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Our landforms

Many kinds of natural landform are found in the East of England. Some are relict forms, developed under a different climate during the ‘Ice Age’. The active ones are being shaped today by natural processes, although in many instances they are also being shaped by human activity such as river management and coastal defence work.


Relict landforms in the region include:


River terraces, the remnants of former floodplains isolated by later erosion;


Dry valleys, formed during the ‘Ice Age’ when permeable ground was frozen and could be eroded by water action;


Pingos, hollows with earth ramparts left by collapsed blisters of ground ice;


Patterned ground, areas of contrasting sandy and chalky subsoil sorted by ‘Ice Age’ frost action into a pattern of stripes and polygons.



Active landforms in the region include:


Sand-dunes, formed where wind-blown sand becomes bound by marram grass and other plants;


Swallow-holes, where a stream meets a permeable rock layer and sinks through it, taking a new subterranean course;


Spits and nesses, formed where longshore drift causes progressive accumulation and outgrowth of beach material from the coastline;


Gulls and gulleys, where water flow cuts strongly downward into soft rocks;


Spring-lines, where downward precolating ground-water flushes out a slope where it meets an

underlying layer of impermeable rock;


Cliffs, where water erosion meets and undercuts masses of upstanding sediment;


Estuarine mud-flats, where organic-rich silts and clays build up in sheltered areas of the coast.


Mudflats of the Stour Estuary at Manningtree, Essex

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