Slip Sliding Away

Slip Sliding Away

Slip Sliding Away

Slip Sliding Away
By Jasmine Gordon

My family and I have been holidaying in Charmouth each year since 2003 and we have noticed many changes over the years. The most dramatic changes are the three hills along the beach, Stonebarrow, St Gabriel’s and Golden Cap. Each year when we come back to Charmouth we notice that more and more of these spectacular hills have slipped away onto the beach and the hills becomes harder to climb. This year, whilst climbing Stonebarrow hill, we noticed big cracks in the ground, almost as if it was a volcano. We found this extremely terrifying as next year we may not be able to climb these hills at all!

These landslides occur when permeable sandstone rests on impermeable clays. Water from high-rainfall events seep through the porous sandstone and the clay below becomes saturated. This causes it to become weaker and the clay slumps along the limestone beds, carrying the overlaying sandstone with it. The water may weaken the rock, but it increases its weight. When the water enters the rock it increases the risk of small movements in the rock, which in turn opens up cracks in the land surface. Then when weight is put onto the land by people climbing the hill, the rock gives way. This is a landslide.

Hopefully next summer, Stonebarrow, St Gabriel’s and Golden Cap will still be as we last saw them, but walkers are advised to use alternative paths to access these hills. Remember, these hills are very unstable. Plenty of fossils can be found on the beach!


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