Case study: coastal management - Holderness coastline

The Holderness coastline is located on the east coast of England. It is the fastest eroding coastline in Europe.

The Holderness coastline, on the east coast of England, is near Bridlington, Hornsea, Mappleton, Great Cowden, Withersea and Spurn Head.

Reasons for management

The coastline is rapidly eroding at an average of 1.8 metres a year. There are several reasons why the coast at Holderness is eroding so quickly:

  • Rock type - the cliffs are made from less-resistant boulder clay (made from sands and clays) which slumps when wet.
  • Naturally narrow beaches - these beaches give less protection to the coast as it doesn't reduce the power of the waves.
  • Man-made structures - groynes have been installed to stop long-shore drift. This narrows unprotected beaches elsewhere even more.
  • Powerful waves - waves at Holderness travel long distances over the North Sea (so have a long fetch) which means they will increase in energy.

Management strategies

Groynes protect beaches from longshore drift. Rock armour prevents cliff erosion.
  • Bridlington is protected by a 4.7 km long sea wall.
  • Hornsea is protected by a sea wall, groynes and rock armour.
  • Coastal management at Withersea has tried to make the beach wider by using groynes, and also a seawall to protect the coast.
  • Mappleton is protected by rock groynes.
  • Spurn Head is protected with groynes and rock armour.


  • There has been an increase in erosion at Great Cowden because of the groynes used in Mappleton. This has led to farms being destroyed by the erosion and the loss of 100 chalets at the Golden Sands Holiday Park.
  • Some people disagree with where the sea defences are located, especially if it means the land in their community is not protected.
  • Some sea defences negatively impact tourism and reduce the amount of money coming in to the area.
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