Somewhere near Minehead, West Somerset – Tuesday 5th-Friday 8thMarch
The BBC weather app (for years my trusty cycle companion in Oxford) had suggested it would be 95% rain for our first day in Somerset then diminishing as the week went on. Minehead is a quaint seaside town harking back to the glory days of Empire and pre-package beach holidays.
There’s also a seriously ageing population and the lowest social mobility in the country; there’s a tattoo parlour with a laser treatment removal place conveniently next door, a ‘Coaster coffee’ and a ‘Rominos pizza’. In the horse-shoe-bay there’s a winding promenade with an amusement arcade flanked by fish and chip shops – currently all closed as it’s out of season – Oh and there’s a Butlins!
Plenty for our Lower Sixth geographers to get their teeth into on their first afternoon. Pancakes for pudding back at the field centre brought an outburst of collective euphoria as Fieldwork Boot camp day 1 ended.
As it goes, the weather app is less accurate in the west country so we avoided showers on the whole, although if I had more carefully studied the app I would have prepared for the thirty mile an hour winds that were to batter the coast on Boot camp Day 2 at the beach for profiling and longshore drift investigations.
This trip is essential groundwork for our geographers – a way of gaining thorough pilot study experience, through trial and error prior to data collection (for real) when we return in late September.
The students had two half and two full days in which they investigated urban deprivation and demographic change, coastal landforms and processes, coastal management measures and carbon sequestration in native forests. There were short morning briefings and after dinner classes to cement this all together. They worked tirelessly with amazing enthusiasm, asked pertinent questions and were super team players. Our geographers definitely gain from this trip – not only in terms of experience of research methods and data collection; practice which they simply can’t get from books or the Oxford classroom – but also from the shared experience, the friendships gained and developed, the joy of being outside and experimenting. A rare chance to truly be geographers.
Moreover this stuff actually matters. Previous projects have examined why Minehead has such relative poverty in the UK, what an ageing population actually means as a lived place, whether forests in the area can store enough carbon for the CO2 produced by the town, or the possible impacts of rising sea levels on this sea front.
Thank you students for your brilliant efforts and for making this such a fun occasion – here’s hoping we can get some great projects out of you next year! Thank you parents for supporting your children’s studies here. Thank you Nettlecombe Court FSC for providing the expertise, accommodation and hospitality on our trip. Thank you one and all.
Geography is everything: Everything is geography.
Jon-Paul Davies – Head of Geography