GCSE Geography: Coasts - Cliffs, Wave-cut Platforms and Notches

24th August 2017

GCSE Geography Revision - Made Easy!

Everything you need to know about Cliffs, Wave-cut Notches and Wave-cut Platforms on Coasts!


As with all coastline landforms, the rock material that make these up is worn down over time by erosion and weathering. The huge variation in shapes you may see along the coastline is due to the difference in rock types along the shore. Soft rock and hard rock erode at different speeds. Soft rock erodes quickly and leaves gentle sloping landscapes, and hard rock erodes much more slowly and creates very steep landscapes. When these alternate along the coastline in different layers, landforms and coastline features are often displayed.


Three of these features are cliffs, wave-cut notches and wave-cut platforms. These are, in fact, each part of a cycle of coastline erosion.


  1. Cliffs - As stated earlier, cliffs and cliff landscapes are formed by alternating layers of rock types facing the sea. Soft rock erodes and weathers more quickly, leaving a gentle, sloping cliff face. Hard rock weathers much slower, and these are the steep cliff faces you see on a coastline.
  2. Wave-cut Notches - As the sea continues to exercise its wave energy on a clif face, the base of the cliff can begin to erode away while the upper part of the cliff (above sea level) can remain still. This undercut will keep growing until there is a noticeable overhang over what is now called the wave-cut notch.
  3. Wave-cut Platforms - As the wave-cut notch continues to grow under neth the headland, the overhanging cliff face can start to become too heavy for the rest of main body to support. Eventually, the overhanging part of the cliff will simply collapse. This cliff face debris will eventually get washed out to sea and broken down into much smaller material. Once cleared, a wave-cut platform will appear where the cliff face once stood. This is a very flat piece of land that outlines where the cliff once stood. Examples of these can be seen in the 3rd verse of our music video on "Cliffs, Wave-Cut Notches and Platforms".


This is a recurring cycle, meaning the headland continues to move further and further back into the mainland. This can be defended against, by using soft and hard engineering options to protect against erosion on a coastline. You can find information on these in our music videos on the GCSE Geography section of our website.


Make sure to check out our music video on Cliffs, Wave-Cut Notches and Platforms, try to remember all the lyrics, and then have a go at our test!


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