The cliffs at Overstrand are easily washed away by the sea. Historic maps show that the cliff edge moved inland at an average rate of 1½ to 2 metres per year before anything was done to try to slow the rate of land loss.
Compare the current map with historical maps on old-maps.co.uk – (type OS grid reference TG252405 in the map search box and select the 1906 map) – a whole hotel has gone over the cliff edge since 1906.
If the land going over the cliffs was just farmland, no one (except the farmer!) would worry too much but as the land has been eaten away the village of Overstrand has come closer and closer to the edge. A population of about 1000 have great sea views, but at what price?
Between May 1990 and January 1994, the edge of the coast moved 90 metres closer to the housing. But the people living near the edge couldn’t just move out. Most people can’t afford to buy a new house without selling the old one, but who’s going to buy a house that’s about to slide off the cliffs? It fell to the council to try to provide a solution to the problem.
Down at sea level the coast already had some protection in place, with a timber revetment built in front of the cliffs. The idea is that the force of the waves crashes into the revetment and water passing through to the cliffs has lost most of its power and has less impact.
Groynes had also been built from the revetment sticking out into the sea. The idea of these is that they stop material being washed away along the coast and build up the size of the beach, which also protects the cliffs.
However, at Overstrand the revetment and groynes were not enough. I’ll tell you what happened next week.