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Royal Geographical Society (with IBG): the heart of geography
More than just a day at the seaside
Coastal features and processes: the what and how of coasts
Man vs Coast
Planning coastal fieldwork

Coasts - “London-on-Sea”

The aim of this lesson is to get students to apply their knowledge of coasts to consider what London might be like if it was located on the coast.

Key questions and ideas

How can coasts be physically different?

Every coast has its own characteristics. Coasts can be dominated by fine sand or shingle, salt or mud flats, large boulders, cliffs, sheltered bays. These physical differences will often dictate how different coasts are used.

How are coasts used differently?

In relation to the PowerPoint Different coasts and their uses the following coasts are used for the following activities: Khezr Beach Iran – tourism; Southend-on sea – tourism, fishing, residential; Finland Gulf, Russia – recreation and leisure; Kyrkbacken, Sweden – marina; Valdivostok, Russia – port, residential; Santorini, Greece – tourism and residential; Shanghai, China – urban development, port residential.

How can people benefit from living on a coast?

Economic benefits – development of ports increase opportunity for trade and employment; development of tourist industry; provide jobs in fishing industry which will often attract other businesses for example restaurants.

Social benefits - areas for leisure and recreation, often aesthetically pleasing sea front residential areas

How can people be disadvantaged from living on a coast?

Economic disadvantages – price of houses can be too expensive for local people, money generated from tourist industry is seasonal and often affected by the weather; some coastal industries, such as fishing, are in decline in some areas.

Social disadvantages – overcrowding in high tourist season puts increased pressure on infrastructure and local shops and services; coastal flooding can disrupt everyday lives; coastal erosion can lead to the destruction of houses and or settlements.

How would London benefit from being located on a coast?

Students should be free to develop their own ideas but most answers will probably focus around development of the tourist industry if London was located adjacent to sandy beaches. Consideration should also be made of the expansion of London’s port and how it would be easier to have a port with direct access out to sea rather than ships having to navigate the River Thames.

What problems might London face if it was located on a coast?

Problems are likely to address the threat of coastal flooding and the potential this would have to disrupt people’s lives and the city’s industry. Students should also consider the issue of overcrowding if more tourists were attracted to the city and the pressure this would put on infrastructure and services.

Subject content areas

  • Locational knowledge: Extend locational knowledge and deepen spatial awareness of the world’s countries including Russia, China, Iran, Thailand, South Africa, Senegal, India, Namibia 
  • Place knowledge: Understand geographical similarities, differences and links between places through the study of human and physical geography.
  • Human and physical geography: Key processes in physical geography relating to coasts and links to urbanisation and economic activity
  • Geographical skills and fieldwork: Build on knowledge of maps and atlases


You will also need

  • Atlases



Working in pairs, look at the images on the PowerPoint (Different coasts and their uses) and list the physical differences between the different coasts and how they are used differently. Join another pair to make a group of four and discuss your ideas.


As a group of four, take each of your ideas about how coasts can be used and think about how those uses might benefit or create problems for the people living there. Categorise these ideas into economic benefits and problems, and social benefits and problems. 

Using all the information from today’s lesson think about the questions:

  • How would London benefit from being located on the coast?
  • If London was a coastal city, what problems might it face?

As a starting point you should use an atlas to find London and think about its location. Draw a flow diagram to show your answer.  Start with “London-on-sea” at the top of the page and draw two boxes underneath with benefits written in one box and problems in the other. From here, add more boxes for each benefit and problem you have identified and connect them to further boxes. You must justify all the answers that you give.


Consider the question “Would you choose to live in a coastal city?” Write your answer on a post-it note – you must justify your answer by giving reasons. Stick your answer to the wall in your classroom and read the answers of your peers. You will be given the opportunity to discuss other people’s answers. Was there a common theme between the answers? Why do you think that was?

Mayor of London

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