Coastguards across the UK are warning those planning to go anywhere near the coast or beaches over the Easter period to be on their guard. Conditions at sea or on coastal land can change very quickly and unexpectedly, making it unpredictable and dangerous.
The warning to be prepared is supported by a couple who found themselves cut off from safety when a cliff unexpectedly collapsed across the beach they were walking on. People are being reminded to also check COVID guidance for the area they live in before making plans as well as taking care if they're going to the coast or beaches for day trips.
Video: Maritime & Coastguard Agency
For one couple from Dorset, a quiet afternoon walk turned into a nightmare when part of a cliff collapsed cutting them off from safety.
Their walk along the beach at Charmouth had started off well - the tide was out and the shingle beach was wide. But they have been retelling the moment when they had to call 999 and ask for the coastguard and warning how easy it is to be caught out.
With a cliff fall blocking their way back to the car park and safety and their only other option - going through the sea - even more dangerous as they would have been swept away, they had only one decision they could make.
They said: "We didn't want to make the situation worse than it already was by putting ourselves in further danger and therefore called 999 and requested assistance from the coastguard."
The couple was winched to safety by search and rescue helicopter. They were told that another half an hour and the tide would have covered the beach where they had found themselves trapped.
They said: "Afterwards you question whether there is anything you could have done differently but we are not daft and we are not the kind of people to take unnecessary risks. This sort of thing could happen to anyone and is a stark reminder of why you always need to have your wits about you at the coast."
More than ever, we now always make sure our mobile phones are fully charged before we head out and that we are aware of tide times.
Director of HM Coastguard Claire Hughes said: "Never, ever think it won't happen to you. We've heard stories from so many people, some of whom know their coastlines and tide times well, who've been out for walks or who are strong swimmers and experts in their water-sports who have found themselves suddenly needing help because something has changed."
Regardless of how well you know the coast, or how experienced you are in your chosen sport, the sea can still catch you out, the cliffs can prove treacherous and even a momentary lapse of concentration can put you in difficulty. We will always respond to those in need but all we ask is that you think twice about what you do and where you go.
In East Sussex, the council is urging people to stay safe this spring and summer when visiting the coastlines.
The council is reminding visitors of the serious risks the unstable cliffs pose to those getting too close to the edge or walking at the base of the cliffs, and the dangers to beach walkers who risk getting cut off by the tide.
High numbers of people have been visiting the coast for clifftop and beachside walks during the pandemic. As lockdown restrictions ease over the coming months and the weather improves, visitor numbers are expected to increase.
East Sussex County Council has teamed up with other organisations along the East Sussex coast to remind people of the dangers.
The joint campaign is being promoted by The National Trust, South Downs National Park Authority, Sussex Wildlife Trust, Seaford Town Council, Wealden District Council, Eastbourne Borough Council, Lewes District Council and Rother District Council.
Visitors are reminded that the chalk cliffs are unstable, with many unseen overhangs and cracks, and despite monitoring the vast majority of chalk falls happen with no warning.
Over the last year there have been nearly 50 cliff falls in East Sussex.
People visiting for beach walks are also urged to be aware of the tide times as it is possible get cut off by the incoming tide or be forced to walk too close to the base of the cliffs.
In the past 12 months there have been 13 incidents of people being stranded on the beach after being cut off by the tide.
Karl Taylor, head of operations at East Sussex County Council, said: “We want people to come to East Sussex and enjoy its beautiful coastline, but to do so safely and be aware of the dangers that the chalk cliffs and the sea can present."
Visitors should not underestimate the risks they are taking when they stand on top of the cliffs or at the cliff base, and should remember that it is very easy to be caught out by the incoming tide when walking on the beach. Our message to anyone visiting the area is enjoy the amazing views safely by keeping well away from the edge and base of the cliffs, and to be aware of the tide.
If anyone is in danger or witness someone who has fallen, they are urged to call 999 immediately and ask for the Coastguard and not attempt to rescue them.