Holidaymakers heading to the south coast of the UK this summer may have to worry about more than topping up on suncream. Within the past fortnight, two cliffs have collapsed – and now experts are warning visitors to take extra precautions.
Part of Sidmouth cliff in Devon collapsed on Monday and was the second landslide to take place along the Jurassic Coast in just two weeks.
Dorset Council has issued a warning asking beachgoers to take extra care, while the East Devon Police have told the public not to walk on the beach east of Sidmouth because the unstable cliffs overhangs could suddenly collapse. One geologist said the south coast was the most vulnerable to collapse due to its cliffy landscape and that beachgoers should abide by official guidance.
The cliffs have been agitated by the hot weather conditions this summer, as the UK hit record temperatures of 40C in July. Meanwhile, this week’s so-called ‘super heatwave’ is set to reach 36C and continue into next week.
But the end of the heatwave doesn't necessarily mean that the cliffs will be safe to walk underneath again. Other experts have warned that intense, heavy rainfall following the heatwave could also weaken the cliffs, with potential for further rocks becoming detached and falling off the cliff edge.
A spokesperson for Dorset Council said: ‘In extreme temperatures, the risk of rock falls along Dorset’s World Heritage coastline is even greater than usual. Heat causes rocks to expand and, particularly during temperature fluctuations, any pre-existing cracks can widen and new cracks can also form. This makes cliffs potentially more unstable and rock falls more likely to happen.’
For more guidance about cliff safety during the ‘super heatwave’, read Dorset Council’s official advice here.