Depositional landforms

Beaches

Beaches are a common feature of a coastline. Beaches are made up of eroded material that has been transported from elsewhere and deposited by the sea.

Constructive waves help to build up beaches. The material found on a beach (i.e. sand or shingle) depends on the geology of the area and wave energy.

A cross-section of a beach is called a beach profile.

The material found on a beach varies in size and type as you move further away from the shoreline. The smallest material is deposited near the water and larger material is found nearer to the cliffs at the back of the beach.

Large material is deposited at the back of the beach in times of high energy, for example during a storm. Most waves break near the shoreline, so sediment near the water is more effectively broken down by attrition.

Shingle beach

Photograph of a shingle beach with a steep profile

A shingle beach with a steep profile

This is a beach where strong swash waves will be assisted by windy and stormy conditions to throw larger pieces of shingle further up the beach. Shingle beaches will usually contain many different ridges across their profile.

The smallest material will be found on the beach face and larger pieces of shingle/ pebble will be thrown to the back of the beach. Shingle beaches usually have much steeper profiles.

Sandy beach

Photograph of Downhill Beach, County Londonderry

Downhill Beach, County Londonderry

This is a beach where strong swash waves move sandy material up the beach with a spilling wave. Backwash will be weaker. The coarsest/ biggest pieces of sand will be found at the wave limit – further up the beach. Sandy beaches usually have a gently sloping profile.