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JIm Forrest, Gerald Drabble, JImmy Roberts Learn more

A job for King Canute

by Jim Forrest on 9 January, 2022

Major repairs to Hill Head’s sea defences were carried out earlier this winter – but the sea continues its onslaught. During the Covid restrictions Hill Head beach has become a valued recreational space for hundreds of new visitors, but it’s worth reminding ourselves that it’s a resource that has to be enjoyed with care.

Steel … concrete … timber… This corner of the beach has been heavily reinforced. But as high tide approaches, it’s completely inundated, and the steep shelving means deep water is not far away.

Even in the relatively sheltered Solent, wind and waves search relentlessly for new gaps in our defences. The trees behind this damaged fence have been partially uprooted in recent storms.

Beachside householders have a never-ending battle against the weather

A few yards further along from the new defences, shingle is being clawed from under the earlier fencing by the swirling tides.

This stretch of beach is a popular walk, but its dangers should never be under-estimated. Repairs have been carried out after the collapse of parts of the biggest groyne, near the concrete pillboxes, but as this montage shows, crossing it entails a scramble over steep, slippery rocks. And on it’s eastern approach, selfish walkers who ignore warnings of high tides and try to cling to the fence to stay above the waves risk damaging the structures that protect us all, as well as risking their lives.

Best to time walks for low tide, when wide stretches of firm shingle are exposed. Around high tide, the only safe route is via the signposted stairway to Hill Head Road, returning to tthe beach at Giblets Ore. Less scenic, but less risk of a broken ankle or worse.