• sandbanks;
  • historical data;
  • volumetric change;
  • embayment;
  • erosion;
  • accretion


Using geographic information system (GIS) and field measurements the nearshore morphological variability of a headland bay beach at Tenby, West Wales (51·66 N; –4·71 W) was assessed over historical timeframes (1748–2007). Three areas chosen for detailed analysis were the area between mean low water (MLW) and lowest astronomical tide (LAT) contours; LAT and one fathom contours; and one and two fathom contours. Estuary closure c. 1855 has been suggested as the genesis for long-term beach evolution and did have an initial effect, with northward dune migration and reduced flushing effects. However, this research suggests nearshore bank migration and retrogradation associated with spit collapse took place prior to closure and continued throughout the assessed timeframe. Historical data revealed patterns of shoreward migration demonstrated by changes in orientation, Giltar headland acting as a pivot. Variations in sandbank position correlated with areal reduction of both Giltar spit and White Bank. Temporal offshore areal loss was contrasted against variable gains inshore as offshore banks welded to the beachface. Annual volumetric change analyses represented by profiles that extend 1 km offshore, confirmed Giltar spit and White Bank erosion rates of 91 m3 yr–1 and 458 m3 yr–1 respectively, and 220 m3 yr–1 beachface accretion. Diminution of sediment supply observed over historical timescales was supported by decadal evidence. Here, profile analysis revealed a trend of decreasing volumes both updrift and within the study area, and increasing downdrift volumes. This explained why proximal detachment and sediment redistribution had occurred. Distinct reversal's in shoreline trend (rotation) corresponded to nearshore change; therefore, variations in seabed configuration triggered shoreface dynamic change over century timescales. Five-year cumulative average changes in North Atlantic Oscillation were further correlated to this reversal. As comparable scenarios are likely to exist at other worldwide coastal locations, similar analyses should be incorporated into shoreline monitoring programmes. Consequently, these assessments would inform shoreline trends and support coastal management decisions. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.