West, Ian M. 2019. Barton, Highcliffe and Christchurch Bay - History of and Future of Coast Erosion and Sea Defences: Geology of the Wessex Coast of southern England. Internet site: http://www.soton.ac.uk/~imw/Barton-Erosion-History.htm. Version: restored 1st April 2013, then updated - later additions 2018, minor correction re date and Edward 1st - 6th of April 2019.
Barton, Highcliffe and Christchurch Bay - History of Coast Erosion and Sea Defences, Geology of the Wessex Coast by Dr Ian West

Ian West,

Romsey, Hampshire
and Visiting Scientist at:
Faculty of Natural and Environmental Sciences,
Southampton University,

Webpage hosted by courtesy of iSolutions, Southampton University
Aerial photographs by courtesy of The Channel Coastal Observatory , National Oceanography Centre, Southampton.

Home and List of Webpages |Field Guides Introduction |Barton and Highcliffe - General |Barton and Highcliffe - Coast Erosion and Sea Defences, General |Highcliffe, Barton and Hordle - Bibliography |Hengistbury Head |Hordle Cliff and Milford-on-Sea |New Forest Geology |Lepe Beach |Hurst Spit |Solent Estuaries - Introduction |Storms and Hurricane on the English Channel coast

For more on Barton and Highcliffe see also associated webpages
Barton-on-Sea and Highcliffe - Geological Field Guide

Coast Erosion and Sea Defences at Barton-on-Sea and Highcliffe


Start of cliff-top landslide at Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, as seen on the 18th May 2008

A cliff-top landslide at Hoskin's Gap West, Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, as seen on 29th May 2008

Erosion at Highcliffe, Dorset from 1790 to 1856 as shown by the relationship of the cliff edge and original Highcliffe Castle

Terminal Groyne Syndrome effect, a new collapse of the Barton Sand in the cliff just east of the eastern end of the Barton sea defences near Becton Bunny, between Barton-on-Sea and Hordle Cliff, Hampshire, southern England, 22nd February 2018


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Barton and Highcliffe - Coast Erosion and Sea Defences, General

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Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire

See Barton-on-Sea location on zoomable Bing aerial photographs and maps. See also Google Earth.

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Safety (regarding Barton and Highcliffe coasts in general)

In particular be aware of the risks of becoming stuck in soft mud. This is a major risk at Barton and Highcliffe. Be aware that the cliff tops are often overhanging and they should not be approached closely. Cliff falls may occur on rare occasions from parts of the cliff, including the cliff top. Beware of any danger associated with sea-defence works such as loose, moving rock, projecting metal work, machinery etc. and do not climb on unsafe structures. Individual geological visitors and field leaders should make their own risk assessments and no liability is accepted.

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The Flandrian Transgression and Flooding of the English Channel

To understand the history of the coast around Barton and Highcliffe it is necessary to look at the broad picture of sea level rising progressively since the end of the last ice age (Devensian) round about 10,000 years ago.

A plot of indicators of former sea levels so as to show the sea-level rise over the last 9000 years in southeast England, modified after Devoy (1982)

Christchurch Bay is a relatively young product of the continuing development of the English Channel as sea-level rises. As can be seen from the diagram it has risen at a more rapid rate in the past, but in recent millenia it has only risen quite slowly (about 1 or 2 mm per annum. The rate has increased recently to about 4 or 5 mm per annum. Obviously the rate of rise in the future and thus the rate of expansion of Christchurch is very uncertain. The table below provides some approximate guide, but is likely to modified as more becomes known about global warming and rising sea level.

Future sea level rise estimates for the Wessex coast

The table here is from this publication by IPCC. It provides an indication of possible rates of sea level rise over the next hundred years. Something like half a metre of relative sea level rise seems probable in this region, but the real figure could be higher. There is some local downwarping in the Wessex area resulting from isostatic rebound (melting of the ice in the north, with uplift in northern UK, and downwarping in the south). This increases the relative rate of sea level rise in the local area.

With the long term, English Channel history in mind, we can consider details of the local history of the coast with regard to human records.

1366 - Severe Erosion at Highcliffe

To judge from the following historical record in Samuel (undated), there seems to have been great land loss in the 14th century. Wallace (1999) suggested that from 1250 to 1425 there was a rapid rise in sea-level and tidal maximum causing great land loss along the South Coast of England and in the Netherlands.

Because of severe coast at Highcliffe, adjacent to the Chewton Bunny, Christchurch priory provided 40 acres compensation for land loss to local villeins. The loss must have been at least 40 acres within an easily memorable time. An acre is about 4000 square metres. If a strip 2 acres wide and 20 acres long was lost then the erosion would have been about 126 metres landward. If the strip was one acre wide and 40 acres long then the erosion would have been about 63 metres. These would be minimum figures. If the time was say 10 years then the erosion rate would have been at least 6 metres per annum, which is about 6 times the figure for the maximum erosion rate in Christchurch Bay in recent times. It could have been more than this.

A summary of the information is quoted below. The full document is a manuscript in the British Library - T16, part II, Folio 38a. It is in Latin, but a historian might be able to obtain from it a clearer picture of the ravages of the sea at that time.

[Because of major loss of land around Highcliffe by coastal erosion of Barton Clay -] "Christchurch Priory has granted its villeins of South Chewton forty acres in lots to the west of Chewton Mill in the thirty-first year of King Edward's reign (1303), in return for which the men have paid two marks as entry fee and are renting each acre at two-pence payable annually at the Feast of St. Giles: therefore they are not to be charged because of these acres, but neither are they to be excused from services which they did before this present concession; they may never claim compensation from the Priory for any of their land waste by the sea, nor relief from gifts previously owing by custom to the Priory: and if it is necessary to move their homes owing to marine devastation the men agree to rebuild at their own expense on the forty acres.

1587 - Richard Popinjay's Map

Part of Richard Popinjay's map of 1587, showing the coast of Poole Bay and Christchurch, Dorset and Hampshire, southern England

Richard Popinjay prepared a sketch map of the Isle of Wight, Hampshire and Dorset defences in 1587, one year before the Spanish Armada. There is a text dealing with the mustering of the militia at various points along the coast (James, 1986). Some aspects relevent to the coast of Christchurch Bay and Poole Bay are as follows:

"From Hurst to Chewton Bonnye for the most parte reasonable landing in faire wethers with smale boates. But yf the wynd blowe harde most dangerous because there is no harbor... From Chewton Bonnye to Christchurch haven mouthe, lykee landinge with the like or mo[re] daungers for their shippinge... From Christchurch Haven to Boarne moute for the most parte good landinge with smale boates, and their shipping maye safely Ryde with half A myle of the Shoare in greate number.."

1595 - John Norden's Map

Part of John Norden's 1595 map of Hampshire, showing the former location of Hordle village on the coast of Christchurch Bay before it was eroded away by the sea

John Norden's 1595 map of "Hamshire", engraved by W. Hole in 1607, shows the village of Hordwell (Hordle) on the coast near Christchurch Bay. This original Hordle village is known to have been eroded away by the sea at a later date. The church was dismantled and removed. Nash and Taddiford are "Ordinarie houses" according to the legend of the map.

1654 Old maps of this date were seen by Burton (1931). The end of Mudeford Spit was opposite the ferry at Mudeford Quay.

1695 - Robert Morden's Map of Hampshire

Part of Robert Morden's map of Hampshire, 1695, showing the Christchurch Bay area

This is Robert Morden's map of 1695. It is partly after John Norden's map but with some modification. The coast is shown as almost the same with the locations of Nash and Hordle on the cliff top. The Black cliffe is presumably a reference to the cliffs of Barton Clay. It seems unlikely that Christchurch should be so little embayed at this date, and this is probably an error. There may well have been a phase when Christchurch Bay and Poole Bay were one broad embayment but it would been long before this time. Hurst Spit is shown a little more realistically than on Norden's map and a recurve is shown. It does not seem to be to scale though and is shown very wide.

1703 - 24th November - Daniel Defoe's Storm

The famous 1703 storm was very severe and produced some changes in the Solent coastline. It is not known what happened at Barton or Highcliffe, but because of the effect on Hurst Castle Spit, it almost certain that there was severe erosion of the Barton Clay cliffs.

Daniel Defoe in about 1705 gave an account of the storm, and his book is entitled:

"A Collection of the Most Remarkable Casualties Disasters which happen'd in the Late Dreadful Tempest both by Sea and Land on Friday the Twenty-fixth of November, Seventeen Hundred and Three. To which is added Several Suprising Deliverances. The Natural Causes and Original of Winds. Of the Opinion of the Ancients that this Island was More Subject to Storms than Other Parts of the World. With Several Other Curious Observations upon the Storm. The Whole Divided into Chapters under Proper Headings."

Here are some notes based on the book:

Wednesday, 24th November, 1703. This was the start of storm and the mercury was abnormally low. The wind direction was SW by S or near south in the beginning, but veered WSW towards the end. There were uncofirmed reports of an earthquake. The spring tide was high at 4 am when the storm was blowing. The storm went on for several days and changed the mouth of the Beaulieu Estuary. Defoe commented that "a prodigious tide happen'd the next day but one, and was occasion'd by the fury of the winds." "By the flowing of the sea over Hurst Beach, two salterns were almost ruin'd belonging to one Mr. Perkins", as was reported by Mr James Baker of Lymington in 1704.

1757 - Erosion of Fossiliferous Cliffs (and anomalously thick gravel)

"This Cliff is in perpendicular height about fify yards from the sea, at high water mark and extends about a mile and a half along shore; it is composed chiefly of red gravel, to about 18 or 20 yards below the surface [anomalously thick, but perhaps mistakenly including the Barton Sand], but amongst the gravel very few shells or remains of marine bodies are to be found.

In many parts of the Cliff there are large veins, or rather masses, of a mouldering soft blue clay, through land springs are continually trickling down, which by degrees loosens the clay and causes it to slide away in great beds, one below another, and the frost may not a little contribute to this effect. So that the surface has in a few years been greatly worn away.

When the fall of this Cliff happens there then found perhaps the greatest variety both of the turbinated and bivalve shells that were ever met with in any one place in the world, in their original state, and have suffered no change for innumerable ages past, this so remarkable a circumstance may be dayly verified by inspecting the cabinets of the curious.

Many of the shells are the natural inhabitants of very distant regions, and some of them entirely unknown, either in their natural or fossil state.

towards the bottom of this Cliff there are frequently found large nodules of a hard reddish ironstone or marble [this is the Shell Bed or Stone Band (G) at the top of the Barton Clay], being no other than an entire mass of shells, with which the church [presumably the church at the original cliff top village of Hordle, now destroyed by the sea] and other edifices are built."

Anonymous letter to Mr. S. Urban in the Gentlemans Magazine, vol. 27, 1757, pp. 64-65. It describes "Hordel-Cliff in the parish of Hampshire, .. situated on the sea coast between Lymington and Christchurch" but it is an account of the cliffs at Barton-on-Sea, a place which at that time was not on the sea coast and not important. The Barton cliffs at this time were just an uninhabited extension to the west of Hordle Cliff. This was of relative importance because of the existence of the original Hordle Village where there were houses and a church (see the map below). Later, after coast erosion and destruction of the village, a new Hordle Village, the present one, was built well inland. The coastal church was demolished and a new church built at the new village.

1759 - Isaac Taylor Map

Part of Isaac Taylor's 1759 map of Christchurch Bay, Hampshire

1760s - Highcliffe - Major Loss of Land

Drastic coast erosion took place at Highcliffe. Here is the record according to (Dale, 1914) :

"The history of Highcliffe begins with John, third Earl of Bute, the well-known minister of George III, who was purchaser of the estate. The site of the house he built was said by the present owner of the property, in the evidence he gave before the Royal Commission on Coast Erosion some years ago to be now two miles out to sea. .... The rapid advances of the sea were a great source of trouble to Lord Bute. The falling of the cliff went on at such a rate that the people on the estate dared not tell him of it. The path which ran by the cliffs was constantly disappearing and in order to keep him ignorance of it all the men on the estate were kept at hand while he was at his house to make a new path at the cliff edge in case he should desire to walk that way, so that he might believe that the new path was the old one. Highcliffe was bequeathed to his fourth son, Charles, who found the expense and annoyance ot the landslips so intolerable that he sold the estate to a Mr. Penleaze."

(Comments: Two miles (just over 3 km) to the south would take the old coastline to a point a little south of the end of Hengistbury Head. Although this is not necessarily impossible, since that headland has much retreated and has previously extended in the direction of Christchurch Ledge, it does seem extreme. It suggests a local rate of coast erosion of about 20 metres or more per annum! About one metre per annum in Christchurch Bay is quite normal in natural conditions but it can be locally higher to two or three times that rate. An order of magnitude greater, though, is certainly not easily explained. Complications at Highcliffe resulting from the outfall channel (the Run) of Christchurch Harbour approaching the cliff and accentuating erosion are referred to below ((Burton, 1931). Even if two miles is an exaggeration clearly a large part of Christchurch Bay has been lost since about the 1760s. Note that at the far eastern end of the bay Hurst Castle has been a relatively fixed point from the time of Henry VIII (16 century).

To see the claim of such large coastal retreat in perspective, it is appropriate to consider other parts of the nearby south coast. Wallace (1990) refers to the loss of 300 to 400 metres from both flanks of Selsey Bill between 1778 and the preparation of modern maps. This gives a coastal retreat rate there of about 2 metres per annum. If the rate at Highcliffe was about three times times this, then it may have resulted from special circumstance connected with the Run, the outflow channel from Christchurch Harbour, and changes at Hengistbury Head. The loss of one mile, about 1.5 km, seems possible, but the claim of two miles is something of a mystery.

1785 - Admiralty Chart

The Admiralty Chart of Lt. Murdock Mackenzie, two inches to one mile, 1785, was discussed by Burton (1931). The end of Mudeford Spit was within a hundred metres SE of the Haven Houses, Mudeford Quay. The width of Run was 90 yards at high tide. There was a considerable expanse of sand on both sides of the entrance, and stretching seaward for as much as 260 yards at the widest point. The opening at low water has a width of 300 yards. The sand on the north side extends only half-way to Steamer Lodge, but on the south it extends not only as far as Hengistbury Head but actually round its southeast corner. Perhaps there was active sand supply at the time from the eroding, Bournemouth sand cliffs.

1784 - Battle of Mudeford

Two smuggling luggers, loaded with tea and brandy, were approaching Christchurch Harbour at Mudeford. The sloop-of-war HMS Orestes arrived off Beerpan Rocks, Hengistbury Head at 6am. About 300 people were involved bringing the goods ashore at Mudeford and transporting them away on waggons drawn by 300 horses. There was a fierce battle from 6 in the morning until 9 in the evening. Many shots were fired from small arms and cannon. The smugglers scraped out a breastwork in the sand-dunes for defence (Morley, 1994). It is quite likely that much sand was available there at that time because extensive shoals of sand are shown near Steamer Point on the map of Isaac Taylor (1759) and much sand is recorded in the area, as mentioned above, on the Admiralty Chart for 1785.

1791 - Thomas Milne - Map of Hampshire

Part of Thomas Milne's 1791 map showing part of Hampshire including Christchurch Bay and Barton-on-Sea

1810 - Barton - Map

Modified 1810 map of the Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, region with the approximate extent of coastal recession to the present shown

This 1810 map of Barton and Highcliffe shows Barton Court at a relatively inland position. Notice the loop of the road from Barton Lane to Barton Court.

1818 - 4th-5th March - Storm Surge

A storm and storm surge hit the eastern parts of the Solent. It is not know what effect if any this had in Christchurch Bay.

"The gale hit Portsmouth a few hours before high tide was due and the force of the wind drove the flood tide towards Portsea Island.. The flood drove inshore and soon the water was two feet deep in Broad Street. By 9 pm. the sea had risen feet feet above the level of normal spring tides, and, at that level, stayed for more than three hours. ..All Portsmouth and the greater part of Portsea Island were flooded and at Southsea a mile long breach was torn in the shingle bank. Horsea Island vanished under the waves.. The water squeezed through the narrow part of the harbour entrance, and between Round Tower and Point, swept entire buildings away."

On the Isle of Wight there was damage to the lower parts of Cowes and Ryde. Ryde's new pier was demolished. (Davison et al. 1993). At the Chesil Beach there was a shipwreck. The storm also affected other areas in Britain including Nottingham, Leicester, Mansfield ( Mansfield in the News 1818 .) and the Isle of Man. Manx Annals - Eighty Years Ago:

1826 - Greenwood's Map

Part of Greenwood's map of 1826 showing Christchurch Bay and Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire

1840 - November - Hurricane Breached Hurst Spit

There is a record in the diary of Col. Peter Hawker (Payne-Galloway, 1893) that a hurricane breached Hurst Spit on the 13th November 1840. Similar trouble occurred on 15 and 18th of November, 1840.

In the 1840s to 1850s good vertebrate remains including those of the Hampshire Alligator, Diplocynodon hantoniensis were being found at Hordle cliff by the collectors for the Marchioness of Hastings (see Hordle Cliff webpage).

1850 - Barton - Map with Coastguard Station

Redrawn map of part of the Barton-on-Sea coast, based on a map from about 1850

By about 1850 steady coast erosion seems to have taken place at Barton, perhaps at or somewhat above the usual one metre per annum. There has been little development on cliff top, except for the old coastguard station. Barton Court is still some distance from the sea, although, as the map above shows, the loop of road to the southwest has now been truncated by coast erosion. The coastguard station, which had not been long built had become threatened by collapse of the cliff and had been abandoned.

The cliff seems to have been eroding in a fairly uniform manner. This was, however, some indentation near the abandoned coastguard station and this may have been produced by a large mudslide (like the Cliff House Hotel Landslide, which has recently developed near here).

Barton at this time is a famous fossil-collecting locality. The rich fossil discoveries preserved in the Dent Collection at Bournemouth Natural Science Society and made by the coastguard, Mr Dent, suggest that there was appreciable sea-erosion of the fossil beds.

1856 - The Original Highcliffe Castle and the Marchioness of Waterford's Sea Defences

Erosion at Highcliffe, Dorset from 1790 to 1856 as shown by the relationship of the cliff edge and original Highcliffe Castle

An brief account of problems at Highcliffe that concerned the Marchioness of Waterford (artist - b1818-d1891) who owned the Highcliffe Estate is given by Dale (1914):

Louisa, Marchioness of Waterford, living at Highcliffe Castle, attempted to reduce the perennial problem of the Highcliffe Estate - the erosion of the cliff by the sea (Dale, 1914). A major factor was the river outflow from Christchurch Harbour. This was running close to the cliffs increased the rate of erosion. Lady Waterford thus ordered the placing near the Castle of blocks of limestone, and even "granite-porphyry", with the addition of slabs of the "Shell Bed" or "Stone Bed" from the base of the Becton Sand (Barton Sands) (Burton, 1931). The blocks were there in 1880. The objective was to turn the extended course of the Run outward rather than directly restraining the action of the sea (West, 1885). The groyne was eventually destroyed and by 1931 only a few of the stones were visible at low tide (Burton, 1931). Recognising that the erosion at Highcliffe was caused in part by the waterlogging the soil causing landslides, the debris from which the sea then removed, Lady Waterford had drains dug the land water down to the beach so as leave the undercliff dry. She spent much money on her early coastal defence scheme. The owner in 1914, who had inherited Highcliffe from her, said in his evidence to the Royal Commission that if this had been done 100 years ago he would at that time have had an additional mile of property.

1867-1982 - Milford-on-Sea and Hurst Spit - Coastal Recession

Milford, Hampshire, as shown on a geological map of 1895

Coastal recession at Hurst Spit, Hampshire, from 1867-1982, after Nicholls and Webber, 1987

An aerial photograph of the relatively low coastal area at Milford-on-Sea at the southeastern end of Christchurch Bay Hordle Cliff, Hampshire, and adjacent to the formerly retreating Hurst Spit

The maximum recession rate at Hurst Spit has been 1.5 metres per annum according to Nicholls and Webber (1987). This somewhat exceeds the normal average rate for Barton of about 1 metre per annum. I have not made a detailed study of the maps but it is possible that the erosion was a little slower at Milford-on-Sea compared to Hurst Spit. In general, though, there is little doubt that Milford-on-Sea and Hordle Cliff have been retreating, like Barton at an average rate of near 1 metre per annum. This is probably the usual rate for Christchurch Bay.

For comparison with older maps etc a modern aerial photograph (courtesy of the Channel Coastal Observatory) of the Milford-on-Sea area at the northwestern end of Hurst Spit is also shown. It is protected by sea defences (of varying types and heights) which are holding the area at the moment from continuing coast erosion.

1890s - Cliff Top at Barton

In the 1890s the Barton estates were sold and both farms cut up (Anonymous, undated - New Milton and Barton-on-Sea Official Guide). Access became much easier because the estate gates which blocked off the public from the sea were then removed. There were more sales of land from 1904-1907. A nine-hole golf course was constructed in 1897 along the cliff top east from Barton Court, which became an hotel, with big extensions that were pulled down in 1922. An inland golf blocked further development until 1932 when the present golf course was made.

1897 - March - Solent Storm

On Wednesday, 3rd March, 1897, a great storm caused devastation on the south coast and in the Solent (Davison et al. 1993).

1911 - November
Breakthrough of the Run southeast of Gundimore (White, 1917)

Two and half years after the opening in 1911, the end of the spit was a quarter of a mile further east (Ord, 1914).

After 1913 - Mudeford Spit Extension
The rate of extension if uninterrupted would have taken the end of Mudeford Spit almost to Highcliffe Castle by the 1930s. However there may have been another break, although Burton is not specific about this.

1914 - Highcliffe - Coastal Recession

Dale (1914) commented, with reference to Highcliffe, that: "The estimate that the sea takes on average from the land a yard [approx. 1 metre] a year is not an exaggeration. Some years it is much more, and within late years the mouth of the Avon has been completely altered... The river, which a few years ago ran under Highcliffe, is now separated from it by a great bank of sand and shingle, which means a reprieve for Highcliffe Castle. There is a tradition in the neighbourhood that these changes in the course of the river occur every twenty-seven years. The truth is that the work is to a certain degree cumulative, and is the result of the westerly winds and the constant drift of shingle which they cause."

1914-18 - Barton - Indian Huts

Granite obelisk to commemorate the estabishment of an Indian Troop Convalescent Depot at Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, in 1914

Mrs. White's Barton Court Hotel became a rest home for British troops. Hundreds of Indian troops convalesced in huts of the Indian Convalescent Depot built along the sea-front. The obelisk commemorates their stay under the care of army doctors. (Anonymous, undated - New Milton and Barton-on-Sea Official Guide).

1920s-30s - Bungalow Development

Major bungalow development took place at Barton (Anonymous, undated - New Milton and Barton-on-Sea Official Guide), changing it from a previously farming locality to a suburban area (it had only had 9 cottages in the 1860s). The housing development was, no doubt, a major reason for the construction of sea defences in the 1960s. The greensward on the cliff top seems to have been left as a relic of the farmland, and probably to give a safety margin in relation to coast erosion. It would have been rather larger in 1920 and might have seemed large enough. Now it is obvious that it should have been at least twice the original size.

As the maps show, some of the original lanes, such as Barton Lane and Dilly Lane became incorporated into the housing estate but many new roads were constructed. Even Barton Court Avenue has no old history. (Look up Google Earth and Google Maps on Barton-on-Sea for more information on the area).

1929 - Erosion on Mudeford Spit
Some erosion took place on the main part of Mudeford Spit in winter 1929. The sand dunes here were originally 16 feet (4.9m) to 20 feet (6m) high but had already been reduced by trampling by summer visitors. In 1929 prolonged and severe gales swept the coast and erosion of dunes took place on the harbour side. Many dunes were cut in half, leaving vegetation hanging from them (Burton, 1931).

1930s - Highcliffe to Mudeford

A old map of Mudeford Spit and the Run, Hengistbury Head, Bournemouth, Dorset, from the 1930s with some additional notes from 1957

The lagoon near Steamer Point, between Mudeford and Highcliffe, Hampshire, probably in about 1939, and having originated as a relic of a former channel of the Run

Go to the Hengistbury Head webpage for information on the history of Run at the western end of Christchurch Bay. It is relevant to former erosion of the cliffs at Highcliffe. The proximity of the Run has caused erosion at various times in the historic past

1936 - Barton Court area

A large scale map of the Barton Court area at Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, in 1936, for comparison with modern aerial photographs

The map above shows the state of the cliffs near Barton Court in 1936. The cliffs were in mainly natural and collapsed condition with some groynes on the beach. The buildings around Barton Court were still well back from the cliff edge. Incidently, the present golf course east of Barton was made in 1932.

1939-1945 - Second World War - Military Defences

Access to the beach was prohibited. Gun emplacements and tank defences of concrete were constructed (about 1940?). Relics of these can be seen on the coast which give an indication of the amount of erosion. Older sea defence protection works broke up.

1950s - Barton - steady erosion

The cliffs were eroding naturally and evenly but at a fast rate so that fossil collecting was good. See the photograph above. Bench sliding in the Barton Clay was widespread. The beach was relatively narrow and the sea was often in direct contact with the Barton Clay. At Barton Court and to the east of it the Chama Bed produced treacherous quicksands, in which from time to time people were stuck. These blue-grey sands and silts descended to the foreshore east of Barton and are still visible at sea-level the eastern end of the present sea-defences. Small blocks from the sideritic Stone Band or Shell Band was conspicuous features on the shore east of Barton. Pieces of the bed can still be found today on Hurst Castle Spit to which they have travelled from Barton in the past by longshore drift. This is not possible now.

1953 - Barton Coast Erosion

"The Cornfield Under the Waves

More storms, more heavy seas, more ferocious winds and more acute the plight of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight seaboard. With fresh landslips at Lymington, Milford and Barton, it became clear that more cliff-top cottages would soon be overwhelmed. Action was needed. The situation was desperate. One of the greatest trouble spots was at Barton-on-Sea, where houses, huts and gardens were being swallowed into the roaring surf with terrifying speed. In 1953 one householder lost his back garden, his garage and part of the foundations of his house. To make matters worse, property which disappeared over the cliff edge did not qualify for compensation from the local authorities. Insurance companies granted cover only under exceptional circumstances and at a phenomenal premium.

In October 1953, a reporter from the Hampshire County Magazine spoke to an inhabitant of Barton who pointed to the grey waters beyond the breakwaters and said: "My grandfather farmed that area - 55 years ago there was a cornfield there". As he spoke a pathway down to the beach collapsed. Posts and rails slithered down amid an avalanche of gravel and mud. More of Hampshire had disappeared. This, of course, was no new problem. For 5,000 years the south coast of England had been changing because of erosion. It was not sea erosion at Barton, but land erosion, caused by underground streams from the New Forest which were seeping through the topsoil, gravel and sand as far as the strata of clay. In days of great deluges, and there were many in the early fifties, underground rivers were formed. These were undermining the land, sending it crashing into the sea.

As tension along the coastal fringe mounted, the authorities estimated that a protection scheme for Lymington, Barton and Milford alone would cost £289,000. This could not be found, it would be necessary to ask Poole and Portsmouth to contribute, and it was unlikely they would help. In the meantime, the Borough Engineer for Lymington was advised to prepare a scheme to submit to Whitehall. The sea was making inroads at the rate of several yards a year. It was a slow, painful process but something had to be done to stop Hampshire crumbling into the waves."

[separate note in box]

"Patch-up operations costing thousands of pounds have been carried out over the years at Hurst Spit and Barton Cliffs but the authorities have always argued that putting enormous sums into coast protection and then seeing them washed out to I sea in the next severe storm is hardly a worthwhile investment. The most costly area has always been below Marine Drive and Sea Road at Barton where cracks in the undercliff have been followed by great landslides. Homes have disappeared over the edge and others have been threatened."

From an article by Davison et al. 1993, p. 98, based on a report in the Dorset County Magazine, October, 1953.

1960s (early 60s) - Naturally Eroding Cliffs

In the early 1960s the cliffs were not yet protected by sea defences. Fossil collecting was very good from Chewton Bunny, (then a very beautiful and undeveloped glen) eastward to the Chama Bed exposures and quicksands below Marine Drive East. The cliffs at Highcliffe west of Chewton Bunny were less well exposed and not eroding so fast. At Barton the recession of the cliff was between about 0.6 - 0.9m per annum.

1960s - Barton - Coastal Protection Plans
Sir William Halcrow and Partners planned coast protection works. These involved steel sheet piling and drainage schemes. Later, these failed extensively in the central Barton seafront area (and are still failing), but survived further east, under Marine Drive East. Fairly or unfairly, the 1960s works have been much criticised in later reports, partly for not being deep enough and partly for not dealing satisfactorily with drainage problems. However, there were land ownership difficulties (the cliffs retreat into private land) and the scheme had to deal with a dipping sand/clay boundary. It was obviously not an easy matter. It should be noted, too, that the later landslides have reduced the artificial urban embankment aspect of the Barton cliffs; they have to some extent returned to their wild and natural coastal appearance.

1964 - Timber and Drainage
- Timber groynes and a cliff drainage system installed along 300m of cliff. Round about 1965 cliff erosion had reduced the size of the golf course so 48 acres were bought from the Ashley Clinton estate. Later after more erosion overtures were made to buy some of Barton Common (Anonymous, undated - New Milton and Barton-on-Sea Official Guide).

1965-1968 - Stage 2 Works - Sheet-Steel and Drains.

Flexible timber toe revetment backed by large blocks of Portland and Purbeck limestone. Catchpits and filter drains were placed in the undercliff behind vertical sheet-steel barriers. Additional rock groynes constructed. Regrading of undercliff, with use of gravel, to a slope of between 1 in 3 and 1 in 4. Total protected length 1750m.

1971 - Barton - Completion of Main Stage 2 Works

The Stage 2 sea-defence scheme at Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire

Remains of Stage 2 sea-defences as seen in November, 2003 Torn end of drainage pipe Stage 2 sea-defences, Barton, as seen in November, 2003

The major phase of Stage 2 sea defence work was completed. The diagram (top) is mostly based on the situation at central Barton-on-Sea (Barton Court) where the Pleistocene gravel lies on Becton Sand (Barton Sand), shown in pale yellow. The Chama Sand, shown on the diagram as "silty clay", is a bluish green clayey, silt and sand that easily flows and is the source of springs, bogs and landslides.

Parts of the Stage 2 sea defence works, seriously damaged at a later stage in a landslide, are still visible in November 2003, as shown in the lower images. The steel sheet-piling has been displaced and the perforated drainage pipe (probably one running east-west at the back of the piling) has been ripped apart by the force of the landslide.

At Highcliffe the Mobbs and English scheme of timber revetment was completed.
See Christchurch Borough Council - Student's Guide.

1973 - Highcliffe - Drainage Scheme Completed

The cliff drainage scheme at Highcliffe of Halcrow was completed at a cost of £200,000.
See Christchurch Borough Council - Student's Guide.

1974 - Barton - Criticism by a Cliff-Top Resident

A former owner of "Cliff Edge" a cafe that once existed at the western corner of the Barton Court set of buildings wrote later (in a letter of 3rd January 1979) about the cliff retreat:

".. your comments [mine - Ian West - on a TV programme] regarding the loss of land at one metre a year are absurd. My own property has been situate thirteen feet from the edge of the cliff for eight years to my knowledge and for some fifteen years prior to that. In 1974 some seventy feet of land was lost at the rear of Barton Court and it is my opinion that this was caused by the Local Authority failing to maintain the undercliff when the Lymington Borough Council changed to the New Forest District Council and this failure resulted in a particular weakness at the toe of the cliff caused by heavy rainfall that particular year when the water level caused considerable pressure on the drain which had been put in to protect the cliffs and which consequently failed and the drain moved forward some one hundred and fifty feet and can be seen today on the beach at Barton-on-Sea. .."

[the property was later sold and a few months after that the new owner was ordered to demolish it because of its dangerous situation on the cliff edge - see newspaper reports]

1974-75 Winter - Barton - Failure of Part of the Stage 2 Works - the Barton Court Landslide

The dramatic collapse of the Stage 2 Coastal Protection Works at Barton Court, Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, in 1975

Beach huts start to slide down the cliff in the 1975 Barton Court Landslide, Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire

An old oblique aerial photograph of the Barton Court area, Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, after the 1975 Barton Court Landslide and some remedial work

Aerial photographs showing area of cliff collapse near the shops and Barton Court, Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, which took place in 1974-5

A aerial view of the cliffs of the Barton Court area, Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, in about late 1975 to 1976, showing landslide locations

Deep seated failures in the undercliffs penetrated beneath the sheet-piling causing rotation, bowing and splitting of the barrier. Although later this was mostly covered, the rotated barrier is visible from time in new landslides. Mudslides surged over the sea-cliff base and revetment and onto the beach. The cliff top receded 5-10m over a 150m front in 1975 (Clark et al., 1976 ; Wright, D., 1998). Failures in the clay seem to have been deeper than expected.

Landslide in the Barton Court area displacing sheet-iron of sea-defences Problems with the Barton cliff top in 1975

Displaced sheet-iron is shown above. With this illustration is a reproduction from Anonymous (undated, Coastal Erosion at Barton-on-Sea) showing some newspaper cuttings from that year. Another newspaper article follows, below, but it is not necessarily correct in every detail (the restaurant extension referred to reopened three weeks later). In particular, though, it is too optimistic in suggesting that there was no deep-seated problem, just a cliff-top fall. Here is the article, in entirety, but without paragraphs:

Echo Staff Reporter. 1975. Sightseers Warned of Crumbling Cliffs. Southern Evening Echo, Newspaper, 23rd April, 1975:

"An appeal to the public to keep away from the crumbling cliffs at Barton-on-Sea where a house stands perilously only two feet from the edge and others are threatened, came yesterday from New Forest District Council. Hundreds of people have visited Barton since the cliffs began falling last Thursday and yesterday the council's chief executive, Mr Peter Bassett warned that the cliffs are dangerous and that they could accept no responsibility. Sightseers, he said, were adding to their problems. The council's Amenities Committee called for a report on the possible demolition of Mr. Jack Murrell's 40,000 pound home, Manor Lodge, perched above a 70 ft. drop. Principal engineer, Mr Frank Harris, said people living on the cliff top had been warned a few months ago of increasing danger to their properties. He said that dangerous structure notices had been served on Manor Lodge and the new dining room extension of the Ventana Hotel next door. Barton Court which was divided into five flats, was not imminently threatened. Mr. Harris said that the cliff fall was unfortunate but not unexpected. In 1960 Sir William Halcrow and Partners, the council's consulting engineers, had said that in the long term the buildings could not be saved. Mr H. E. Stopher, Lymington's former borough engineer, had stated that in spite of holding the undercliff stationary the cliff would gradually move until it reached its natural angle of repose. The engineer said that last week's fall was confined to the top. There was no suspicion of movement in the undercliff. He said that there was nothing that they could do about the cliffs. They were pushing soil against the cliff to decrease the amount of vertical face. Mr. Harris said that it was impossible to stop people going to the cliffs over the weekend. Large notices warning of the danger were to be erected. The chief executive denied that vibrations from machinery engaged on undercliff stabilisation had anything to do with the fall."

The cliff top near Barton Court, Barton-on-Sea, as seen in 1995 - here the demolition of Barton Lodge and other buildings took place in 1975, as a result of the Barton Court Landslide

Later in 1975, on the 24th October, there was more on Manor Lodge (Southern Evening Echo).

Work started today on the demolition of Manor Lodge, the 40,000 pound house perched precariously on the edge of 100ft cliffs at Barton-on-Sea. Hotelier Mr. Jack Murrell and his family were ordered out of their six-bedroomed home in the spring after further falls of the crumbling Barton cliffs.
Manor Lodge, which is being undermined, is being pulled down before it crashes to the beach below, taking with it adjoining flats and Mr. Murrell's eight-bedroomed hotel, the Ventana. Thirty-eight-year-old Mr. Murrell now lives in a caravan in the grounds of Manor Lodge with his wife Jill, and their two children, Sarah (ten) and Jason (seven). The couple have been forced to shut down a newly-opened restaurant extension at the hotel because of the threat of more falls.
Meanwhile work continues to save the beach and cliffs where more than 1 million pounds has been spent in recent years on stabilisation work.


Thus retreat of the cliff top at Barton during the early part of 1975 caused problems with certain houses in vulnerable positions. The fundamental problem in this particular year was a new landslide in the undercliff, the Barton Court/Fishermans Walk Landslide, affecting the cliff-top. An important point was made by the Lymington former borough engineer stating that the cliff top will gradual move back in any case over a period of time. The existence of sea-defences might have given an impression that coastal retreat had completely ceased. The defences do not completely stop changes taking place, but can successfully retard cliff retreat for a number of years.

Incidently, note the reference to a cliff fall in April in a newspaper cutting shown above. The time of hazard for most landslides on the south coast of England is March and April after a winter of heavy rain. A preceding dry summer can accentuate the problem. Erosion of the cliff-foot, of course is dependent on the occurrence of severe storms from the southwest, but these do not seem to have been a major factor in early 1975.

Various later works (1968 Onwards)

Additions and improvements were made to the coastal protection works. Five large rock groynes have replaced the timber ones. The timber revetment has been replaced by a rock structure of dark grey, angular, Carboniferous Limestone, as shown in the photographs. The Carboniferous Limestone has negligible porosity unlike the Portland Stone and a bulk density close to the SG for calcite (2.71). The revetment has been extended eastward by 200m to combat the formation of an erosion pocket, "terminal groyne syndrome", just beyond the final rock groyne. Wright (1998) explains this as "the result of abrupt termination of hard defence works constructed on a soft coastline".

1980 and 1981 - Highcliffe - Repairs

Highcliffe Castle and Culmore emergency works on cliff slip repairs, and extensions to both. See Christchurch Borough Council - Student's Guide.

1982 - Barton - Dispute - Fossils versus Property

See: Murphy, P. 1982. Battle of the fossils v. property: controversy rages over plans. Southern Evening Echo, Friday, December 10, 1982, pp. 54-55.
Extracts: Warning! Fossils can damage your property! Ask the residents of West Barton, where a metre of the cliffs crumbles every year. In less than 100 years, houses well away from the edge could be in danger of falling into the sea. Some locals claims 35 years would be a better estimate. Yet a plan by New Forest District Council to protect the coastline is being blocked by the Nature Conservancy Council (NCC) and Hampshire County Council. ...... Barton cliffs were a designated SSSI - site of special scientific interest - back in the fifties. It was one of the most important SSSIs in Britain, the NCC claim. ... Deputy head of the NCC's geology section, Dr Keith Duff, points out that his organisation has not opposed protection works where property was clearly and imminently at risk. .. His calculation is that West Barton has 80 years before its houses are at risk - time enough to develop new methods of protection without devastating effects on fossils. And the Department of the Environment is likely to support Dr Duff's view. The Government is putting pressure on engineers to find more effective methods of protection and is becoming increasingly wary of paying its share of up to 50 per cent of coastline schemes that last only 25-30 years.... Mr Webber calls Dr. Duff's "wait and see" approach "fatuous and futile". He believes locals have a right to the greensward at the top of the cliff - a much needed amenity in an area short of open space..... The dispute will without doubt go to a public inquiry... An inspector can stand back and take a more impartial view than either a local authority subject to political pressure or the NCC subject to conservation pressure...
[A similar article is the Evening Echo, Bournemouth for Friday, December 17, 1982.]
1986 - Highcliffe Works

Highcliffe Cliffs Stabilisation Works Stage 1 (major cliff works)
Highcliffe Cliffs Stabilisation Works Stage 2 (major cliff works)
See Christchurch Borough Council - Student's Guide.

1987 - 16th October - The "Hurricane" of TV Weatherman Michael Fish

This was a famous storm that caused much damage on land but surprisingly does not seem to have had any notable effects on the Chesil Beach.

"The great storm of October 1987 was the worst to affect the south east of England since 1703. After the storm had passed the landscape was changed - some 15 million trees were felled and whole forests decimated. Buildings suffered severe damage and ships were driven on to shore. 16 people died as a direct result of the storm damage." (The Great Storm in South East England - October 1987) .

"Winds rapidly strengthened over southern England after midnight. The strongest winds attained between 2h and 6h, produced gusts of probably 100 knots at Shoreham on the Sussex coast and over 90 knots at at least six places with anemometers between Thorney Island, Herstmonceux, Ashford (Kent), and Sheerness in the Thames estuary. Gusts over 80 knots occurred in central London and at places from Jersey in the Channel Islands (85 knots) to Gorleston on the east coast of Norfolk (85 knots). Gusts somewhat exceeding 95 knots were measured in the Gorm field in the eastern North Sea. The strongest winds in most places were from about SSW."

"The total cost to the insurance industry due to losses and damage in England was estimated at £1000 million at 1988 prices. This figure cannot be regarded as the total cost of the storm since it leaves out losses that were not insured.

At Highcliffe and at Southbourne the roofs of several blocks of old people's flats began to move and then to break up. Many of the occupants were evacuated to community centres (Davison et al. 1993).

The main damage in the Barton and Highcliffe area was at Waterford Road. One of the very conspicous, red-brick blocks that was built near to Chewton Bunny and the Highcliffe sea front car park was badly damaged. Davison et al. (1993) give a half-page, monochrome photograph and some details:

"Terror struck in the middle of the night for hundreds of elderly Highcliffe folk as the winds ripped through the roofs of their flats at Greystones, Waterford Road on the cliff top. Many of the top-floor residents escaped in their night gowns before the winds tore in. Some were still in their bedrooms when the walls crashed down and splattered them with plaster and glass. Miraculously, none were seriously hurt."

In the Solent waves were 15 feet high and about 70 feet high to the south of the Isle of Wight. Shanklin Pier was destroyed and there was flooding on Hayling Island.

1987 - Highcliffe - Beach Nourishment

Highcliffe Beach nourishment on a large scale. A new beach was created. This cost £337,844. See Christchurch Borough Council - Student's Guide.

1989 - December - Storm Surge

On the 16th - 18th December, 1989, a depression caused strong winds gusting over 80mph. Waves over 20 feet in heigh were reported in the English Channel and there were huge tides, presumably as a result of a storm surge Davison et al. 1993.

The most severe damage to Hurst Spit occurred in the winter of 1989, particularly the 16th - 17th December. The storms not only overwashed and broke though in individual locations, as in 1979 above, but overwashed on a large scale as "sheet overwash". The top of the beach for a considerable distance was washed over to the saltmarshes behind. The beach was flattened so as to be no longer a barrier. This disastrous sheet overwash is also referred to as "sluicing overwash".

At this stage Hurst Spit was almost in its death throes. Sea defence work to repair it for short term survival cost £440,000. The five million pound stabilisation scheme which took place in 1996-7, and is discussed elsewhere in this webpage, was a follow-up to this near loss of the spit. It is far from totally safe, however, and now the main bank is an artificial feature that requires periodic maintenance by adding gravel.

Davison et al(1993) wrote:
"After seemingly endless blue skies, hot summer sunshine and a benign autumn, severe gales struck in mid-December, 1989. Winds blew with ferocious force from far out in the Atlantic and a combination of this long fetch from the south west, where waves were reported 20 feet in height, strong winds gusting over 80 mph and huge tides, led to massive flooding along the Hampshire coast and on the Isle of Wight. The depression responsible was code named Low "A". The far west in Christchurch Bay took a heavier pounding than on the night of the Great Storm of 1987. The Borough Flood Protection Officer, Frank Tyhurst, was amazed to find the tide two feet above an average spring tide, the highest level in recorded history, an entirely unexpected occurrence. Water flooded into Bridge Street and Wick Lane and the entire Mudeford Quay was inundated. A 90-year-old lady slept soundly, totally oblivious of the waters swirling round her bedroom. She was rescued but lost her false teeth.
At Lymington, the sea savagely smashed its way through the sea wall on the Pennington side, breaching it in three places and caused a flood five feet deep. The sea swamped properties in the prestigious waterside area behind the Royal Lymington Yacht Club. Even the 21 foot lifeboat was not immune, for it too had to be rescued when water poured into the boat house, sending it floating up to roof height. The railway line between Brockenhurst and Lymington was closed due to the rising waters. The inrush of the sea was swift and overwhelming. A car was abandoned so rapidly by the owner that its lights still glowed beneath the water. As soon as the lifeboat was hauled away from danger it was out on the streets with the crew, checking flooded houses for anyone in need of help and rescuing a group of council officials marooned in a car park.
The two mile long shingle spit on which Hurst Castle is perched suffered terribly. Jutting far out into the Solent, it was created by wind and tide and now giant waves were claiming it back tearing out its central section, trapping two fishermen for almost 20 hours. They were eventually airlifted from Hurst Castle. Ironically, £50,000 had recently been spent on sea defences to this enormous natural barrier..."

1991, 1992, 1993 - Highcliffe - Chewton Bunny

Chewton Bunny emergency and drainage works. Rock armouring, bastion and counterforte drain.
See Christchurch Borough Council - Student's Guide.

1993 - Highcliffe Top-up

At Highcliffe in 1993 the Highcliffe Groyne Conversion and Nourishment Top-up took place. Rock groynes were constructed and more beach material added.

1993 - December - Barton

- Major cliff slip at the western end of the frontage in December, 1993. The cliff toe revetment was displaced by up to 8m. Extensive emergency works followed. Analysis by Rendel Geotechnics in a 1994 report indicated a complex multiplane failure with substantial movement along the A3 bed (so called "Highcliffe Sand" within the Lower Barton, not the Bracklesham Highcliffe Sand) according to Wright, D., 1998). The diagram, fig. 17.7 of Wright, though, shows the slip plane at the base of bed D. Rendel proposed more rock armour seaward of that existing and a new area of fill to regrade the cliffs to a lower gradient.

1998 - January - Storm Effects

Storm wave hits sea-defences, Milford-on-Sea, Christchurch Bay . Storm wave throws shingle, Milford-on-Sea, Christchurch Bay

This storm in January, 1998 hit the Barton and Highcliffe coastline. The photographs shown here were taken further east along the coast at Rook Cliff between Hordle Cliff and Milford-on-Sea. There the storm waves hit the sea-defences with such force that the shingle in front of them was churned up violently and thrown into the air and onto the cliff top.

1998 - Remedial Works on Hold

Wright, (1998) commented that implementation of full scale remedial works, estimated to cost over 3 million pounds, have been put on hold until the Shoreline Management Plan for Poole and Christchurch Bay is finished. Minor repairs and regrading have taken place in the meantime.

See Christchurch Borough Council - Student's Guide.

1998 - Barton and Highcliffe - January Storm

Storm wave hits sea-defences, Milford-on-Sea, Christchurch Bay . Storm wave throws shingle, Milford-on-Sea, Christchurch Bay

This storm in January, 1998 hit the Barton and Highcliffe coastline. The photographs shown here were taken further east along the coast at Rook Cliff between Hordle Cliff and Milford-on-Sea. There the storm waves hit the sea-defences with such force that the shingle in front of them was churned up violently and thrown into the air and onto the cliff top.

2001 - Barton - The Cliff House Hotel Landslide

Aerial view of the lower lobe of the mudslide near Cliff House, Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, in 2001

Rotational landslide and mudslide in the Cliff House area, Barton-on-Sea, in 2001 Old sheet-piling rotated by landslide and mudslide in the Cliff House area, Barton-on-Sea, 2001

There was collapse of an area of sea defences at the western end of these, near Cliff House, (west of Barton Court) and also on a smaller scale between the Cliff House and Barton Court areas. The main feature, as shown in the photographs above, was a rotational landslide which had developed in the Barton Clay, probably facilitated by water from the Becton Sand or Barton Sand (upper part of the cliff). I do not know whether this is the same site as the 1993 landslide at the western end of the sea defences, and referred to above. The rotation produced an upbulge in the lower cliff. This had broken and lifted a drainage system. In addition sheet piling in the area had been moved by the landslide and rotated from the vertical to various angles. This sheet piling is probably some of that emplaced in the 1960s or 1970s as part of an original scheme, which with the piping, was meant to control water within the cliff. When rexamined in November 2003, it was seen that a quantity of medium-sized, fossiliferous, Portland Stone blocks had been placed over the toe of the landslide, as some sort of remedial action. There was not much sign of new movement since 2001, but the slides are a warning that a period of heavy rainfall in the future could produce this type of cliff collapse elsewhere in the central Barton stretch (as seen in 2003, there has been a very small landslide near the sea southeast of the Beachcomber Cafe, but this has not threatened the cliff top, and is now covered with gravel).

2003 - November - Barton - Minor Spalling above the Cliff House Hotel Landslide

Cliff-top between the Sea Road Access and the Cliff House Hotel, with small spalling landslides in the top gravel cliff, above the large Cliff House Hotel Landslide, western end of the Barton sea-defences, 2003

Only minor changes have taken place since 2001. After heavy rain it was noticed on the 26 November 2003, that, as shown above, there were some small signs of movement above the Cliff House Hotel Landslide. There were small falls of gravel and brickearth in the uppermost cliff edge here. No major movement of landslides was observed, but there is much water on the cliff.

2004 - Barton - Cliff House Hotel Landslide - Minor Spalling Continues

Students from Bournemouth University filming the results of minor spalling at the top of the Cliff House Landslide, Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, 19th February 2004

Minor cliff top spalling next to the Sea Road Access, Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, 19th February 2004

Some minor spalling of the Pleistocene gravel cliff at the cliff top took place at the Cliff House Hotel Landslide, Barton-on-Sea in February 2004. The major slide had occurred in 2001. This location is at the eastern side of the landslide and adjacent to the Sea Road access. The results of some spalling which had recently happened were being filmed here by students of Bournemouth University on 19th February 2004. This is probably connected to the start of the nearby Hoskin's Gap West Landslide referred to below.

2004 - Movement commences at Hoskins Gap West Landslide (between Hoskins Gap and the Sea Road Access)

Closure of the Sea Road Access as a result of the start of the Hoskin's Gap West Landslide, Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire

Extract from articles in the Lymington Times (Anonymous, 2004) :

"Nearly a quarter of a mile of the coastal path at Barton-on-Sea has been closed by the council to protect the public. Exceptionally heavy rainfall in the last few months had created further cliff movement in an area which was already notorious for the speed with which it was eroding, said New Forest District Council. The closures affect the upper and lower tracks between the Sea Road access and Hoskins Gap to the east, a distance of approximately 400m.
The rain gauge at Naish Holiday Village recorded 84mm of rain in October, 147mm in November and 118mm in December. Evidence of further cliff movement I at Barton had been detected last week and existing tension cracks had widened at the bottom of the Sea Road access. Mudslides had also covered the lower access tracks with soft clay and mud. Signs have been placed at various locations to advise members of the public not to use the closed sections of the footpath or walk over cliff slopes because of the current levels of instability.
(See 2007 for further developments at this unstable stretch).

2007 - January - Serious Loss of Beach Material between Highcliffe Castle and Chewton Bunny

There were several winter storms. A particularly fierce storm was on the 18 January 2007. See the Hurst Spit webpage for photographs of this storm at Milford-on-Sea.

Storm of 18 January 2007 at Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, east side

A sign of coastal retreat - loss of beach material at Naish Farm, Highcliffe, Hampshire, revealing, an erosional platform of Lower Barton, A2 grey-green clay, with fallen septarian nodules lying loose above

Loss of beach material in the storm of 18 January 2007 and cut back of recent sea defences to reveal 1960s timber revetment

Reconstruction work on sea defences east of Highcliffe Castle, Hampshire, after storm damage on 18 January 2007 etc

Beach erosion took place at Highcliffe, in the area of rock armour groynes between Highcliffe Castle and Chewton Bunny (particularly just east of the castle), during these storms. This was reported on the BBC News Website - Beach Replaced After Storm Damage. A relevant extract follows:
"Work has begun to replace a Dorset beach which was lost to the sea in storms over the winter. Up to 60% of the sand and shingle from Highcliffe Beach, near Christchurch, Dorset, was eroded and an access road crumbled away in the damaging winds. The council is erecting a stone wall around the beach, with 600 tonnes of boulders, to act as a sea defence. The main beach work is expected to take eight weeks, with some areas not due to be repaired until late spring. Steve Woolard, coast protection officer, said: Highcliffe Beach is particularly susceptible when there are storms of this ferocity as it takes the full brunt of long-wave action coming from the south west. The backwash from the waves cause a rapid reduction in sand and shingle from the beach. When the beach levels are eroded the secondary defences, such as the timber retaining wall built during the 1960s, are exposed. If they start to wear away, there could be a catastrophic knock-on effect to the Highcliffe cliffs above. Most of the damage is thought to have occurred earlier this month when gales hit the South coast."

It is interesting that renewned erosion has taken place east of Highcliffe Castle. In historic times, as noted above, this was an area of very serious erosion but it has been dormant of activity for a long time. This is partly because of toe protection by robust sea defences, but probably not entirely. There has long been a significant supply of sediment in the up-drift (western) direction and there is still quite a large unprotected beach directly in front of Highcliffe Castle. This may be largely the result of former sand movement from Mudeford Spit eastward. This area from the Castle to Avon Beach will no doubt be watched for signs of further loss of sediment. Should it diminish on a large scale then an area of beach starvation could move progressively eastward (the direction of movement of beach material). Over a long period of time this might increase coast erosion to the east of here, perhaps in theory all the way to Milford-on-Sea. Recently, the western end of the Chesil Beach has suffered a major loss of beach material at Burton Bradstock at the western end and this is a recognised cause for concern because of potential further loss eastward (down-drift) in the main Chesil Beach area. Perhaps there are some similarities. However, there is no proof of any much greater than usual problem in Christchurch Bay in general at the moment, and the matter is merely something to keep an eye on. In the meantime the sea defence damage will, no doubt, soon be repaired and the Highcliffe sea front will look much the same as previously.

2007 - April - Movement at Sea Road Access

(See 2009 for further development of this landslide)

Cracking in the Sea Road access road to the cliffs. Barton-on-Sea, as pointed out by Ian West, April 2007

Initial cracks showing the commencement of a landslide at the Sea Road access road, on the west cliffs of Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, April 2007

The backscarp slip in the upper cliffs west of Hoskin's gap, Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, that is showing evidence of re-activation, April 2007

A new phase of collapse of the Barton has commenced in April 2007 in dry weather but after a very wet winter. In recent years there has been signs of very small movement in the upper cliffs between the Sea Road access road (SE of Cliff House) and Hoskin's Gap (the valley down to the cliffs just west of the shops), about 400 metres along the cliff. The movement was reported in January 2004 (Anonymous, 2004). The indications have just been small but laterally extensive cracks, particularly in the Pleistocene gravel near the top of the cliff. Nothing on a large scale had been noted but a mudslide has progressively developed in front on the sheet iron adjacent to the gravel road on the cliffs in the centre of this stretch.

On the 23 April 2007 there was evidence of some fresh but small movement on the Sea Road access road (southeast of Cliff House), Barton-on-Sea, as shown in the photograph above. Cracking has resulted from some downward and southward movement of the undercliff. Some early cracks, probably dating from 2004, have been filled with cement, but some new extensional cracks have now formed.

More important is the central landslide movement:

Further Collapse at Iron Sheet Piling at Hoskin's Gap West Landslide.

An aerial photograph, courtesy of the Channel Coastal Observatory, of central Barton-on-Sea, with my additions showing locations of recent cliff failures to April 2007

Locations of the 2007 cliff collapse west of Hoskin's Gap, Barton-on-Sea  Hampshire, shown on an older aerial photograph, courtesy of the Channel Coastal Observatory

Cliff-top with sea defences below, west of Hoskin's Gap, as seen in 2003 before major collapse commenced here

Progressive failure of cliffs and sea defences west of Hoskin's Gap at Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, from 2004 to 2007

Sheet iron from old sea defences turning and sliding seaward between Hoskin's Gap and the Sea Road access road, Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, as seen in April 2007

Reactivation of a landslide and mudslide west of Hoskin's Gap, Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, April 2007

The landslide and mudslide west of Hoskin's Gap at Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, 2 May 2007, seen from below and to the west

Failed drainage scheme associated with the 1967 cliff stabilisation works, west of Hoskin's Gap, Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire

A much large indication of movement has occurred at the old iron sheet piling, which is a relic of former and failed sea defences. The overall failure probably consists at the moment of an upper shear plane curving to a base at the bottom of the Chama Bed (H), and a lower rotational slip from a position further south but from Bed H down steeply through Bed F and then descending perhaps to the level of the D shear plane or thereabouts.

There is a gravel road used by the council for repairing sea defences. The old 1960s iron sheet piling, formerly buried, has been exposed on the seaward side of this. The mudslide downslope of the piling has removed support. The gravel of the cliff road has sunk appreciably exposing a large piece of the sheet piling. This iron is very much tilted towards the sea. Much water is flowing through a gap in this and lubricating a mudslide. This landslide and mudslide is likely to enlarge until it is like the one near in front of Cliff House. The whole stretch from the back shear plane is likely to collapse further perhaps with the formation a large new terrace landslide.

2007 - April - Small Potential Cliff Fall at Marine Drive East

A small potential cliff fall on the east side of Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire that resulted in exaggerated publicity

A view from above the fissure of Marine Drive East, Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, photograph taken by Steve from a paraglider

Fissure in the cliff top, Marine Drive East, Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, photograph by Steve from a paraglider

A small potential landslide or cliff-fall of Pleistocene gravel at the cliff top near Marine Drive East, Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, April 2007

The supposed

A BBC News report on the Internet of Saturday 28 April 2007 stated that a fissure estimated to be "300 metres (984ft) in length has opened in front of Marine Parade East" (sic). Newspaper reports also published the same exaggeration. The Daily Mirror carried a headline on Monday April 30, 2007 - "Cliffbanger - Did Kent earthquake rupture seafront 150 miles along the coast?" This article was by Miller and Nash (2007) who seem to have been misinformed or to have received confusing information from a local source.

I am afraid that these media reports are not correct. The fissure measured only 31 metres in length on 29 April 2007 and the detached block was only 3 metres wide. It was there long before the earthquake and can be seen in an aerial photograph of 2004, courtesy of the The Channel Coastal Observatory , National Oceanography Centre, Southampton.

After the supposed earthquake event, people picknicked nearby; I walked along the block, so as to measure it. It is quite a normal feature for the slowly collapsing Barton-on-Sea coast and there are other similar features further west. Its location may be controlled by the fact the gravel descends to a lower terrace level immediately east of this point and the Brickearth thickens. The separating fissure is a high level and isolated feature that does not continue far below the gravel base. The block has descended by a few centimetres and it will fall sooner or later if not removed by the council. It does provide some unfortunate threat to beach huts directly below, but is really a trivial piece of back-spalling off of the gravel of the type that occurs all along the Barton coast. These cliffs are slowly degrading and do not need earthquakes in order to fall (although, of course, if a strong earthquake was to occur locally some movement of already unstable parts of the cliff might occur).

It should be noted that the cliffs in front of Marine Drive East are at the present much less affected by landslides than the cliffs from the shops onward towards the west.

See a later newspaper report by Chris Yandell (2007) which provides more accurate information than the initial media reports. See also a full report in the Lymington Advertiser (Anonymous, 2007) . This gives the full background to the events and the reactions of the local residents. An point is made by a beach hut owner about the possibility of sculpting of the cliffs, that is reducing the angle slope, as at Highcliffe (under Christchurch). I am not aware that there are any plans for this, although it is expected (if the foot of the cliff holds long enough) that the cliffs will eventually degrade to a gentle slope.

Landslides (2007) at Barton-on-Sea - Comments made in April 2007

1. There is a small potential fall of gravel east of Barton Court (Marine Parade East). It has been in this state since 2004 or earlier. It will in due course fall towards the beach huts, probably partly breaking up and throwing gravel The "Earthquake Crack" is actually only 31 metres long.

2. A large terrace-type rotational landslide of about 300 metres from east to west is beginning reactivation to the west of the Barton Court shops and between there and the Cliff House area. At present it does not seem to threaten the buildings at either end but only the greensward between them. In the affected area the cliff is unstable and will move slowly downslope. The present back slip-plane or shear-plane comes to the surface at about the position of the top gravel cliff. The gravel road on the cliff will slowly descend in a melange of clay, gravel and debris. It is not known when this landslide action will take place on a large scale. It is probably controlled by the supply of water; it might slow or stop during the summer and recommence next winter. However, it may just continue in the coming months. Later there will be secondary falls at the back and thus the cliff edge will retreat to some extent, perhaps 10 or 20 metres or more.

3. There is no reason to relate any of these falls to an earthquake. They are controlled by steepness of the cliff, erosion at the foot of the cliffs if there is any at present, and the supply of groundwater to the cliffs.

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2002 - 2009 and onwards - Hoskin's Gap West Landslide

Start of cliff-top landslide at Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, as seen on the 18th May 2008

A cliff-top landslide at Hoskin's Gap West, Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, as seen on 29th May 2008

The Hoskin's Gap West Landslide at Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, on the 6th June 2008

The Hoskin's West Landslide at Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, on the 21st June 2008

The Hoskin's West Landslide at Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, on the 16th July 2008

The Hoskin's West Landslide at Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, on the 26th January 2009

Progressive failure of cliffs and sea defences west of the shops at Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, from 2004 to 2007

Remedial work on an active landslide, Hoskin's West Landslide, Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, 5th February 2009

5th February 2009 - Hoskins Gap West Landslide

The cracks across the Sea Road Access tarmac have continued to widen at a very slow rates, only in millimetres. However, it is clear that the whole block of cliff from Sea Road Access almost to Hoskin's Gap is moving seaward on a huge slip plane a very slow rate. The council is obviously aware of the problem. In any case it will, no doubt, be monitored by the The Channel Coastal Observatory , National Oceanography Centre, Southampton University, Southampton. Council workers were putting in a drainage pipe near the collapsed Stage 2 sheet piling and covering the pipe with gravel. Thus a rough gravel track has been reinstated along the cliff here, actually on the landslide (see photograph above). On this date there was no indication that the landslide was moving rapidly.

10th February 2009 - Hoskins Gap West Landslide

There are more indications of movement of this landslide, which has long been developing between Hoskin's Gap (car park) and the Sea Road Access slope. There was very heavy rain on the 9th February, apparently equivalent to the usual quantity for a month. The cracks in the tarmac at Sea Road Access have slightly enlarged, but no major changes has occurred there yet. There has been some limited collapse at the southwest corner of the Hoskin's Gap car park.

The lower slopes of this landslide area, near the sea are showing signs of seaward movement. There has been some minor collapse at the southwestern corner of the landslide, close to the margin of the older Cliff House landslide. There has generally been a little moement and weakening of the lower slopes. The mid-cliff area where work has been done on the 5th shows some small cracks that have grown since that work.

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22nd November 2009 and onward - Sea Road Access Landslide

Enlarging fissure and backscarp fault at the Sea Road Access, Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, as a new landslide develops, 22nd November 2009

Further enlargment of a fissure and backscarp fault at the Sea Road Access, Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, as a new landslide develops, 17th December 2009

A new landslide in the middle cliff south of the Sea Road Access, Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, 22nd November 2009

Small graben forms as the Sea Road Access Landslide develops at Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, 17th December 2009

The western margin of the Sea Road Access Landslide in the upper cliff on the 17th December 2009, Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire

Collapse of part of the middle cliff at the Sea Road Access, Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, 17th December 2009

The Sea Road access is a sloping tarmaced lane descending to the mid-cliff and formerly used for sea defence works. It has been cracked with a small fissure since 2007. On the 22nd November 2009, the fissure has enlarged and there has been small-scale fault movement down to the south. This related to a new landslide a little further down the cliff. This has exposed and tilted old sheet piling. The Chama Bed at the base of the Barton Sands or Becton Sand Formation was exposed as a result of this movement.

By the 17th of December 2009 the movement had greatly increased with much collapse in the middle cliff. The fissures in the tarmac had enlarged. The upper fissure now shows about 30 cm. vertical displacement and a small graben has developed. There has been some collapse of the upper cliff to the west of Sea Road Access but this is fairly limited in lateral extent. The landslide might extend laterally in the direction of Hoskin's Gap. A fissure exists in the upper cliff as far as this, but it has been seen any further east and does not seem to extend into the Barton Court cliffs.

More rapid movement at the Sea Road Access landslide,Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, 1st January 2009

The middle part of the Sea Road Landslide, Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, at the 1st January 2010

On the 1st January 2010 the rate of movement had increased at the Sea Road Access. More dramatic, though was the "eating back" of the landslide from the middle cliff towards the upper cliff at Sea Road Access. The backscarp which crosses the old tarmac road will soon be major and completely cut off the route down the cliff here.

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9th February 2009 - Public Meeting at Mudeford Wood Community Centre, Christchurch, and a later, evening, meeting at the Passenger Terminal Poole.

The Poole and Christchurch Bays, Shoreline Management Plan Review was presented.
Go to:
Poole and Christchurch Bay Shoreline Management Plan

Presentations were given by Dave Harlow of Bournemouth Borough Council - Introduction; Nick Cooper of Royal Haskoning Ltd. - Why is our coast changing and should we worry?; Andy Bradbury of New Forest District Council - coastal changes in Poole and Christchurch Bays; Richard Caldow of Natural England - our natural coast; Greg Guthrie of Royal Haskoning Ltd. - how do we manage our changing coastline?; Justin Ridgewell of Royal Haskoning Ltd, - so what is a shoreline management plan?. A question and anwer session followed refreshments.

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(Following Heavy Rain in the Winter 2012-2013)

The pre-existing stretch of landslides between the old Sea Road Access and Hoskin's Gap was reactivated on a greater scale than previously. The whole of this stretch of cliff is unstable. The rainfall this winter seemed to be particularly hight. Rainfall for this part of Christchurch Bay, was according to Meteorological Office maps was about 130 to 150% of the 1981-2010 average. There were many landslides around the Dorset and Hampshire Coast, including places such as Monmouth Beach, Lyme Regis (with damage to chalets), Swanage Bay (Wealden), Studland (London Clay) and Bowleaze Cove, near Weymouth. People were stuck in soft mud on the beach at Swanage and at Lulworth Cove. Last year there had been a fatal rock fall at Burton Cliff, near Bridport.

In this general perspective of 2012-2013 being a time of much rainfall and landslides the activity at Barton was not unusual or unexpected. It does now mean, though, that the 1960s sea defence scheme of Halcrow for the Barton cliffs has now failed at all locations between the Cliff House Hotel area in the east and Fisherman's Walk (just east of Barton Court and the cafes). Along all this stretch the sheet piling has been broken and displaced and the planned drainage system has been destroyed. The area in front of Barton Court and the cafes looks superficially undamaged but this is because the ruined sea defences have been covered up with gravel (look carefully, though and you will seen the tilted steel sheeting remains of the failure here!).

East of Fisherman's Walk (in front of Marine Drive East), in 2013, the old sea defence system is still undamaged. In particular, these cliffs are still being drained, and at present are still stable. Because longshore drift is from east to west (with prevailing southwesterly winds) more gravel (originally dumped by the council) has accumulated here. At present this eastern stretch is the least hazardous part of Barton-on-Sea in relation to cliff fall and landslides, but this may not necessarily always be the case in the long term. The continuing drainage of the notorious Chama Member of the Becton Sand Formation has been one major factor (if the drains fail here then problems may arise).

Old, 2009, aerial photographs showing the location of the Sea Road Access to Hoskin's Gap, 2013 Landslide complex, west of Barton Court, Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire

A broad view from the west of increased landslide activity between the old Sea Road Access and Hoskin's Gap, Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, March 2013

A new phase of retreat of the cliff top at the greensward, west of Hoskins Gap, Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, 4th March 2013

A view from mid-cliff of the long backscarp of the Sea Road Access to Hoskin's Gap landslide, Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, 4th October 2013

The March 2013 cliff collapse west of Hoskin's Gap, Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, seen from the mid-cliff level

The western limit of the 2013 Landslide between the old Sea Road Access and Hoskin's Gap, Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, 4th March, 2013

The western limit at the cliff top of the Sea Road Access to Hoskin's Gap, 2013 Landslide, Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire

Small-scale downfaulting on fissures in the gravel road, mid-cliff level, near Hoskin's Gap, Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, 4th March, 2013

The eastern lateral margin, low in the cliff near Hoskin's Gap, the 2013 Sea Road Access to Hoskin's Gap Landslide, Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, photographed 4th March 2013

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A notice about investigations into instability at Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, 2013

The Notice above makes a statement about planned investigations during the autumn and winter of 2012.

"New Forest District Council - Notice at Barton-on-Sea.

Gound Investigation and Monitoring Works: Barton-on-Sea.

New Forest District Council is undertaking a series of ground investigations along the cliff at Barton-on-Sea. A number of boreholes will be installed in order to test and monitor the subsurface geology with the objective of gaining a better understanding of the geological properties, stability and role of groundwater within the cliffs. Weather permitting, the works are likely to be undertaken during the autumn/winter 2012 and will last for approximately six weeks."

For more information go to the New Forest District Council Website:

New Forest District Council - Environment and Planning - Latest News.

"18/02/13 car park slip

January 2013 was another wet month with a further 96.6 mm of rainfall recorded by the rain gauge located at Naish Holiday Village (see Rainfall Data PDF Document). Consequently, the ground investigations are still on hold until weather conditions become dry enough to allow the works to progress. Unfortunately, these works are unlikely to commence until April 2013 at the earliest.

There have recently been a number of cliff failures between Hoskin's Gap and Sea Road. One of these failures (identified on 6 Feb 2013) is located adjacent to Marine Drive car park (west of the shops). Due to the on-going instability at this location, a row of car parking places has had to be temporarily closed off in case of further failure at this location and to prevent excessive loading of the cliff from vehicles parked in these bays. There is currently no public access into the fenced off area and the council apologise for the inconvenience this may cause."

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(not really predictable!)

. See, but noting that this is just a prediction:
Poole and Christchurch Bays, Shoreline Management Plan - SMP.

See these important documents on the plans for the coastal management or shoreline management of the area. Summarised contents of a version are given below and look for the section of interest. However, this SMP is not the final version, and there will be an update. If you do not find it directly from the links here, search by Google etc for the latest version, using the keywords - "Poole Christchurch SMP".

Poole and Christchurch Bays Coastal Management Group. 2010. (SMP - Shoreline Management Plan)
Poole and Christchurch Bays Coastal Management Plan (or SMP - Shoreline Management Plan). Draft SMP2. Draft version of the SMP, later to be replaced by final version (see this when it is available. SMP2 is due to be published in April 2010.). Available online as PDFs at Poole and Christchurch Bays Coastal Management Plan.

Contents: Draft SMP2
Section 1, Introduction
Section 2, Environmental Assessment
Section 3, Basis for Development of the Plan
Section 4, Appraisal of Options and Rationale for Preferred Plan:
Section 4.1, Introduction.
Section 4.2, Policy Development Zone 1 Central and Eastern Sections of Christchurch Bay (Hurst Spit to Friars Cliff).
Section 4.3, Policy Development Zone 2 Christchurch Harbour and Central Poole Bay (Friars Cliff to Flag Head Chine).
Section 4.4, Policy Development Zone 3 Poole Harbour and Associated Coastline (Flag Head Chine to Handfast Point, including Poole Harbour).
Section 4.5, Policy Development Zone 4 Swanage (Handfast Point to Durlston Head).
Section 5, Summary of Preferred Plan and Implications
Section 6, Policy Summary, including Policy Summary Map.
Appendices (all documents open in a new window)
Appendix A, SMP Development.
Appendix B, Stakeholder Engagement.
Appendix C, Baseline Process Understanding, including Coastal Process Report and Flood and Erosion Mapping. Accessible from a separate page including No Active Intervention (NAI) and With Present Management (WPM) assessments, and summaries of the data used in assessments.
Appendix D, Natural and Built Environment Baseline (Thematic Review).
Appendix E, Issues and Objective Evaluation.
Appendix F, Strategic Environmental Assessment.
Appendix G, Scenario Testing.
Appendix H, Economic Appraisal.
Appendix I, Estuary Assessment.
Appendix J, Habitat Regulation Assessment - Appropriate Assessment.
Appendix K, The Metadatabase, GIS and Bibliographic Database is provided to the operating authorities on CD. It will be included in the final SMP.
Appendix L, Water Framework Directive (WFD)
Appendix M, Review of Coastal Processes and Associated Risks at Hengistbury Head.


Recession at Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, from 1870 to 1965, after Hooke and Riley

An old estimate of the coastal recession in the Barton Court area, Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, with a 2004 aerial photograph shown for comparison

Some parts of the Christchurch Bay cliffs have sea defences; some parts do not and they retreat by natural processes. Some of the sea defences have been successful, at least until the present, others have failed to various extents. Any attempt to make predictions is extremely difficult. It is obvious that some undefended parts of the cliff line will retreat at at least the normal natural rate (about a metre a year) and perhaps higher because of global warming and sea level rise. Other parts may be held or slowed by sea defences. A map above, based on Hooke and Riley (1987) shows historic changes. It is useful in giving some indication as to what extent of erosion could occur at Barton in in the medium-term future.

With regard to defended stretches of coast, Wright (1998) commented that in spite of coast protection works constructed to the present the cliff top will continue to recede slowly, until the natural angle of repose is reached. This is assuming that the cliff toe position is held by continuing protection. Some cliff top buildings in the Barton Court area will probably be lost in the next 10 to 20 years. An alternative is to regrade the cliff slope artificially, which would further damage the SSSI, and result in immediate loss of buildings and part of the cliff top open space. An area at risk from erosion has been identified in the District Local Plan and is defined by the line to which the cliff could recede in the next 60 years, assuming no further maintenance of the protection and drainage works. Some maintenance work is likely to continue, and erosion could be slower. There will be no further development within this zone.

For full information the reader should consult the paper by Wright (1998). That publication contains some useful diagrams such as: a cross-section of coast protection works of 1960-1968, a large-scale map of the Barton Landslips of 1974, in front of Barton Court, and a cross-section showing Barton cliff failure mechanisms and option for stabilization as put forward by Rendel Geotechnics in 1994.

A key paper advising an appropriate long-term scale and a better broader geographical scale to coastal management in Christchurch Bay, considering a future with global warming and sea-level rise, is:

Few, R., Brown, K. and Tompkins, E.L. 2004. Scaling Adaption: Climate Change Response and Coastal Management in the the UK. More details are given in the Barton and Highcliffe Bibliography.

Here is an example extract:
"Since, as noted, predictions of climate change and associated impacts fall into an ‘envelope of possibilities’, we do not attempt to offer here a meaningful numerical estimate of population at risk from flooding and coast erosion within the Christchurch Bay area. However, it is feasible instead to identify stakeholder groups whose interests may be placed at risk. At Barton-on-Sea, more than 15 properties stand adjacent to the cliff edge and continuing clifftop recession means they ‘will probably be lost in the next 20 years’ (NFDC, 1997). Behind them stands a 1850m long frontage of continuous residential development, which may be at physical risk after several decades. The unprotected sections flanking the town will steadily be eroded, with loss of land and structures. At Christchurch Harbour, hundreds of properties are potentially vulnerable to tidal and/or riverine flooding include those running along the northern harbour shore and Mudeford Sandbank, and those in low-lying land at Christchurch and neighbouring centres."

Overall, Christchurch Bay, with patchy but locally effective sea defences, is continuing a battle with a sea that has had a long history of steady landward movement (coastal retreat). The sea may now possess an added strength and a sea-level rise resulting from global warming. However, with the exception of the near-destruction of Hurst Spit, there is not as yet been any sign of drastic change. Has the risk been exaggerated, or is the recent narrowing of the intertidal zone (coastal steepening) at Christchurch Bay (Hooke and Riley, 1987), and elsewhere, (Taylor et al., 2004) a warning? Are we observing the calm before the storm?

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Coastal Erosion Problems - Solidarity Fund and Leasing Discussion

For some new discussion about coastal erosion and compensation see Nowell (2008) - Coastal land is only leased from the sea, Guardian Newspaper, April 21, 2008. David Nowell, a Fellow of the Geological Society, has noted that there is no solidarity fund to compensate people in Britain from loss of houses due to coast erosion or sea-flooding. He has suggested that any land likely to disappear within a century should become leasehold and the time stated on the title deeds. He considers that there should be a solidarity fund. More details regarding the suggestion are in his letter. It is a brief but stimulating article and should provoke discussion on policies for dealing with the expected effects of future erosion and sea-flooding on the British coasts.

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Southampton University Computing Services have generously provided webspace for running this site, and this is much appreciated. I am particularly grateful to the Director and staff of the The Channel Coastal Observatory for permission to use their excellent, vertical, aerial photographs. I particularly appreciate the help of Dr. Travis Mason. I thank Mr and Mrs Page of Barton-on-Sea for kindly providing me with photographs of the early stages of development of the upper cliff, landslide of Hoskins Gap West in May 2008. I thank local people, who have been met by chance on the cliffs, for local information.

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Please go to Highcliffe, Barton and Hordle Cliff - Bibliography and References .

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|Home and Contents - Geology of the Wessex Coast |Barton-on-Sea and Highcliffe - Geological Field Guide
|Coast Erosion and Sea Defences at Barton-on-Sea and Highcliffe |Highcliffe, Barton and Hordle - Bibliography |Hordle Cliff |Hurst Spit

See also associated webpages

Barton-on-Sea and Highcliffe - Geological Field Guide

Coast Erosion and Sea Defences at Barton-on-Sea and Highcliffe

Highcliffe, Barton and Hordle - Bibliography

Copyright © 2019 Ian West, Tonya West and J. Bentley. All rights reserved. (Restored version updated to April 2013 with small correction in 2019.) This is a purely academic website and images and text may not be copied for publication or for use on other webpages or for any commercial activity. A reasonable number of images and some text may be used for non-commercial academic purposes, including field trip handouts, lectures, student projects, dissertations etc, providing source is acknowledged.

Disclaimer: Geological fieldwork involves some level of risk, which can be reduced by knowledge, experience and appropriate safety precautions. Persons undertaking field work should assess the risk, as far as possible, in accordance with weather, conditions on the day and the type of persons involved. In providing field guides on the Internet no person is advised here to undertake geological field work in any way that might involve them in unreasonable risk from cliffs, ledges, rocks, sea or other causes. Not all places need be visited and the descriptions and photographs here can be used as an alternative to visiting. Individuals and leaders should take appropriate safety precautions, and in bad conditions be prepared to cancell part or all of the field trip if necessary. Permission should be sought for entry into private land and no damage should take place. Attention should be paid to weather warnings, local warnings and danger signs. No liability for death, injury, damage to, or loss of property in connection with a field trip is accepted by providing these websites of geological information. Discussion of geological and geomorphological features, coast erosion, coastal retreat, storm surges etc are given here for academic and educational purposes only. They are not intended for assessment of risk to property or to life. No liability is accepted if this website is used beyond its academic purposes in attempting to determine measures of risk to life or property.

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Dr Ian West, author of these webpages

Webpage - written and produced by:

Ian West, M.Sc. Ph.D. F.G.S.


at his private address, Romsey, Hampshire, kindly supported by Southampton University,and web-hosted by courtesy of iSolutions of Southampton University. The website does not necessarily represent the views of Southampton University. The website is written privately from home in Romsey, unfunded and with no staff other than the author, but generously and freely published by Southampton University. Field trips shown in photographs do not necessarily have any connection with Southampton University and may have been private or have been run by various organisations.