Cuckmere Haven experienced a series of exceptionally severe storms which resulted in serious destruction and erosion of the West Beach coastal defences, the public access to the beach, and put the lower coastguard cottage at risk. Over one third of the land area below the cottages been swept away. (fig. 1)
The powerful swirling waves undermined the groynes allowing tons of shingle and soil to be sucked out to sea and creating a huge pit 50 X 70 metres. The concrete surrounding the metal barriers was fractured and groynes destroyed. (fig. 2 & 3)
The cables laid in 1900 from the Cuckmere cable hut to France were all that held the footpath to the beach in place as the eddies carved out a cave 3 metres in depth underneath. (Fig 4)
Attempts to stop the destruction were only swept away by the next storm. It became apparent that only major work would do the job. (fig. 5)
There have been huge storms in the past (fig. 6) and any damage was rectified by the Environment Agency . However the storms are now much more frequent and the government declared they would no longer finance any repairs but are going to allow the sea to take its course - and the landscape with it.
The cottage owners and volunteers have to take on the responsibility and fund the work themselves. They have done this in the past (fig. 7) but not on such a large scale. Engineers were consulted and surveys done. A major engineering firm quoted between £250,000 and £400,000 just to stop the destruction from the beach. Of course this was beyond the means of the supporters.
After the August storm all existing sea defences were destroyed. It became evident that with the winter approaching something had to be done. (fig. 8 & 9)
A plan was drawn up with a local firm to hold the sea back on a temporary emergency basis. Cranes worked from 16th of September 2014 to 16 October 2014 moving rock found on the shore to an area that had been the weakest spot. This had been caused by groynes having been put at right angles thus causing the force of the waves to swirl and eddy eating away at the hillside. (fig. 10)
The land behind the old revetment was dragged out by the power of the sea, so it was filled with 400 tons of granite. (fig. 11)
A new barrier (fig. 12) was constructed to deflect the sea from eating away at the hillside that led to the cottages.
Giant Lego type concrete blocks were used to brace the outer old metal sea defence wall. (fig. 13)
"Over one third of the land area below the Cottages has been swept away"
The power of nature and a lack of resources to provide adequate protection against our increasing storms has led to ongoing destruction of the existing sea defences. This has left the landscape and coastguard cottages vulnerable to the elements.