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Slopes & Dams: Isle of Wight Visit

6 December 2013

James Blyth and Megan Morrison (4th year Civil Engineering students) share their experience of the Slopes & Dams Isle of Wight visit which took place from 1st-4th November.

James Blyth and Megan Morrison (4th year Civil Engineering students) share their experience of the Slopes & Dams Isle of Wight visit which took place from 1st-4th November.In spite of seven golf courses, you can’t nickname a place The Dinosaur Isle and expect budding geologists not to get a bit excited. With landslips so fast and frequent you can surf them, the Isle has become a geotechnical engineers dream (or nightmare) depending on who's paying when the floor of your seafront porch falls out. So it was with great anticipation we set off to the UK’s sunniest county … in November … after a slight delay for the downpours to settle.

Geological specimen extraction tools (aka paint strippers) at the ready, Freshwater Bay was stop number one (exceptionally tall and keen party member required here to increase the vehicle height restriction for the car park a tad).

In front of these unassuming cliffs you will likely be baffled by the plethora of knowledge David, Martin and Paul whip up, but write it down- some of it becomes clear and the remainder makes amusing Google searches as you decipher the miss-spelt scribble. Tip one; an acronym for the parts of soil classification. MCCSSOW... how could anyone forget it?

A brief chat about dips and slips and it was off to the East Dene Center where students can get their first fix of central heating since they last went home and dinner (If you’re particularly savvy you’ll bring tuppawear- they over cater… considerably). Work in the evening but that's not all David had planned, 9pm sharp for a trip to the local.

Day two could take you to the needles, or not if the wrath of storm St. Jude has triggered a landslide and swallowed the footpath to Alum Bay, but it will with 100% certainty wake you up. We wouldn’t want to speculate but David’s done the trip 15 odd times now but the 9am brush with death at Military Road as winds pound you at an eroding cliff edge will encourage students to pay attention. Especially 'that guy' who's just got the umbrella out.

Next, time to laugh at surfers chattering their teeth in the sea while proposing how to stop their VWs rolling in after them. Tasks complete, we’d worked up an appetite so piled back into the minibus for another spot of over catering.

Break over and it was on to visit the house with a closer sea view than they bargained for at Chale Terrace. We sat and marveled at the sloping chaos at the back of Black Gang Chine theme park, whilst appreciating that the owner of the terrace, and perhaps the people on the rollercoaster, didn't marvel in the same way. After discussing some quick fixes to save what was left of the front lawn, we pressed on to the next site.

If you don’t want to become a permanent feature in some Gault Clay at the next stop on the S&D tour you will require wellies, agility and thigh muscles. With students in tow, David and Martin were more than happy to hop a barbed fence and ascend what can only be described as the earth's attempt at a Gladiators travelator. It’s an innovative method of determining slope stability at St Catherine's Point for sure.

Should you survive David’s scenic route to the Spyglass Inn and the somewhat mandatory participation in a game of Blind Mans Bluff Poker, day three will start with calculations but there’s a decent full English to encourage you with that.

And what to finish you might ask? Rocken End will likely soon create a lovely sheltered beach at the rate it’s falling down but it’s not (quite) there yet, so bring a wind break and just pretend you’ve entered Mordor as you scramble to the edge of the undercliff for a team photo.

The final consensus - shear heaven. If David, Martin and Paul can’t spark your geotechnical imagination no one can. So it’s with a big thanks to them that we whole-heartedly support signing up to a weekend of scraping, scrambling and scribbling on the Isle of Wight.


Written by James Blyth & Megan Morrison (4th year Civil Engineering students)


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