STORMY seas have caused mysterious deposits on Hove beach.

A charcoal-like substance has been spotted along the high tide line of Hove beach over the past few days.

Beachgoers may initially have been confused as to whether someone had been having an unseasonal barbecue, but too large an amount of the deposits stretching along the high water line suggest that is not a likely answer.

Brighton and Hove Council officials were equally baffled by the mystery.

The Environment Agency also could not be certain but suggested the black substance looked like fossilised wood, which may have washed ashore having been churned up from deeper water by the recent rough weather.

However beachgoers are also being advised to look out for oil deposits from an oil spill off the Isle of Wight before Christmas.

A spokesman said: "If we hadn't seen this picture we would have probably thought this was from the Isle of Wight. We are expecting pieces to wash up along the Sussex cost and it could reach as far as Brighton and Hove.

"However, this doesn't look oily and there are some large woody pieces.

"The duty manager for the area is an expert and he reckons this might be fossilised wood.

"When you get storms they are sometimes dredged up and washed ashore."

It is also possible the charred wood could be remains of the burnt West pier resurrected from their watery grave.

The Environment Agency said the deposits were unlikely to be harmful, but urged anyone with any concerns over anything found on the beach they should report them.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency is monitoring the coastline for any harmful debris from an oil spill off the Isle of Wight on December 20.