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My Barbados Dover Beach, Hummingbird and Bajan child

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General Geography of Barbados page 2

Barbados is a relatively flat island with an abundant supply of large gradually sloping beaches fringing the land. In some areas, notably the North, coral and sandstone cliffs rise straight out of the sea reaching several hundred feet in height. In the South West, cliffs of 50 to 100 feet rise and fall along the coast, separated by small sandy beaches and bays.
On the flatter South West and West coasts, you may walk for miles along unbroken white sand beaches, sometimes stopping at a cluster of coral rocks jutting out to sea. All along the shore large and small beaches are broken by coral formations, the soft coral rocks weathered by the ocean surf, forming abstract sculptures to an artist's eye. Barbados is a coral island and its beaches are made from finely ground coral forming a clean fine grain. There are few beaches that are not fine sand. Generally if there is a beach on the shore, it is beautiful sand. Natural sand dunes are not common but some exist in Long Bay on the South West Coast.

Other Coastal Features
Of course, not all of Barbados' coast is sand; there are mangrove swamps, cliffs, tide pools and areas where beds of low lying coral rock, sandstone, clay or shale reach out to the sea. Barbados' swamps are to be found in Chancery Lane, Inch Marlow and Graham Hall in the South and South West of the Island. They are the major wetlands of Barbados providing an assemblage of plants and animals forming an important link in the food chain of offshore fish and birds.
Low lying rock formations are particularly prevalent along the North East and South Easter points; periwinkles, sea anemones, crabs and snails make their home along these rocks. Tidal flats and wave ridges occur mostly off the East coast within eroded limestone plateaus and other low lying rock formations.
On the South and South West Coasts you will find many tide pools, an important ecological resource, acting as nurseries for juvenile fish and other permanent residents like the ghost crab and sea roaches as well as marine plants like sea moss which is made into a health drink. Cliffs of coral and sandstone overlook calm bays and rugged coastlines and sometimes small, cosy soft sand beaches nestle between heads of coral sculptured by the sea. Most of the larger cliffs are in the North, in the parish of St. Lucy.

Sugar Production
Sugar has been an ideal crop for Barbados. White gold as it was called, produced great wealth, fame and stature for the island and the original plantation owners, and was in many ways suited to the island. It made good sense to grow sugar economically and horticulturally as its root structure helped to preserve the fragile top soil. There are 1,500 small farms throughout Barbados which can produce some 60,000 tons of sugar annually.

Yields of sugar per acre are below average in Barbados compared to some other islands like Cuba. Poor mechanisation and dry seasons are to blame for this. Most of the 30,000 acres being used for sugar farming in Barbados are relatively small farms of 200 acres on average. To properly benefit from mechanisation a farm should be not less than 700 acres. In addition few farms in Barbados are on flat land, and the hilly terrain is not the best for mechanisation. This was not a problem in the old days when manual labour was the only form of harvesting, but as other regions have benefited from mechanisation, Barbados has not.

Agriculture And Soil Preservation
Sugar Cane planting has been modified over the centuries to help preserve the fragile top soil from erosion, but soil erosion continues to be a problem in many parts of the island particularly on the east coast. Sugar grows tall, its fibrous roots spread out and help to bind the thin layer of soil, a mixture of volcanic ash and sands, deposited over the years by winds bringing seeds, and ash and flora from neighbouring islands and distant lands. In recent times, Dr. Colin Hudson measured 6 tons per Acre of ash deposited in a single field as a result of volcanic activity. Some say up to 30 tons per acre have been clocked. The Coral Island of Barbados, pushed out of the sea millions of years ago, owes much to the active volcanoes in the region. But that's another story which we hope Dr. Hudson will tell us soon.

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