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Studying Hebden Beck (Rebecca Swift)

Wellies and Brussel Sprouts

Monday 9 November, 2020, by James

Wellies and Brussel sprouts? What were these students doing up Hebden Beck?

James Neill, a Year 10 student from Upper Wharfedale School, gave up his Sunday morning to take part in some river studies geography fieldwork.

Here is what he had to say:

Last Sunday, myself and four other students from Upper Wharfedale School – accompanied by our geography teacher, two volunteers, and two staff members from the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority – set out from Hebden, the heart of the Dales, to film our trip out to investigate rivers and how they change as they flow downstream.

One of the main reasons we did the trip was to find out how the cross-section and long profile of a river changes.  We looked at the size and shape of Hebden Beck in the upper course (the nearest section of the river to its source) and measured the velocity of the stream up close!

An image of the three students measuring the width of Hebden Beck
Students measure the width of Hebden Beck

Firstly, we set out from Hebden Institute. We got our equipment together and split into two teams and began moving upstream to find a suitable spot where we could begin our investigations. Once found, one of us had to brave the river so that we could measure its width, and eventually, its depth.

However, by far, my favourite bit was the Brussel sprout test. To do this, somebody would throw a Brussel sprout into the river, and, after it had travelled 5m downstream, it would (if we were lucky) be picked back up out of the river and with the time recorded, we could calculate the velocity of the river. A Brussel sprout was used as the float because they are biodegradable, so if we didn’t catch them, it wouldn’t be a disaster.

An image of one of the students dropping a Brussel sprout into the beck
The Brussel sprout test

Next, to see if any erosion had taken place (worn the stones down), we would somewhat randomly select ten stones from the river of varying magnitude. What we saw here was a large quantity of angular, and sub-angular stones, compared to the majority sub-angular stones at the second point we looked at further downstream. Showing us that more erosion takes place the further downstream it gets.

The main reason we have done this is so that other schools, unable to get out of the classroom and do fieldwork, have the opportunity to look at the data that we have collected. Following the film that has been put together, they can work through the resource pack that we used and, although not perfect, have something similar to the adventurous day we had last Sunday.

For more information about school fieldwork and outdoor learning in the Yorkshire Dales, contact Rebecca Swift, Education Officer, at

Picture of James


James is 15 and in Year 10 at Upper Wharfedale School. He's interested in exploring new things, and his hobbies are reading and collecting small souvenirs from the place he visits.

3 Replies to “Wellies and Brussel Sprouts”

  1. Glenys Lowe says:

    A most interesting and informative report . Excellent.

  2. Lynn Ashton says:

    What a useful study! It’s good to hear too that other schools will benefit.

  3. Mrs Eileen Neill says:

    How wonderful to be able to leave the classroom to do field studies, then be able to pass that information on to the not so lucky pupils

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