Isle of Wight Council

15 Aug 2022

Beware of rock falls amid heatwave

Visitors to the coast are being urged to stay away from cliff bases and edges due to an increased risk of rock falls.

The Isle of Wight Council said people should not under-estimate the risks they are taking when they stand on top of cliffs or walk directly underneath them.

In extreme temperatures, the risk of rockfalls along the Island's 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. Heavy rainfall forecast this week could also weaken the cliffs, with potential for further rock falls.

The Isle of Wight is famous for its spectacular coastline, which is constantly eroding and moving. This erosion process can be devastating if people are sat underneath them.

Councillor Karen Lucioni, Cabinet member for public protection, said: "Rock falls and landslides are unpredictable and can happen at any time, but we do know which conditions make them more likely, and prolonged hot and dry spells are one of them.

"We would encourage everyone to stay away from the base of cliffs, and if you are walking along the coast paths, keep well away from the edges. It is easy to enjoy the Island's beautiful coast without putting yourself or others at risk."

The Island's coastline has a number of areas with an increased potential for rockfalls, particularly at Yaverland and along the south west coast at Brook and Compton.

The Coastguard has issued the following advice for beachgoers:
• Do not sit under the cliffs.
• Keep children off the rock falls and mud slides.
• Keep dogs on leads so that they do not go exploring.
• Do not climb or go near the rock falls for the sake of a 'selfie' — your life is worth more than a photo.

Councillor Jonathan Bacon, Cabinet member for coastal management, said it was important for people to heed the warnings.

"People come from far and wide to enjoy our coastline, but the beauty hides many dangers," he said.

“Rocks can and do fall from above without warning, and you will be in danger of getting crushed or trapped.

"As well as this, if you’re walking on the clifftop, you can’t see cracks and overhangs beneath you. Chalk, particularly, is very unstable and can crumble without warning.

“We want everyone to enjoy our beautiful coastline, but to do so safely and be aware of the dangers.”

Catherine Pennington, landslide specialist at the British Geological Survey, said: "Our coast is a dynamic environment that is changing all the time and the potential threat to human life is very real.

"Our advice is: take notice of warning signs and avoid going directly under, or on top of cliffs, no matter how tempting it might be."

If you see someone in danger on or near cliffs, call 999 immediately and ask for the coastguard.

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A rock fall at Chale Terrace
A rock fall at Chale Terrace
Factfile
  • In extreme temperatures, the risk of rockfalls along the Island's coastline is even greater than usual.
  • If you see someone in danger on or near cliffs, call 999 immediately and ask for the coastguard.
 
Isle of Wight, UK