The Geological Society recently asked for suggestions of the UK’s best geological sites. This week, after several hundred submissions and a public vote, the top 100 Great Geosites were announced.
In the Coastal category it will probably come as no surprise to find out that the Seven Sisters and Beachy Head made it onto this list. The iconic cliffs and lighthouse are popular tourist attractions and featured on everything from mugs to posters.
You might not know that the chalk, which seemingly disappears under the shingle beach extends out to sea and forms some of the best and biggest chalk reefs in Europe. Thanks to various animals such as piddocks and worms that bore into the reef they are covered in crevices and teaming with life. The reefs are part of the Beachy Head West Marine Conservation Zone and protected by UK law.
In the Adventurous category appeared a more unusual site: Mixon Hole. This is an underwater gorge about 25 – 30 metres deep situated just South East of Selsey Bill. It is thought that in Biblical times it was the mouth of a river leading into Chichester and that Romans used it in 43AD to bring supplies into the city. Since then the coast has erroded and left the gorge behind. It is even more unusual as other, similar features, have been filled in with sediment and gravel while Mixon Hole has remained clear. Its soft clay walls are constantly eroding and home to a variety of marine life including crabs, lobsters, snakelocks anemones and lesser spotter catsharks. There is so much life and unusual species that Mixon Hole is part of the recommended Marine Conservation Zone Selsey Bill and the Hounds.
It is really encouraging that these underwater sites are being recognised. Hopefully it is an indication that the old adage ‘out of sight, out of mind’ is no longer applicable to the marine environment.