2014 – winners announced

The ‘Physical geography around where I live’ competition encouraged 11-18 year olds to explore their local area in search of the physical geography around them, which they captured in a photo and submitted with a caption describing the geography in the image.

Hundreds of entries were received from all over the country (and abroad), which went through a rigorous judging process before the winning entries were selected.

Geography educator, chair of the PGSIG and panel adjudicator Duncan Hawley said: ‘The competition revealed a good deal about how pupils perceive physical geography and link it to the world outside the classroom – and we aim to use this information to help teachers make their physical geography teaching have more impact on what students take and use away from the classroom.’

Winning entries

11-14 – Ben Dimbleby

Oakham School, Oakham, Rutland
PG Theme: Ecosystems
Location: Main Street, Yarwell Northamptonshire.

Caption: This photograph is of a flower growing out of a crack in a wall on the main road of Yarwell. Moss would originally have grown in here, until eventually there were enough nutrients to support the growth of this plant, which is quite widespread in the village. This will eventually grow into a much larger plant, which may spread through the wall, and examples of the adult plants are visible in the background. These plants attract insect life which pollinate and feed off them, thus inducing greater biodiversity. The wall itself has become an environment for many invertebrates, such as a swarm of bees that have made their hive in another niche in the wall.

Judging panel comments: A technically good photo, with a sharp close-up of the plants/wall and soft road background, which gives full sense of location. The context is therefore clear and certainly ‘around where I live’. The description outlines lithosere development and then extension into biodiversity, highlighting the physical basis of the process; which is what lifts this above many others that had a similar theme. This is a very good interpretation of physical geography.

‘My geography teacher offered to send in any entries to the competition for us, and encouraged anyone interested to have a go. It just sounded like a great opportunity!

‘I was really surprised to hear I’d won, not to mention really excited. I had to read the email over several times before I could believe what I was reading!

‘I am now more aware of, and take a closer interest in, the geographical features around where I live. I tend to notice things like plant roots running through rock in the quarry, or the whole ecosystem inside the walls of my village.’

 

I was really surprised to hear I’d won, not to mention really excited. I think I had to read the email over several times before I could believe what I was reading!

14-18 – Ellie Boot

King Edward V1 Camp Hill School for Girls, Birmingham
PG Theme: Weathering, corrosion, infiltration, deposition
Caption: Queensway underpass, Birmingham.

Description: This photo shows the result of the combination of physical geographical processes taking place. This is not an odd occurrence or an extraordinary sight but is a lot more complex than we realise. Here, rainwater has infiltrated the ground and been filtered through a layer of rock and topsoil. Whilst travelling through these layers, the rainwater has picked up electrolytes from the rocks it has eroded as it passed through. This water has then been able to flow out through the mirror’s fittings on the wall in this subway tunnel. Due to the high electrolyte content (particularly salt) the rate at which the fittings are rusted is increased so the water is weathering/ corroding them. The water carries the oxidised iron or rust down the wall until the water is evaporated leaving the rich mineral deposits of electrolytes and rust behind, similar to the formation of a stalactite, to form a Rusticle or Iron Stalactite.

Judging panel comments: An interesting, understated subject in this urban example of weathering with excellent description that demonstrates clear understanding of the processes involved, although the origin of the precipitates is probably reinforced concrete rather than rock in this case. Nevertheless this is a very good visual with clear narrative detail and links made between this ‘everyday’ location and similar in the ‘natural’ world is made by using the term stalagmite. It provides thinking about the inevitability and impact of natural process on human environments. It turns what might be dismissed as unsightly into something that holds considerable interest.

‘Initially, after reading the brief I came up stumped. As far as I was aware, Birmingham is a relatively dead spot in terms of physical geography, the most notable feature being the Lickey Hills. But after a few weeks of considering, I realised that I don’t have to hunt for a feature of physical geography in my area, but rather a process of physical geography. This made me consider parts of the city that people would brush off as unsightly and forgotten in a brand new way. I chose this particular photo due to the complexity of the multiple processes occurring and interacting. I also quite like the feel of the picture and the idea that nature is almost fighting back against human development.

‘What this competition has done is make me more aware of the world and features right in front of my eyes. It has led me appreciate just how powerful physical geography is and how, despite all our efforts, we will never fully be able to control our natural world.’

Ellie’s photography website can be viewed here.

 

Runners up

2nd prize 11-14 – Monty Pegrum

Malton School, North Yorkshire
PG Theme : Dry Valley
Location: Thixendale, Yorkshire Wolds.

Caption: The dry valleys were created at the end of the last ice age, around 18,000 years ago, when the action of fast-running streams flowing over frozen ground carved out the valleys. The chalk on which the Yorkshire Wolds landscape has formed allows water to drain so efficiently that the valleys run dry.

Judging panel comments: A difficult feature to capture from the valley floor, but the composition includes valley crest, slope angles and sheep giving a good sense of scale and form. The description is succinct and reasonably accurate although the origin of the water is left to the imagination; the size of the valley indicates more than a ‘stream’ and strictly speaking it was bedload that did the ‘carving’ – transported by the powerful water – so erosion would be a better term to use. Nevertheless this is a very meritable interpretation of physical geography.

 

2nd prize 14-18 – Barnaby Tagart

Reigate Grammar School
PG Theme: Flooding
Location: River Mole, Little Flanchford Farm, Near Reigate.

Caption: The photo shows fields adjacent to the River Mole, just as they had begun to dry out at the end of the winter storms of December 2013 to January 2014, but the volume of water in the river was still much larger then it had usually averaged. This area was affected by very high water levels due to large areas of impermeable surfaces further upstream, which reduced the lag time between peak rainfall and peak discharge. Although a nearby bridge was heavily damaged by the floodwater, the fields shown in the photo were allowed to flood during the storms of January 2014 to act as a temporary storage area for the water and prevent more economically valuable areas downstream, such as the Mole gap from flooding.

Judging panel comments: The photo is well proportioned with nice contrast between the dark river channel bank and the shine of the flood ponds on the floodplain although a view with better perspective might have shown these more clearly. The description gives some useful details highlighting why flooding occurs here, although is somewhat light on linking to the formation and function of the landforms – the floodplain and bluff with higher ground beyond, on which the farm sits.

3rd prize 11-14 Alexander Hatten

Malton School, North Yorkshire
PG Theme : Weathering
Location: Garden Wall, Malton, North Yorkshire

Caption: This is the wall in my back garden. It is very old. The top part is made of red bricks and grey tiles. This part was laid in the 19th Century when my house was built. The bottom part is made of Yorkshire sandstone and is much older. Over the years, the stone has become heavily weathered, and some of the bricks have been damaged by frost. Some plants have grown in cracks in the mortar and damaged it too.

Judging panel comments: A pleasing and clean photograph of a situation that can be easily found; garden walls are commonplace. The variety in the photo make for an interesting illustration of how different materials are each exploited distinctively by weathering and the description makes some reference to this, but could have noted how/why the capping tiles are intact the surface flaking of the bricks (caused by freeze thaw) and the crumbling of the sandstone along bedding planes. Nevertheless this is a vey meritable interpretation of physical geography.

‘My geography teacher told us about the competition and I thought it sounded interesting.

‘As the theme was physical geography around where I live, I looked around my house and garden for something interesting to photograph.

‘I will be looking for more examples of weathering when I am outside in the countryside.’

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