Exploring the Geography of Barcelona

Fieldwork provides an opportunity for students to study geography in the real world and at A Level the LVI take part in the annual trip to Barcelona. This not only puts learning into perspective but also enables students to learn vital data collection techniques that they can then apply to their own studies. At A Level, the write up of a piece of individual field work is 20% of the final A Level grade so this trip provides the groundwork for these important studies. 

After an early start, the group landed in Barcelona where we met our guide from the Barcelona Field Centre. We started by setting the scene with a tour of the city, stopping at La Sagrada Familia and then the viewpoint of the city from Montjuic. This enabled students to see the spatial relationship between the port area, El Raval, the 1992 Olympic park and later developments of the city. After lunch we headed along the coast to Sitges, our home for the next few days. After settling into the hotel we walked into the historic old town, looking at how the place has catered for a changing demographic of tourists. 


The El Raval district of Barcelona was the site of the next full day of fieldwork, with its street art and attempts at redevelopment which included the building of the contemporary art museum and 5-star hotel development along Rambla del Raval. Students were assessing if the redevelopment had met the needs of the local people, or if it had been imposed on the city in the hope it might improve their lives. Students visited four zones and carried out a range of data collection techniques including building surveys and environmental quality assessments. The evening follow-up session involved pulling the data together to discuss the responses. 

I particularly enjoyed visiting El Raval, because it enabled me to see the contrasts between the local areas and those influenced by tourism. 

Matilde G

On Sunday, we stayed in Sitges and spent the day doing coastal fieldwork. As an important site for tourism, Sitges retains a sandy beach, but not without investment to protect the coast from erosion. Students compared the highly managed section of the beach next to the hotel developments with the unmanaged section just around the corner, where a road has been closed and is now slowly being sacrificed to the sea. Data collection here included pebble analysis, beach profiling and a cost benefit analysis of the coastal defences. The evening classroom session saw the students following up with statistical analysis of the data collection and drawing conclusions from the day. 

I learnt how to collect data properly which will be very useful when I do my coursework project.

Emily B

The final day saw a swift check out of the hotel before heading out to the rural Priorat region of Catalonia. We stopped in three villages which have seen depopulation due to lack of jobs and a subsequent closure of services. This has been exacerbated by the ‘Air BnBification’ of the villages, where second homeowners have bought up properties to let out in the summer, but which lay empty most of the year. In recent decades the area has seen a revival driven by the wine industry and the creation of the specialist ‘Priorat wine’ production. Slopes have been industrially terraced, and many vineyards planted, with wineries springing up. The droughts of the last few years have also had an impact on life here. Students were able to assess the impact of all these activities on the wealth and livelihood of the villages and can use these stories to contrast to the fate of rural settlements in West Sussex. We headed straight from the final village to the airport for an evening flight home. 

I really enjoyed getting involved with the geography!

Archie J D

The students worked hard, with evening classroom sessions to draw graphs, do statistical testing of the data and draw conclusions from the day. Yet there was also a little downtime to explore Barcelona, walk the old town of Sitges, play touch rugby or eat ice cream on the beach in the February Mediterranean sunshine! 

The students did themselves proud. They developed their sense of place, engaged with the field work, asked great questions and are now ready to tackle their coursework.

Dr Richard Bustin