COMEM / ECE / GDP fieldtrip to Pennington and Hurst Spit on 27 Sep 18 – By ECE student Pei Ling Goh

ECE 2018/19 student Pei reports on the induction fieldtrio to Pennington Marshes and Hurst Spit:

This first field trip to Pennington and Hurst Spit marks the start of the adventure of our MSc Engineering in the Coastal Environment (ECE) first semester. This is the first time when we met up with all the students from ECE, MSc Coastal and Marine Engineering and Management (CoMEM), and a group of MEng Civil Engineering who are conducting a Group Design Project (GDP) on Hurst Spit. This field trip was led by Professor Robert J. Nicholls and Ms Lauren Burt, coastal engineer from New Forest District together with  Dr Hachem Kassem, Dr Ivan Haigh and Prof. Ian Townend.

Upon our arrival of our first stop at Keyhaven, we walked along the Pennington seawall, which provides a spectacular view of the salt marshes. This seawall protects about 50 properties, natural areas and landfills. The stability (erosion) and protection level (flood risks) of the seawall lies between the District Council and the Environment Agency respectively.


The seawall was designed with a 20-year design life, taking into consideration the salt marshes. The area was historically used as salterns for the local salt industry. With the sea level rise, reduction in the area of salt marshes, and increases in ship wakes and storm intensity, this seawall may not be sustainable. Professor Nicholls further explained that the government has set up Shoreline Management Plans (SMPs) to provide a strategic and sustainable approach to UK coastal defence, and they are (i) Hold the line, (ii) Management Realignment, (iii) No active intervention and (iv) Advance the line.

For this area, the shoreline management plan is to “hold the line”. However, it is a challenge to justify for an upgrade of the seawall as it protects mainly the valuable habitats.

In addition to hard structure defence, we moved to the next stop, Hurst Spit to look at soft engineering approach to coastal issues.

CoMEM/ECE/GDP group at Hurst Spit

This hook shaped Hurst Spit is the first line of defence to the Western Solent and provides a shelter to the salt marshes. Recognising the importance of the Hurst Spit, the shoreline management plan for this area is also to “hold the line”.  However, the erosion of the shingle (pebble and cobble) Hurst Spit is a continuous process and therefore it is required to be maintained by regular shingle recycling and monitoring. The first nourishment was carried out in 1996 and the second nourishment will be required in the short term. The design of the nourishment will be looking at the overall system, analysing the volume required and all the possible placement requirements such as replenishing the material at either the back or front of the spit.

If you would like to know more about Hurst Spit, Ms Lauren Burt, Coastal Engineer from New Forest District Council, will be presenting – “Past, Present and Future Management of Hurst Spit” on 7 Dec 2018. Do join us for the seminar.

The next site is at Milford-on-Sea, where it demonstrated a range of coastal protection from an integrated sea defence, groynes to cliffs.

Integrated sea defence at Milford-at-sea

It was a privilege to get the opportunity to enjoy the sun, “sand” and sea during a field trip. Coastal management comprises complex activities and engagement of different interest groups. These sites have demonstrated the solutions to provide a dry land. However, with the new challenges faced such as climate change, sea level rise and availability of resources there is a need for innovative solutions to have a sustainable and effective coastal management. Looking forward to the 1 year MSc course in University of Southampton.

CoMEM/ECE/GDP group on the cliffs at Milford-at-sea
Sun, “Shingle” and Sea at Milford-at-sea

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