Cliff End at Fairlight marks the point where Pett Level starts. On the beach, below the cliffs, you can see millions of years of geological and natural history all within the same area. On that beach are fossil evidence and footprints of dinosaurs, the remains of a Bronze Age forest and the detritus of the modern world.The footprint above is one of several found along this stretch of Cliff End beach. It’s likely to have been an Iguanodon, who left the footprint whilst grazing near a river. The beach is full of huge rocks that have fallen from the cliffs above. This stretch of cliffs all the way west to Hastings is highly unstable, and is slowly falling into the sea. Looking at them, it is clear why this is happening. Great fissures run up and along them, which are easily widened by plant roots, rain water and the endless work of the sea.The geology here is fascinating, and best explained on this website. The Bronze Age forest, which is around 6,000 years old is found a short distance from the cliffs, and is visible when the tide is low. This BBC article provides a good history about these ancient forests. Lots of other things can be seen on the beach, and the modern world is well represented. Most notably along this stretch is the axle and wheel stuck between some rocks. Cliff End beach is a great place for a seaside walk, particularly at low tide, when the rock pools and sand is revealed. It is even more enjoyable knowing that in one 360 degree view you can see a substantial part of the history of the Earth.All of these photographs can be viewed full size on my Flickr page by clicking on them.
They can be viewed full size on my Flickr page by clicking on them.
These two photographs of Pett Level were taken on what I think was a perfect winter day. It was sunny and there was no wind.Â Ice was still formed on water that had not been exposed to the sun during the day. It is the type of day when you can take a deep breath of air and feel like you are breathing in something pure and clear. Then you breathe out and you can see it dissipating slowly away.
The sun was low in the horizon for most of the day, providing that ‘golden hour‘ glow to the scenery for much longer than you get during the summer. A slight haze hung in the air giving the distant hills some softness. The smoke from a distant garden bonfire adds to the scene. For me, the perfect winter day.
The two photos are better viewed full size on my Flickr page, which you can do by clicking on them.
The picture of Pett Level above shows the height of the sea defences. The land is only just above sea level and it is these defences that keep the sea at bay and usable for livestock. Of course, it used to be underwater, and the hills that can be seen were the old coastline. The land between Cliff End and Folkestone has a 1 in 5 risk of flooding in any year. This risk will increase if sea levels rise due to climate change. Nearly 20,000 homes are at risk of being lost permanently due to floods or cliff erosion as well as acres of prime farmland. In an attempt to avoid that the Environment Agency has developed a strategy plan to reduce the risk over the next 50 to 100 years. It is an interesting document, if you find that type of thing interesting.
If the worst did happen, and Pett Level and Rye Bay were inundated there is a comprehensive emergency plan in place. Written in 2007, and not updated since then as far as I can tell, it gives some great insight into how a disaster would be managed. The warnings system includes using Ceefax and a vehicle mounted loudhailer, presumably driven by climatologist Pierce Brosnan, with the recently divorced local weather expert and her children as passengers.
The emergency services will coordinate the evacuation, and rendezvous areas have been identified. They will try their best to evacuate those people considered vulnerable, using theÂ â€˜Identifying Vulnerable Persons in a major Emergencyâ€™ document. People requiring evacuation will be able to take their pets with them, as long as they are not considered to be exotic. Especially snakes. No one wants snakes in an emergency rest area.
If you intend to stay at home and fight the floods, you are entitled to obtain and fill a maximum of 12 sand bags for free from Rother Council. Sounds stingy, but they’ll be fighting alongside you to limit the flooding and will need all the sandbags they can get.
The map within the document shows how extensive the flooding would be if the defences were ever breached. It’s good to know that a disaster plan exists, but lets hope it never happens. Pett Level is too beautiful to lose to the sea.
At the east end of Hastings Country Park, close to Fairlight there are rolling hills known collectively as the Firehills. They are named after the gorse fires that are frequently occurring during dry periods. It is will worth a trip there as the Firehills provide an excellent view over Rye Bay and Pett Level. On a clear day you can see the White Cliffs of Dover and even over to France.
On this day is was a little hazy. A stiff breeze was blowing and quite a few clouds were in the sky, keeping away from the coast though. Dungeness is just about visible, the North Downs can be made out on the horizon to the left.
I’ve always tried to photograph this view but a single shot never seems to do it justice. This is a composite of 12 different images. It is a large image and best viewed on my Panoramio page. You can do this by clicking on the image.
When we arrived at the beach the weather was sunny but windy. Looking east towards Rye and beyond it was clear that they were getting a good soaking, but there seemed little danger of it moving my way. An hour or so later that changed. I’ve never seen such dark clouds. The front moved slowly but surely our way, so we moved slowly but surely back towards the car. (Click to enlarge)
Looking down from the top of the shingle at Pett Level Beach I spied this lady walking her dog and liked the contrast between the beach and the sea. Typically the dog decided to show his backside to me just as they passed the middle of my viewfinder! Click to view the photo larger in Flickr.
A man searches for lug worms as the sun rises over Pett Level beach. The darker areas in the foreground are the fossilised remains of a 6,000 year old forest.