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Geography

Rock types in the British Isles

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There is a wide variety of rock types and geological formations in the British Isles. The type of underlying rock in a particular area determines the region's physical appearance, as well as its economic activities.

Case study: granite in Dartmoor

Characteristics

Dartmoor

Dartmoor

  • Dartmoor is a National Park and is the top of an exposed batholith [batholith: A massive and discordant intrusion of coarse igneous rock, usually granite. ].
  • Flat-topped moorland.
  • High drainage density due to impermeableimpermeable: not allowing water to pass through nature of the granite.
  • Over 150 rock outcrops called tors, formed by a combination of freeze-thaw weathering and hydrolysis [hydrolysis: The decomposition of a chemical compound when it reacts with water. It is an important factor in the chemical weathering of rocks. ].
  • Contains areas of standing water and peat bogs [peat bog: Poorly drained areas made up of partially decomposed organic matter due to water logging. ], due to the combination of high rainfall and impermeable rock.
  • V-shaped river valleys formed by the numerous surface streams. Valley sides are steep due to the resistant nature of the granite.
  • Contour lines are found close together on a map.
  • The land is at a higher altitude than the surrounding area due to the resistant nature of the granite.
  • Most of the large settlements - eg Tavistock, and Ashburton - are found near the outskirts of Dartmoor.
  • The area is a popular tourist location.

Human activity in Dartmoor

An abandoned tin mine at Botallack on the West Penwith coast of Cornwall

An abandoned tin mine at Botallack on the West Penwith coast of Cornwall

  • Extraction of china clay. Kaolin, also known as china clay, is a product of hydrolysis and is used in ceramics and paper-making. The industry is very important for the local economy and employment.
  • Quarrying. Granite blocks were used for dry-stone walling, buildings and road stone. Many quarries are now abandoned.
  • Tourism. Dartmoor is a National Park, popular for walking, camping and pony trekking. Over 10 million people visit the area each year.
  • Farming. The soils are poor and acidic, and frequently used for sheep farming rather than growing crops.
  • Mining. Copper and tin mining used to be common in the area. The metals were found in thin veins within the granite.

Problems

Totnes in Devon

Totnes in Devon

  • Quarrying, mining and china clay extraction can leave scars on the landscape, making it less attractive for both tourists and local people.
  • Tourism causes pollution and congestion on the roads. Tourist activities can sometimes lead to conflict with local people.
  • Tourists buy second homes, pushing up property prices so that locals cannot afford to buy. Rural poverty is becoming a problem in areas such as Dartmoor.

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