only minor details that differed. I have found also found results that support my hypothesis. For example there were a number of tourist type shops along the Highcliff high street, selling items such as postcards and souvenirs, which are all aimed at tourists. The fact that they are selling these items suggests that they do get a fair amount of business from tourists. This could also knock on to produce more costal problems due to the tourists visiting the area.

Overall, if I were to do this investigation once more there would be very little that I would want to change. As I collected sufficient data that turned out to be reliable and accurate as it matched other information that I looked at, including print outs from the Internet and other peoples research. Which all meant that I had collected satisfactory to draw up an accurate conclusion from good, reliable results.

Updated: May 19, 2021
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Tourism has impacted along the Hengistbury Head and Mudefort Split area. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

Tourism has impacted along the Hengistbury Head and Mudefort Split area essay
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