Tag Archive | chalk cliffs

Botany Bay Kent UK

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Along the coast of Kent between Margate and Broadstairs is Botany Bay.  This bay has a long, yellow sand beach, chalk reef and towering chalk cliffs with some sea stacks.  Today I visited the bay with my mum as I enjoy a UK vacation.

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My mum’s dog, Archie the Westie, patrolling the cliffs

Infamous as a landing place for smugglers in the 18th century, the beach was actually the site of a clash between smugglers and Revenuers in 1769 that resulted in several deaths.  The encounter has come to be known as the Battle of Botany Bay.  It involved Joss Snelling and his considerable band of smuggling cohorts known as the Callis Court Gang.  The Revenue Patrol ambushed the gang as they unloaded their goods and shooting ensued.

Smugglers cut caves and tunnels into the soft chalk cliffs to use as storage places for the contraband and as escape routes.  The closed-up remains of these caves and tunnels can still be seen today.  The most well-known features of Botany Bay are the impressive chalk sea stacks.  These free-standing towers are the remains of cliffs that have been cut away by the endless wash of the sea.a8

Newly eroded chalk is pure, blinding white in the sun.  It quickly weathers to a gray-white and is often colonized by algae.a9

If you move up close to the seaward side of a cliff you will find the rock is riddled with holes.  Limpets creep into the holes for safety during low tide.  It is remarkable how well they fit the holes.a6

a7This part of the English coast looks out across the Channel toward France.  There is a huge windfarm off-shore.  Cargo ships often shelter on this side of the channel when it is too choppy for crossing.  It is not uncommon to see several large ships close to shore.a4

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Skate or ray egg case and whelk egg cases

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Whelk shell

Strolling the beach revealed a healthy population of whelk and some type of skate or ray as evidenced by the plethora of eggs.  The strangely shaped black ray eggs are also called mermaids purses.  There were numerous egg cases to be found, along with shells of the large sea snails.

With the great expanse of fine sand, the impressive cliffs and the safe waters with a mild current, it is easy to see why this beach is popular in the summer.  And also why smugglers found it a convenient spot to ply their lucrative trade.

This article contains interesting information about the Battle of Botany Bay:  http://www.thanet-ghostwatch.co.uk/history/smug1.htm

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Epple Bay in Kent, UK

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Greetings from Kent, the Garden of England, where I’m staying with my mother in Birchington-on-Sea.  Birchington (for short) incorporates a small inlet of the English Channel near the Thames Estuary called Epple Bay.  That is where I went today, to pass a breezy fall afternoon.

a2The ocean is strong here when the wind rises and the tide runs high.  Without the concrete fortifications, the chalk cliffs would long ago have been broken, taking valuable Birchington real estate with them.  Even with concrete barriers and the wide promenade, the waters sometimes rise up to batter the cliffs.  The recent very high tide with the super moon left sea weed markers and broken chalk in its wake.a3
The entire seabed in this area, and all the underlying ground in general, is chalk. The land has a layer of fertile humus over the chalk. Where the ocean roils, the water is a white hue from the dissolved mineral.a5
The chalk formed when all this land was under an ancient sea. Marine algae, when they died, drifted to the floor and their skeletons formed dense layers of white. Interspersed in the chalk are globular chunks of rock called flint, a type of chert.a8
It is believed flint forms as a breakdown product of chalk. Flint is popular in this part of England for use as building material. It is embedded in walls or roads and spread in driveways. The top of this wall is armored with a line of projecting flints.a10
Along the promenade at Birchington there are several deep cuts that allow access through the cliffs to the sea. One can get a good idea of the depth of the chalk and the fragile nature of the overlying thin layer of living soil.a6

Trees and plants that edge the cliffs are in constant danger of having their roots exposed by subsiding chalk.  This fine limestone is also very porous.  It does not retain water well. This is why Kent is often affected by drought before other parts of the country.a9

Westerly from Epple Bay, seven miles out in the ocean, is Thanet Wind Farm, one of the largest off-shore wind farms in the world.  Some of the windmills are just visible in this shot.  Over the years of visiting my mum I’ve watched this farm grow.  It must be very successful.  There is certainly a copious supply of wind in this part of the Channel to fill the needs of the farm.a4

The weather is holding decent, especially for England, not too rainy, some actual sunshine and temperatures in the 50sF.  I hope to make another trip to the sea before I leave and to post again about the interesting Kentish Coast.