Residents and visitors should stay safe this summer as they experience the wonderful East Sussex coastline.
The chalk cliffs between Seaford Head and Beachy Head, including Birling Gap and the iconic Seven Sisters are an ever-popular destination for walkers. However, beneath their beauty lays a hidden and serious danger.
A significant cliff fall at Birling Gap in early August shut the beach and prompted a search operation by HM Coastguard. Fortunately there were no casualties, but continual sea and weather
erosion means that the cliff face is constantly changing.
The recent hot, dry weather followed by heavy rain and more dry weather creates instability in the chalk formation. Faults in the cliffs or overhangs can’t be seen from the cliff top, so major falls like the one at Birling Gap or last year’s 50,000 ton fall at Seaford Head can happen at any time. These usually occur without warning.
Visitors must take care at all times, read warning signs and stay a safe distance away from the cliff edge. A more recent risk has come from ‘selfies’, with people putting themselves in needless danger when taking photographs.
Walkers should also exercise caution on the beach. Be aware of tide times and walk the equivalent of the height of the cliffs away from the cliff base, in case of unexpected chalk falls.
As with all natural environments, it’s important to take care, exercise common sense and treat the outdoors with respect.
However, if you were to see anyone in danger or witness someone who may have fallen, the advice is clear. Stay safe, do not attempt rescue or put yourself at risk, but call 999 and ask for the coastguard.
Photo by Edward Dalmulder