BEACHGOERS have been warned to stay away from the base of cliffs in west Dorset after a 50-yard long crack appeared near the coastal path.

This picture, taken by Bridport resident Doug Chalk, is of a crack 50-yards deep on the cliff face above west beach in West Bay that has now been cordoned off by authorities.

The crack, which is about two-foot wide in places and above the promenade, has appeared on what is an unstable section of the Jurassic Coast, with a number of large rock falls and landslides occurring in recent years.

Now, ahead of an influx of tourists for the half-term holiday and bank holiday next week, beachgoers have been warned to stay away from the area as the cliff could fall “at any moment.”

Mr Chalk, who owns Aperture Photographics, took the picture as he was walking along the coast on Friday.

He said: “It’s directly above the promenade at West Bay, but it’s away from the coastal path.

“It has sort of been roped off to create a barrier for the public, but when I was up there people were just jumping past the rope and not paying attention to it.

“It’s going to be a massive fall when it happens. I’ve seen cracks in cliffs before in Lyme Regis, but this one was a bit of a shocker because it is right over the beach and people need to stay away.

“When it does fall it’s going to be big and could quite easily be fatal if people are underneath it, it’s going to be a few hundred tonnes at the least.”

Coastguards have been alerted to the crack and Richard Edmonds, earth science manager at the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, said: “I think it’s a crack that was left over from the big fall that happened about two years ago. It is quite a big one but I don’t think there has been any fresh movement there for a while.

“It may fall tomorrow or it may fall in two or three years, it could happen at any moment but it is eventually going to fall and it will come crashing to the beach in a dramatic fashion, it will certainly be a big one.

“I’m going to speak to Dorset County Council today (Monday) and hopefully get some more signs there to tell people to stay away from the area and from the base of the cliffs “My advice is one that I always stay, which is at all times stay away from the edge of the cliffs and stay away from the base of the cliffs near the beach because it will come down at some point and it could be very dangerous.”