Crumbling Cliff

Today we cleaned up downstairs in preparation for our visitors beginning to arrive tomorrow.

I hand-delivered a few local Christmas cards, then Jackie drove me to the framer’s in Old Milton. I was beginning to become rather anxious about a present he was working on. Last week he had said it would be done by the next day and he would phone me when it was done. He hadn’t. It was as well I had chased this up, because he had forgotten about it. He made it his next job and did phone me within an hour, after which we collected it. His work is good, so we will forgive the gentleman. I do tend to be too patient.

From Old Milton we drove down to Barton On Sea, to watch the waves. A sign on a post at the water’s end of the car park explained why it was gradually being truncated.

Car park/unstable cliff

The cliff on which it was perched was unstable.

Cliff topCliff top 2

As can be seen in these two photographs, the land is, by stages, falling down. The trees give some idea of scale. A couple to whom I spoke told me that they remembered when the cliff itself stretched as far as the point at which the undergrowth now meets the beach. The concrete was once for cars.

Cliff Instability Study

A notice explains the Cliff Instability Study,

Theodolite 1

part of which required this theodolite to be placed where it is.

Bob Dunn's bench

Alongside the notice is placed Bob Dunn’s memorial bench. For thirty years this man patrolled these cliffs on behalf of the New Forest District Council. I wonder where the edge was in 1979.


Steps now lead down to the beach. In Bob’s time there was possibly an easy walk down the slope.

Part way down the steps I met and spoke with a couple who lived along this stretch of the coastline. They said that the biggest problem was underground springs which caused internal collapse. Their gardens, and those of their neighbours were often flooded. The house remained dry, but greenhouses were often waterlogged.

Crumbly cliff and remnant of wall

When I pointed to the remnants of a wall on the top left of this crumbling cliff, they confirmed that there were once rows of houses along here.

Theodolite 2

Another view of the theodolite from the other side of the stairway shows how precariously it is placed.

Man looking out to sea

This gentleman looking out to sea stands beneath the surveyor’s instrument. the golden edge to the cliff makes clear the most recently exposed section. An enlargement of the photograph shows another theodolite perched on the top roughly in the centre of the view.

Fortunately, we live more than a mile from the sea.

On our return home I cleared our garden paths of cuttings, fallen branches and other debris.

There is always plenty in Hordle Chinese Take Away set meals to last two days. We therefore had our second sitting at that this evening. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank sparkling water.


  1. Very scary! It’s terrifying how often you see people sight-seeing on the crest of unstable cliffs. I’m sure you kept well back from the edge!

  2. A shame, and with the increase of water as the Earth’s poles melt is only going to increase the damage. Our beaches are continually being dredged to bolster them, but it’s useless.

  3. As housing developments increase on or near fragile areas of land the use of concrete and tarmac can have an inevitable effect on the way rain water escapes from the surface as it becomes concentrated. It is such a crying shame.

  4. At least you can understand why the ground is collapsing around you while you’re reading the sign. I saw a UK programme once of a couple building a mansion on a collapsing cliff – the length they took to try and keep back the erosion is heroic but will in the end be futile. They took SKI-ing too far – Spending the Kids’ Inheritance is one thing, sending the family home to ultimate destruction is a bit OTT.

  5. The sea has its own rules. And nothing gets in her way when she is unleashed. Glad you do not live near the sea, Derrick, although it is a beautiful view.

  6. Happy to see there are no houses on the cliff tops now. It always amazes me when people are allowed to build in erosion prone areas. Nice photos.

  7. Living a mile from the ocean sounds just right. Close enough to visit on a regular basis but not so close to have to worry about crumbling into the sea. Happy holidays to you and yours. I’m sure they will be filled with merriment and good food.

  8. I can’t explain why, but I do feel sad when cliffs erode. It’s not like the cliffs belong to me, or even that they have any sentimental meaning to me, but it hurts to see them go anyway. Thank you for honoring what is there today, and giving me a chance to think about those cliffs.

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