Circa 10km from Dingli Cliffs, one may encounter the beautiful landscape of Fomm ir-Riħ. Fomm ir-Riħ Bay is located in the northwest coast of Malta, close to the village of Baħrija. The literal translation of Fomm ir-Riħ in English is ‘mouth of the wind’, since the bay is exposed to the predominant northwesterly wind (called ‘Majjistral’ in Malta). The area is characterised by a variety of landscapes including cliffs, scree slopes, clay slopes and beaches, providing breath-taking views.
The area of Fomm ir-Riħ is not only ‘off the beaten track’, but also secluded from the otherwise developed coastal zones of northeast and south Malta. The beach area is only accessible by land via a narrow winding footpath cut into the coastal cliffs.
The Great Fault, which runs from Madliena in the northeast of the island to Fomm ir-Riħ, is clearly defined by Ras ir-Raheb headland. This sharp cliff face is Malta’s westernmost headland. Other features in the area include two pebble beaches, clay slopes, and the scree slopes of Ras il-Pellegrin headland. The name of Ras il-Pellegrin is a testimony of the historical links that the Peregrine Falcon (Bies) has to the Maltese Islands and its breeding habitats within coastal cliffs. Further southwards along Dingli Cliffs, two pairs of peregrine falcons have been recorded breeding at Wardija San Ġorġ, along one of the landmarks of The Cliffs Interpretation Centre’s trail map.
A small pebble beach lies to the south of Fomm ir-Riħ, bordered by the cliffs of Ras ir-Raheb on one side. Multiple cliff collapse episodes occurred from December 2012 to February 2013, by which the lowest layer of the Maltese rock, the Lower Coralline Limestone became undercut. Sections of the cliffs fell down to the beach area.
Another larger pebble beach is found further north of the small beach at Fomm ir-Riħ. As all Maltese beaches, this beach is defined as a ‘pocket beach’, because it is found between two headlands. This beach is highly exposed to the prevailing northwesterly wind, and since it has a short beach width, wave action often reaches the back of the beach to the clay slopes.
The pebbles at Fomm ir-Riħ have different sizes and shapes, as a response to the surrounding geology and wave action. Geology is an important factor which also influences beach sediments, thus the scree landscape to the north of the beach erodes by wave action, and the eroded material is transported and deposited into the beach. The colour and shape of sediments at the shingle beach of Fomm ir-Riħ also indicates that the original source of the pale-coloured beach sediments was the Coralline Limestone, which is easily eroded into disc-shaped sediments.
Wave action is also important in controlling the beach area. For example, after northwesterly storms, large pebbles are found at the back of the beach, indicating that the waves during the storm were capable of transport and building up sediments landward.
The entire area of Fomm ir-Riħ has been scheduled as a Marine Protected Area since 2004 and as a Special Area of Conservation as part of the Natura 2000 network of protected sites. Designations have also been given to the coastal cliffs and the two valleys that find their way to Fomm ir-Riħ.