Birling Gap cliff edge ‘wedding couple’ spark warning

People at Birling Gap Image copyright Sue Lockhart
Image caption This picture was taken from the car park at Birling Gap, a popular tourist spot on the south coast
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Fresh warnings about the dangers of the south coast’s crumbling chalk cliffs have been made after a couple were seen apparently posing for a wedding shot at Birling Gap.

The National Trust and coastguards have repeatedly warned that the chalk can collapse without warning.

Signage using words and symbols is in place to warn people, the charity said.

It comes days after a man was seen holding a child inches from the edge at Seven Sisters, near Eastbourne.

Sue Lockhart, from Eastbourne, said she took the picture from the car park at Birling Gap, after she saw what she believed to be a newly married couple “right on the edge of the cliffs, with another guy lying down looking over the edge”.

She said the wedding party was down on the beach taking pictures of the couple from the shingle shoreline, adding: “Her veil was flying in the wind. It was really windy up there.”

Ms Lockhart said there was signage in place but more could be done, such as providing larger signs and adverts on buses used by tourists.

And she said local people frequently went up to tourists to warn them of the dangers on the cliff tops and when she warned a family from South Africa last year they thanked her, but added: “Something clearly isn’t right. The message isn’t getting home.”

A spokeswoman for the National Trust, which owns Birling Gap and Seven Sisters, said: “The cliffs are unstable in places and there are undercuts in the chalk, which people may be unaware of from the top.”

She said: “We want people to enjoy this special place, but to do so safely. We have signage, warning people of the cliffs, at the points where a visitor enters an area with an unfenced edge.”

Image copyright LNP
Image caption Last month, a man was spotted lifting a child to peer down below

Coastguards regularly urge people to keep away from the edge and also to stay away from the cliff base in case the chalk falls, while geologists have said cracks can stretch back 10m (33ft) to 15m (49ft) into the cliffs.

A Maritime and Coastguard Agency spokeswoman said: “The cliffs along the UK coastline are continually eroding, with pieces falling from them that can be just a few small rocks or as large as a car. It is impossible to predict when the next piece might fall or how big it will be.”

She added: “We really can’t stress enough how important it is to keep back from the edge. There is no ‘safe’ place to be.”

In 2017, 50,000 tonnes of chalk crumbled at Seven Sisters and fell on to the beach below.

The following day a 23-year-old South Korean tourist, Hyewon Kim, fell to her death when she jumped in the air for a picture and lost her footing.

Image caption Large cracks have appeared in the chalk cliffs at Birling Gap

Coastguard safety tips

  • Wear sturdy shoes, check the weather and tides, carry a phone, tell someone where you are and what time you will be home
  • Only climb cliffs if you are properly equipped and trained to do so
  • Do not use cliffs as shortcuts to the top, do not try to rescue yourself or your dog if in difficulty
  • Use the cliff height as a guide – at a cliff base, if the cliff is 25m (82ft) high, don’t go closer than 25m (82ft) towards it
  • Use designated paths and take notice of warning signs
  • If anyone is in trouble call 999 and ask for the coastguard



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