Pair in crumbling cliff-top peril

11:30am Friday 4th April 2014

Two sightseers stand near the edge of crumbling chalk cliffs seemingly unaware of the threat it could collapse at any minute.

The pair were pictured at the top of Birling Gap, near Eastbourne, where around three metres of cliff has fallen in recent months.

Close to where they were standing, a large crack could be seen on the cliff-top - a stark sign of how precarious it is at the beauty spot.


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Bob Jeffery, a spokesman for the Eastbourne RNLI, warned people to steer clear of the cliff-top edge.

Mr Jeffery said: "We repeat the warning that we have issued so many times before, and that is to stay away from the cliff edge.

"People might think they are getting a good picture by going close to the edge, but it might be the last photo they ever take.

"It's not solid rock up there. It's soft and, particularly when it's full of water, it becomes extremely unstable."

Winter storms have caused the kind of damage that the National Trust - which is responsible for this stretch of coastline - was not expecting for years to come.

The trust has previously warned that with more extreme weather predicted, the rate of change on Britain's coastline will speed up.

Jane Cecil, National Trust general manager for the South Downs, said: "People have seen the amount of cliff we have lost this winter. They are very unpredictable.

"That crack has been there for some time but it could go at any minute, so we would ask people to keep a safe distance."

Elsewhere at Birling Gap, demolition work continues on a former coastguard cottage left teetering on the cliff edge.

A five-strong team of demolition men have been working for the past fortnight to take down the end-of-terrace property, left just six inches from the end of the cliff.

The cottage once formed a terrace of seven ex-coastguard properties, built on the cliff top overlooking the English Channel between 1800 and 1820.

But due to the pace of erosion, two cottages had to be demolished in 1994 and in the early 2000s, and now a third one is set to follow suit.

The National Trust owns more than 740 miles (1,191km) of coastline around England, Wales and Northern Ireland, around a tenth of the total coastline for the three countries.

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