Beachgoers dice with death under danger cliffs

TAKE CARE: Safety fears for people sitting on the beach too close to the cliffs

TAKE CARE: Safety fears for people sitting on the beach too close to the cliffs

First published in News
Last updated
Dorset Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Senior Reporter

BEACHGOERS are dicing with death by picnicking under unstable cliffs.

A West Bay resident said he was ‘shocked and stunned’ when he saw the groups lying under cliffs just yards from a recent rockfall.

Coastal experts say that the cliffs could collapse at any moment and that people are putting their lives at risk.

Earth science manager for Dorset County Council Richard Edmonds said cliff falls can happen with ‘no warning at all’.

He added: “The consequences can be devastating. We all remember what happened to Charlotte Blackman in the summer of 2012.”

Miss Blackman was killed when she was buried underneath a massive rockfall on the beach near Burton Bradstock.

The resident took the photograph on the right to raise awareness of the dangers of getting too close to the cliffs.

He said: “If they had just been walking around you could understand it, but they were sitting there for a long time, enjoying the beach and obviously had no clue how much danger they were in.

“I think they were holidaymakers and there were children there.

“A lot of people do know about the dangers but I wanted to speak out just to make everyone aware.”

He added: “It can be difficult to go up to someone you don’t know and tell them they are in a dangerous situation but because this is such a tourist destination there are a lot of visitors who do not have the local knowledge of how risky it is.”

Mr Edmonds said the beachgoers had taken an ‘unnecessary risk’ by sitting under the cliffs.

He said: “The falls are quite infrequent, but having said that there has been some extreme weather this winter so it is a stupid thing to do.

“What we have learned in the past two years is that they appear to happen with little or no warning at all.

“You also have to remember that it does not have to be a big rockfall. All it takes is a single rock falling from a height and that can do some very serious damage.”

The risk is worst after extreme weather when the sea batters the bottom of the cliffs, Mr Edmonds added, such as the storms earlier this year.

“If you take away the base of the cliff, the overhang is the most dangerous part because there is nothing to support it.

“I think there were six or seven cliff falls between Fresh-water Beach and Burton Bradstock after this winter’s storms.”

Simon Parker, county emergency planning officer for Dorset, urged people to heed warning signs.

He said: “As a public agency we are doing everything we can to ensure people’s safety but beachgoers have to pay attention to the signs and look after themselves.

“If people don’t take responsibility for themselves there’s nothing we can do.”

A plan is in place to ensure all agencies are able to respond immediately in case of a landslip.

Mr Parker added that while the authorities had considered closing the beaches, this would be ‘impossible’ in practice.

Comments (7)

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6:03am Thu 1 May 14

MrTomSmith says...

They are either safe or not. Obviously not safe, so they should be closed.
It is that simple. I tell you why it's "impossible" Mr Parker. Closing them is dreadful for business, whereas warning signs are not so bad. Thats the reality like it or not, they are not being closed but it would drive people away.
They are either safe or not. Obviously not safe, so they should be closed. It is that simple. I tell you why it's "impossible" Mr Parker. Closing them is dreadful for business, whereas warning signs are not so bad. Thats the reality like it or not, they are not being closed but it would drive people away. MrTomSmith
  • Score: 1

6:43am Thu 1 May 14

mark@greenhill says...

Natural selection ?
Natural selection ? mark@greenhill
  • Score: 11

8:33am Thu 1 May 14

westbaywonder says...

Wheres the Harbor master?
Would not hurt him to get off his back side once in a while ,get in to his citizen financed vehicle and go to that area of the beach!!
Wheres the Harbor master? Would not hurt him to get off his back side once in a while ,get in to his citizen financed vehicle and go to that area of the beach!! westbaywonder
  • Score: -13

8:48am Thu 1 May 14

JackJohnson says...

There's been plenty in the news to warn beachgoers that cliffs can, and do, collapse. Except where it's imminent no-one can say when part of a cliff will do so.

There can be no more prominent warning sign than a pile of fresh, unweathered rubble from a recent fall.

Darwin lives on. His victims don't. His impact on humanity may be unpleasant when he strikes but, ultimately, he makes the surviving gene pool stronger.
There's been plenty in the news to warn beachgoers that cliffs can, and do, collapse. Except where it's imminent no-one can say when part of a cliff will do so. There can be no more prominent warning sign than a pile of fresh, unweathered rubble from a recent fall. Darwin lives on. His victims don't. His impact on humanity may be unpleasant when he strikes but, ultimately, he makes the surviving gene pool stronger. JackJohnson
  • Score: 4

9:44am Thu 1 May 14

IDONTKNOWIFITISTRRUE says...

It is not the lives of the idiots that worry me, it is the risk to those unfortunate to have to try to retrieve the bodies after the rockfall has happened.
It is not the lives of the idiots that worry me, it is the risk to those unfortunate to have to try to retrieve the bodies after the rockfall has happened. IDONTKNOWIFITISTRRUE
  • Score: 9

10:58am Thu 1 May 14

shy talk says...

Simon Parker said: “As a public agency we are doing everything we can to ensure people’s safety but beachgoers have to pay attention to the signs and look after themselves. If people don’t take responsibility for themselves there’s nothing we can do.”

Hit the nail right on the head, well said that man. The case of Charlotte Blackman death reflects this statement. Her father who was also rescued along with Charlotte’s boy friend. Her father went on later to criticize the rescue services for being to slow despite the risk of further rock falls.

With any rescue attempt the first priority is the safety and risk to the personal attempting the rescue. You do not what further unnecessary injuries or deaths.

The rescue service are not fools and do not rush in.
Simon Parker said: “As a public agency we are doing everything we can to ensure people’s safety but beachgoers have to pay attention to the signs and look after themselves. If people don’t take responsibility for themselves there’s nothing we can do.” Hit the nail right on the head, well said that man. The case of Charlotte Blackman death reflects this statement. Her father who was also rescued along with Charlotte’s boy friend. Her father went on later to criticize the rescue services for being to slow despite the risk of further rock falls. With any rescue attempt the first priority is the safety and risk to the personal attempting the rescue. You do not what further unnecessary injuries or deaths. The rescue service are not fools and do not rush in. shy talk
  • Score: 16

5:53pm Thu 1 May 14

Sigurd Hoeberth says...

mark@greenhill wrote:
Natural selection ?
Exactly my attitude. One clear sign should be enough, no "enforcement" costing tax payers money, no Nanny state rhubarb. Anyone with a brain cell in their head need only look at those cliffs and would know instinctively that they are clearly unstable,. If anyone is that stupid they cannot figure that for themselves they should not get any sympathy.

I am sick of oppressive law after oppressive law, rules after rules like living in North sodding Korea all because the State we live under is full of zombie civil servants and politicians bolstering their power on the backs of the weak and stupid. I love going abroad to places where common sense and "at your own foolish risk" is still practiced.
[quote][p][bold]mark@greenhill[/bold] wrote: Natural selection ?[/p][/quote]Exactly my attitude. One clear sign should be enough, no "enforcement" costing tax payers money, no Nanny state rhubarb. Anyone with a brain cell in their head need only look at those cliffs and would know instinctively that they are clearly unstable,. If anyone is that stupid they cannot figure that for themselves they should not get any sympathy. I am sick of oppressive law after oppressive law, rules after rules like living in North sodding Korea all because the State we live under is full of zombie civil servants and politicians bolstering their power on the backs of the weak and stupid. I love going abroad to places where common sense and "at your own foolish risk" is still practiced. Sigurd Hoeberth
  • Score: 5

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