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Last Updated: Friday, 2 February 2007, 15:38 GMT
Climate change 'damaging' sites
By Rebecca Cafe
BBC News, South West

Lytes Cary Manor House

Two heritage sites in the south west are being damaged by climate change, according to the National Trust.

It claims wetter winters and drier summers over recent years have caused cracks to form in the clay ceiling of Lytes Cary Manor House in Somerset.

The trust also says three metres of sand lost from Studland Bay, Dorset is the result of rising sea levels caused by an increase in air temperature.

However, environmental experts said a direct link could not be safely made.

Cracking up

The National Trust's Wessex spokesman, Alex Brannen, said climate change was a big issue for the body. "It affects everything we do we and I'm sure it will have an impact in the future," he said.

He said recent discoveries of World War II bombs buried on Studland Bay would not have been found if climate change had not increased coastal erosion.

Crack in the ceiling at Lytes Cary Manor House
Cracks were spotted widening by the Trust in 2003

Lytes Cary Manor House was the family home of the Lyte family from the 14th Century until the 18th Century.

The Jenner family bought and restored the property in 1907 and the National Trust acquired the property after Sir Walter Jenner left it to them when he died in 1949.

The National Trust first noticed cracks in the ceiling of the Great Chamber expand four years ago by 2-3mm.

The trust says wetter winters are causing the clay to expand, and it then contracts in the drier summers. This, they claim, is causing the ceiling to not move at the same rate as the walls.

Helen Brown, National Trust building surveyor, said: "Clay sub-soil and shallow historic foundations at Lytes Cary mean that climate change, with the increase in drought and then flood conditions, has a huge impact on the historic fabric."

In order to prevent further damage, the ceiling is being suspended with wires running through washers to give it more flexibility and stability.

Direct link

Peter Sims, a coastal erosion expert from Plymouth University, agreed about climate change having an impact on the swelling and contraction of building materials but said it could not be solely blamed for Studland's erosion.

"It's very easy to put a cause and effect and make a direct link but there are other things that come into effect," he said.

Shell Bay beach at Studland.  Credit: NTPL/Nick Meers
Beach huts have disappeared from Studland Bay

He said rising sea levels would have caused a greater tidal scale as a greater amount of water was being moved, which would in turn cause the removal of relatively soft sand.

He also said a predominance of wind which might have set up the wave pattern around the Poole Harbour peninsula could have caused the beach to lower.

Professor Simon Haslett, head of geography at Bath Spa University, said the retreating was "likely to be due to sediment being moved by waves and currents to somewhere else, either along the beach or back out to sea, rather than due to sea-level rise alone."

Professor Haslett also said the natural process of erosion was being accelerated by mining and coastal defence building programmes.

In Pictures: Manor house cracks
02 Feb 07 |  In Pictures
Humans blamed for climate change
02 Feb 07 |  Science/Nature


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