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England's Changing Coastline page 2


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There are traditions at various points on the coast of far vaster subsidences than any of which we have definite historical record. If the Goodwin Sands were lost by the neglect of Earl Godwin, as the Kentish legend asserts, a wide tract of cultivated lowland was submerged as late as the eleventh century; but it is hardly credible that part of Kent vanished without leaving some record of its past history, and this tale, at least, is probably untrue, and due to, dislike of the too powerful earl. In Cornwall they tell us of the lost land of Lyonesse, said to have stretched from Mount's Bay out to the Scilly Isles; and another lost land, that of Gwaelod, is said to sleep beneath the waters of Cardigan Bay. In stormy weather, so old fishermen relate, they can still hear.

Through the surl and through the swell,
The far-off sound of a silver bell

from the churches of drowned towns and villages. Though much exaggerated by tradition, probably these stories are not baseless.

At many points on our coast, and in Mount's Bay and Cardigan Bay among them, low tides reveal the stumps and trunks of trees which are not fossilized relics of ancient geological eras, but the remnants, still woody in texture, of forests which ancestors of many of the Celtic inhabitants may once have seen budding. It is far from impossible that a wide coastal strip has been submerged along Cardigan Bay; and although dry land has doubtless never bridged the deep water between the Lizard and the Scillies in inhabited times, there is strong evidence that the existing islets once formed one larger island. The seas between them are shallow, and lately the walls of fields have been traced, still dividing the drowned levels. Such gains of the sea are really due not to the gales or high tides by which the ruin is completed, but to the gradual subsidence of the land area.

Our shores have had many such ups and downs in past ages; and owing to the slowness of such movements, and the lack of accurate records, they still give next to no answer to the question, so vital to seaside danger-spots, whether the land is now sinking or rising.

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Pictures for England's Changing Coastline page 2

Caves, Gullies and Boulder-Strewn beach mark the Ruthless attack of the Sea on Flamborough Head
Caves, Gullies and Boulder-Strewn beach mark the Ruthless attack of the Sea on Flamborough Head >>>>
The Tower of All Saints' Church, Dunwich, an ancient Capital that now lies beneath the Sea
The Tower of All Saints' Church, Dunwich, an ancient Capital that now lies beneath the Sea >>>>
First and Last of All Saints, Dunwich
First and Last of All Saints, Dunwich >>>>
First and Last of All Saints, Dunwich
First and Last of All Saints, Dunwich >>>>
The Crumbling Cliffs near Cromer: a resent Landslide
The Crumbling Cliffs near Cromer: a resent Landslide >>>>
Dover from Shakespeare Cliff, and Sandwich, whence the Sea retreated
Dover from Shakespeare Cliff, and Sandwich, whence the Sea retreated >>>>
Faversham and its Creek, and Rye from Leasam Hill
Faversham and its Creek, and Rye from Leasam Hill >>>>
The Foreland, Swanage, where the Sea has got behind the Land
The Foreland, Swanage, where the Sea has got behind the Land >>>>
A destroying subsidence at Blackgang, Isle of Wight
A destroying subsidence at Blackgang, Isle of Wight >>>>
Selsey Bill, Sussex, a place of change and submersion
Selsey Bill, Sussex, a place of change and submersion >>>>
Landslide Havoc at Pakenham, Suffolk: Porlock and the Bristol Channel
Landslide Havoc at Pakenham, Suffolk: Porlock and the Bristol Channel >>>>
Landslide Havoc at Pakenham, Suffolk: Porlock and the Bristol Channel
Landslide Havoc at Pakenham, Suffolk: Porlock and the Bristol Channel >>>>

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