Permanently damaged landscapes are not something I want to be writing about but with England’s coastal landscape changing at a rapid rate, not just because of the normal coastal erosion but through an increase in the number of landslides caused by consistent heavy rain it is important that those changes are recorded.
The UK experienced several months of above-average rainfall from April to December 2012 with 165 landslides reported; making it one of the wettest periods of time for most of the country since meteorological records began. Throughout this period, and into early 2013, a marked increase in the number of landslides was widely reported and continue to this day with one as recent as October where a fossil hunter was trapped up to his waist at Port Mulgrave on the North Yorkshire coast.
During my photo trips I have seen many examples of changes to the landscape either by landslip and/or coastal erosion. Many of those locations are changing forever never to be seen again. The images are not always the most attractive of landscapes to capture but in my opinion are worthy of a place in any landscape photographers portfolio. Although there are many locations that are affected two that I have noticed particularly on my travels have been on the East Anglia and Isle of Wight coasts. My last trip to East Anglia was in 2012 and prior to that in 2006 and there are images from both visits below.
Above is Benacre Sands, Suffolk captured in 2006 including one of the most famous and photographed dead trees in East Anglia which I believe as now gone forever. This is one of the fastest eroding stretches of coastline in Britain. Remains of numerous dead trees are littering the beach and the causeway that separates the North Sea from Benacre Broad. The trees started their lives growing several hundred yards inland and are now being systematically killed by the salt spray of the ever encroaching North Sea. The coastline here has retreated for more than 500 metres between 1830 and 2001. Suffolk’s coastline is changing all the time and always has done but at Covehithe, near Southwold, 30ft of cliffs have been lost in one single tide.
A location which I visited on both trips was Happisburgh and the difference in the space of six years is just amazing and is best shown by the image below. This staircase was originally attached to a bridge connected to the land but due to the continuing erosion of the land the bridge has been removed leaving the staircase rising into the sky with no purpose. The sign on the staircase at the top which no doubt was in place before the bridge was removed states “No Admittance” which I thought was quiet amusing and led to the title.
Moving on now to my visit to the Isle of Wight in 2013 and an image of Luccombe Chine, the one area which I saw the most affected by the then recent landslips. Luccombe Chine is a wooded coastal ravine south of the village of Luccombe. The Chine is at the eastern end of the island Undercliff landslip. A small fishing community existed at the foot of the Chine until 1910, when the settlement was destroyed by a landslip. This image shows the effect of the landslips with the steps down to Luccombe Bay now completely destroyed.
To gain access to Luccombe Chine and the Bay you now have to walk along the beach from Shanklin. Horse Ledge is the point, at the bottom of Knock Cliff, that separates Sandown Bay from Luccombe as the coastline turns south-west and heads for Ventnor. This tree certainly got here via a landslip some considerable time ago, the root is well weathered by the sun and sea and its trunk firmly embedded in the breakwater.
If you have any interest in seeing the best and wilder side of England’s coastal scenery, there is no better time than now, because if you leave it much longer in certain areas of the country there will no longer be the opportunity.