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Genesis of an Open Pit?

The Dungeness Open Pits are freshwater ponds on the shingle of the Dungeness RSPB reserve.  They are natural waterbodies, formed as shingle eroded from the west passed around Dungeness Point and formed a shingle spit that joined back onto the mainland at its northern end, leaving an enclosed wet hollow.  As time went by more shingle accreted on the east coast, and the distance between the shore and the pits increased so that they are now between 1.8 and 2.5 km inland.  Until recently there have been no new lagoons formed on the beach in-between, unless they were present in the area excavated for gravel to form the Long Pits. 

In recent years changes in coast defence practices have resulted in more shingle moving around the coast, and in 2015 I photographed a new saline lagoon that had formed just south of the Dungeness lifeboat Station (first photo).  I was hoping that this might be the start of a new generation of pits.  Instead it has been largely infilled by shingle washed over the coastal ridge in storms (see second photo).  It seems that the process of pit formation is precarious, new pits are prone to being infilled in their early years.  It may well suggest that when the Open Pits formed this was in a time when prodigeous volumes of shingle were coming around the coast, building up the young shingle beach rapidly so that the new ponds were no longer at risk from infill.  Certainly some of the Open Pits formed during a period of dramatic coastal erosion in the 13th Century when the town of Old Winchelsea was washed away by storm conditions.


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