'Keep off' warning as floods damage cliffs
Walkers and fossil collectors have been warned to steer clear of hazardous cliffs and invisible quicksand created by recent flooding.
Dorset County Council has highlighted the risk of landslides after heavy rainfall on July 7 left the ancient Jurassic Coast in an "unusually unstable" condition.
The county is still reeling from the landslide caused by the same deluge in the Beaminster Tunnel, which killed 67-year-old Rosemary Snell and her companion Michael Rolfe, 72, both from Somerset.
Dorset County Council was one of the agencies involved in the decision to close the road, but not to clear the rubble, which meant the pair were not found for ten days.
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Now, the council says the World Heritage coastline, popular with fossil hunters, still poses a grave danger.
A council spokesman warned of a risk of rock fall "anywhere and at any time" along the coast.
"Landslides have also delivered thick mudflows and quicksands to the beaches in many places. One of the hidden hazards is that the sea can wash sand and shingle over the mud and quicksand, giving the appearance of a solid beach.
The spokesman said the risk was greatest where the sea backed onto cliffs. "The advice is to stay well away from the cliffs at all times and to beware of mudflows and quicksand, especially when the tide is coming in as it is possible to become cut off from the normal exit points from the beaches."
Fossil collectors are advised to search on beaches away from any landslides and not in the cliffs. The spokesman said: "The sea does all the hard work, washing away the soft mud to leave the best fossils in the shingle on the beaches."
The council has highlighted a number of known hazard areas between Lyme Regis and the Axmouth Undercliffs.
They include: A massive mudslide at Seven Rock Point on Monmouth Beach, and a landslide at the start of the beach; several mudslides between Lyme Regic and Charmouth; the base of Stonebarrow Cliff east of Charmouth, said to be "shrouded in mudflows" with increased risk of rock fall and a "very real possibility of becoming trapped by the incoming tide"; a "massive" landslide completely blocking the beach between Eype and West Bay.
Temporary signs have been deployed to warn visitors, but the council has warned the situation is in constant flux.
Richard Edmonds, earth science manager for the Jurassic Coast Team at Dorset County Council, said: "While this is the current state of the cliffs between Axmouth and West Bay, it is a dynamic and changing situation, and we cannot be appraised of the full situation along the coast all of the time.
He urged visitors to check signs and local information, and said latest news would be posted to www.jurassiccoast.org.