60 years after the great storm surge of 1953, Suffolk suffered another potentially deadly tidal surge but remained relatively unscathed – in the years between this has become one of the countries most managed stretches of coastline.

In Southwold the town has since been heavily defended by a range of hard engineering strategies, yet the limits to these are restricted to the town frontage and areas of the town are still vulnerable to rising sea levels, in particular the town’s traditional fishing harbour.

In recent years the local council along with local stakeholders have debated the extent to which the town’s harbour should be protected. This is a thriving area which includes a mixture of businesses, and cafes, yet as an area it has retained its authentic appearance in stark contrast to the gentrified streets of the town to the North.

In Aldeburgh, the Environment Agency have been working in recent years on adding resilience to the sea defences at Slaughden, just South of the town centre. This narrow finger of land forms the start of Suffolk’s longest spit and separates the North Sea from the River Alde – it is considered highly vulnerable to future sea level rise. With focus here and also on the famous, wide Aldeburgh high street, which in places lies below sea level.

Students will investigate the current defences by completing flood risk mapping, elevation measurements, bi-polar analysis and cost benefit-analysis. An explanation of the Environment Agencies flood warning system will be provided.

Curriculum links

AQA: Managing climate change, reducing the risk from rising sea levels. The costs and benefits of management strategies; hard and soft engineering and managed retreat.

Edexcel: The effects of coastal recession and flooding on people and the environment, the advantages and disadvantages of different coastal defences used on the coastline of the UK.

OCR: How environments are used and modified by humans, how human activity, including management, works in combination with geomorphic processes to impact the landscape.

Primary Fieldwork can include:

  • Flood-risk mapping
  • Bi-polar analysis
  • Elevation surveys
  • Cost-benefit analysis

Provided resources:

  • Fieldwork booklet
  • Secondary data
  • Classroom facilities
  • Write-up A3 summary sheet


Low season 1st November - 31st March


Mid season 1st April - 31st May
1st September - 31st October


High season 1st June - 31st July


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