Our cliffs are slipping away…

By | January 10, 2021
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What is happening to our coast?

The cliffs at Blue Anchor belong to an area of the coastline which has been designated as a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) and extends along the coast to Lilstock.  The most noticeable geology at Blue Anchor is the Blue Anchor Fault, which splits the Jurassic against the Triassic marls of the Mercia Mudstone group.  The red marls of the Triassic rock do not contain fossils.  The grey-green calcareous mudstones and marls are known as the Blue Anchor formation (Jurassic) and are marine in origin and contain many marine fossils.  Masses of pink gypsum are also found here.

The west end of the beach, near the Blue Anchor hotel, can be accessed at low tide (be aware of tide times, however!).  The cliffs here are a vivid red in colour, representing Mercia Mudstone Marls which were laid down in the Triassic era and are of continental origin.  This rock is soft and crumbling and is the main cause of concern for the longevity of the Blue Anchor Hotel.  At the base of the cliffs, erosion has resulted from the destructive undermining forces of high tides.  In addition, rainfall and weathering has compromised the integrity of the cliffs, which are gradually slipping away from the hotel’s foundations.  At times of high rainfall, streams can be observed flowing off the adjoin fields and creating a ‘red’ slick in the sea.  The hotel was forced to close its doors at the end of September in 2018.  At the time, funding was not available for work to slow down the destruction of the cliff.

However, in September 2020, the Environment Agency (EA) agreed to award a grant of £4 M to the Somerset West and Taunton Council.  This would allow work to commence to urgently protect these vulnerable cliffs.  This provision enabled the urgent protection of the hotel and the B3191 road from their inevitable fate of crashing to the beach below.  Initially, two phases of work were carried out at a cost of £385,000.  In July, initial work was commenced to stabilise the existing sea defence wall below the hotel.  These sea defences are a mixture of angled concrete walls constructed between the 1920’s and the 1980’s.  Significant holes had been found here in early June 2020.  At the beginning of November, around 1800 tons of granite rock armour was delivered to the beach by barge from Cornwall.  Over the following weeks, the rocks were gradually moved up the beach into place at the bottom of the cliffs below the hotel.  In the spring of 2021, further work will be carried out to protect around 130 m of the cliffs extending eastwards from the rock armour.

See Cherrie Temple’s Powerpoint presentation ‘Coastal erosion at Blue Anchor‘  |   Our U3A Geology group page

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