How will these resources help you?

While exam specifications focus on physical processes and resulting landforms, combining learning about these with human dimensions of settlement, industry, and people can bring river studies to life, helping students remember key information about the physical geography of the river. These resources include UK rivers, which are crucial to GCSE studies, and some global examples, which are helpful for students who want to read beyond the GCSE specification or for students studying geography at A-level. 

How does the River Tees change from source to mouth?

Exploring the River Tees - Part 1: An introduction to its catchment and courses

by Jason Sawle, published by ESRI, (2021)

The River Tees is a popular example of a river and its valley, which is studied by geography students at KS3 and GCSE. This resource uses a story map to provide information about the River Tees, starting with an overview and then exploring the upper, middle and lower courses in turn. Teachers could project the material on the board, or students could work through it using their own devices. They could note key features of each part from source to mouth and compare the processes and features in the different sections – what changes can they see?  

How does Britain’s longest river change from mouth to source?

The River Severn: A Journey Following the River from the Estuary to Its Source

by John Bradford, published by Brewin Books, (2005), 9781858582733

This book explores the length of a major UK river, focusing on the River Severn. The book has over 200 photographs that reflect the changes in the river as Bradford travels from its estuary at the Severn Bridge to its source in the Plynlimon Hills in Wales. The Severn is the longest river in Britain and is a popular choice for GCSE students. Making the journey from estuary to source gives a different perspective, starting with the lower course of the river, where significant flooding frequently takes place, and ending with a tiny stream trickling from a bog. Stories from history are combined with observations from the present to create an engaging and beautifully illustrated book.

Virtual field trip to the River Eden

The Virtual Field Investigation: River Eden

published by Eden Rivers Trust

A virtual trip can never replace real fieldwork but can beautifully complement the curriculum. This resource brings together text, images, video and an opportunity to use a geographical information system to discover how the River Eden changes from source to mouth. Students could use this resource independently or focus on particular elements. The idea of a story map is to tell the geographical story of a place or issue. This resource combines spatially referenced information and images to make the story of the River Eden clear, helping them understand the sequence of processes and resulting landforms found along the course of the river.

A river of conflict and destruction?

The Robber of Memories: A River Journey Through Columbia

by Michael Jacobs, published by Granta, (2013), 9781847084088

This book tells of a journey through Colombia, following the Magdalena river from its mouth to its source in the Andes. Columbia has been a very troubled part of the world, so the story Jacobs tells is of conflict, environmental destruction, and his own journey. This book is ideal for teachers and A-level students to make connections between the physical and human geography of the river, moving beyond the context of the UK. The book also considers how memories fade over time, leading to its title. Students could benefit from conducting their own research to discover how the areas Jacobs writes about have changed in the last decade – many are now peaceful.

Audiovisual clip

Earth's Great Rivers - Introduction to the Amazon river

published by BBC, (2019)

An exploration of the river Amazon, from its glacier origin to its contribution to wildlife.

Further materials

Highland River by Neil M. Gunn, published by Canongate Classics, (1997), 9780862413583 Find this book
Waterlog: A Swimmer's Journey through Britain by Roger Deakin, published by Vintage, (2000), 9780099282556 Find this book
From source to mouth: Basin-scale morphodynamics of the Rhine River by R.M. Frings et al, published by Earth-Science Reviews, vol. 196, (2019) Visit this website
To the River: A Journey Beneath the Surface by Olivia Laing, published by Canongate Books, (2017), 9781786891587 Find this book
Catherine Owen is Head of Geography at The King Alfred School an Academy, a CGeog and a Geographical Association Consultant. She writes and presents for OUP, Hodder Geography, Tutor2U and more.

Text © Catherine Owen, 2022-2023