Warning to stay away from 'unstable cliffs' after collapse at Sidmouth

  • Watch the moment a cliff collapses as scientists warn ITV News' Bob Cruwys about the dangers of falls

A scientist has warned people to stay away from "unstable cliffs" after a major cliff fall at a Devon beach.

The collapse happened at Jacob's Ladder beach, in Sidmouth at around 2pm on Sunday 17 March.

Vicky Walkley, a coastal scientist from Exmouth, was sitting on a bench looking out to sea when the cliff started to fall and managed to capture it on video.

She said: "I was enjoying a view of the coast when I heard a big rumble and saw a huge section of the cliff collapse.

The collapse happened at around 2pm on Sunday 17 March. Credit: Vicky Walkley

"The rocks and debris entirely covered the full width of the beach in seconds, which really highlights how dangerous it is to walk next to unstable cliffs like these."

She said debris continued to fall from the cliffs even after the main cliff collapse had stopped, and warned there could have been "tragic" consequences for passers-by.

"About 10 minutes after the dust settled, a huge rock about the size of a car then came crashing down the cliff and rolled along the beach," she said.

"Luckily, there was no one on this part of the beach at the time but if there had been, it could have been tragic."

Sidmouth's cliffs are notorious for crumbling, with cliff falls previously taking place at both East Beach and Jacobs Ladder.

Ms Walkley, a coastal scientist from Exmouth, is warning people to stay away from "unstable cliffs" Credit: Vicky Walkley

Ms Walkley, who works on projects to help the government and local councils assess coastal erosion, said people need to be aware cliff falls can happen at any time.

She said: "Cliff falls are very difficult to predict.

"They don't just happen in stormy weather with big waves, but also on calm sunny days like today.

"All the heavy rainfall we've had this winter acts to lubricate the joints in the rock and increase the likelihood of cliff falls.

"Warm sunshine can also heat the rock, causing it to expand - this can trigger cliff falls too."The effects of climate change, including rising sea levels and wetter winters, are likely to accelerate the rates of cliff erosion in future, so it's important that everyone is aware of these risks when visiting the coast."