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Page last updated at 14:42 GMT, Thursday, 8 April 2010 15:42 UK
East Charmouth's erosion 'doubles in year'
Sue Paz - BBC Dorset
By Sue Paz
BBC Dorset

Charmouth Beach and landslip

Since East Charmouth's landslip in February 2009, local geologist Geoff Townson says the area that has eroded has "doubled" in size.

It is also believed to be extending further north, inland.

Geoff, who is also an artist, said: "The erosion started in earnest about five or six years ago.

"And a fence was erected about two or three years ago to separate the footpath from the cliff top - but this has since disappeared over the edge."

'Eaten away'

The land is slipping in Charmouth primarily because the clay within the cliffs is very soft.

Geoff added: "It's also being continuously eaten away by the tides and storms.

Artist and geologist Geoff Townson next to Charmouth's landslip in April 2010
The mud from the landslip is 'very dangerous'

"The top of the cliff has got some gravels and sand in it, which holds all the water, and then eventually it just slips after a long period of rain.

"Also if it's been dry for a long time and then you get rain it lubricates the clay and it partly collapses and flows as mud and quick sand, which is very dangerous.

"People often get stuck here - only a few days ago a coastguard helicopter pulled out a child from this very spot, and there have been several cases like this in the last few weeks.

"You wouldn't necessarily disappear into the mud, but it's very hard to get out of."

Neighbouring Lyme

Plans for coastal protection work at neighbouring Lyme Regis are to be examined by West Dorset District Council

The council's Development Control Committee will look at the fourth of five phases of long term coastal protection work for the town.

But as Geoff explains this will not extend to Charmouth.

View of Lyme Regis from Charmouth Beach
The policy at Charmouth is to 'let nature take its course'

He said: "There is a lot more property at risk in Lyme than there is here in Charmouth.

"In Charmouth, my understanding is that the policy is to 'let nature take its course'.

"And as an artist I like to see the erosion and the flow of the mud, as do the professional and amateur fossil collectors, because it always brings fresh specimens."

Fossil hunting

Rather than hunting in the "dangerous" mud however, Geoff advises the amateur, casual collector to "look towards his or her feet in the sand, at low tide" to find fossils.

He added: "That's the safest way - even the professionals wouldn't go into the mud to find fossils."

Geoff has created four large paintings, up to a metre across in size, depicting the landslip.

But as the landscape is constantly changing Geoff admits:

"I must confess I did have to update one of my paintings."

Geoff Townson's paintings of the Charmouth landslip will be on display during Dorset Art Weeks, which take place from May 29 to June 13 2010.

To find out more visit:

Warning after Dorset mud rescues
08 Apr 10 |  Dorset
Stranded children freed from mud
03 Apr 10 |  Dorset
Stuck boy freed from landslip mud
29 Mar 10 |  Dorset
Lyme protection work discussed
05 Apr 10 |  Nature & Outdoors



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