Then and now 8

27th December 2008, Saturday

One part of the Dungeness shingle beach that has shown considerable natural change over the years is the south coast.  This map shows Wickmaryholm Pit, on the south coast of Lydd Ranges in 1878.  The is a natural shingle wetland and originally consisted of two areas of open water, divided by a tongue of shingle.  This pit was once much further inland and fresher, as witnessed by the remains of the freshwater aquatic plants such as spiked water milfoil Myriophyllum spicatum in its peaty sediments. To the east was the smaller Abnor Pit and to the west  was Tarts Cottage.

These were a fantastic series of Ordnance Survey maps covering the whole of the UK in amazing detail. It never fails to amaze me how they managed to be so accurate without the use of aerial photographs.

After this map was made, between the 1880’s and the First World War, a sea defence bank called the Green Wall was constructed along the south coast of Dungeness.  This can be seen in the two aerial photographs below.  The black and white photo was taken in 1946. At this stage approximately 60 m of the coastline had been lost, removing the lower lobe of Wickmaryholm Pit and bringing Abnor Pit and the remains of Tarts Cottage perilously close to the sea.

Between 1946 and 2008 Google earth aerial the loss of a further 60 m (approx) of coast  left only the ghost of Abnor Pit, which contains some saline water only in a hollow at high tide.  The land on which Tarts Cottage stood has also vanished, and only the northern most sliver of Wickmaryholm Pit remains, together with it’s fringe of sea purslane Halimione portulacoides saltmarsh (see photo in this post from 2007). The scene has changed little in the past year.

This is a well vegetated stretch of the Dungeness coast supporting species that need a naturally mobile saline coast. While its hard not to feel sad at the loss of interesting coastal landscapes the shingle is reworked to produce fresh areas of shingle vegetation along the east coast.  Ideally (from the point of view of the wildlife) this is what should continue to happen to the southern shoreline of Dungeness. Whether or not it will be allowed to happen is another matter…..