Cliff fall insight
I am writing to perhaps redress the balance regarding the constant, emotive and melodramatic predictions about the erosion of Sidmouth’s eastern cliffs in the Pennington Point area. As a keen photographer I have been interested in the local scenery and, since photographing the cliff fall, have read about the arguments on all sides.
The cliff fall I captured started from the top of the cliff - the upper parts seem to be earth and soft rock which readily forms cracks, presumably from the action of rain, frost and sun. Rock falls from the base where the rock is harder seem to occur less frequently and less dramatically, and are relatively small.
In the time since I have visited and lived in Sidmouth, over the past 37 years, I have only been aware of floods caused by excessive rainfall, either as ‘flash’ floods where road drainage cannot cope, or the river level rising causing the ford gates to close. The river flood prevention scheme seems to work well, with weirs and walls containing the river down to the sea. The Alma Bridge is, of course, vulnerable in any storm as its supports stand where they are attacked by water from both directions: perhaps serious study for a repositioned bridge some yards upstream without its feet in water would be a better use of scarce resources?
I do not understand why any catastrophic storm will cause havoc by storm surges rushing up the river where it is bounded by reasonably high walls (and the hump by the playground to prevent water reaching the Ham and thence to the town). Such a storm is more likely, surely, to hit the areas of the prom that we all know are awash during a wind-blown high spring tide. At the turning circle at Port Royal and at York Steps there is little to stop exceptional seas from being driven across the road and down the slopes into the town. I can see no justification to put a rock shield at the base of the cliffs to protect Sidmouth, and the consequent loss of the beauty and benefits of the natural view. Eve Mathews