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Warning after cliff falls across Cornwall

Residents are being urged to take extra care by the coast following a series of cliff falls across Cornwall. 

Cliffs are more likely to become unstable during winter which can result in rocks and debris falling, often without warning. 

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On Sunday, February 7, there was a rock fall at Whipsiderry Beach near Newquay. 

Sadly, rocks fell on a dog burying it under the rubble. The dog’s owner narrowly escaped injury after he was warned by a member of the public that the cliff was about to give way for a second time.  

In recent weeks, there have also been cliff falls at Charlestown, Par Sands and Pentreath Beach on the Lizard Peninsula. 

During lockdown residents should stay local to their area for daily exercise. With half-term approaching Cornwall Council, the RNLI and HM Coastguard are urging those who do live by the coast to take extra care if venturing out.  

Councillor Rob Nolan, Portfolio Holder for Environment and Public Protection at Cornwall Council, said: “We don’t know when and where rockfalls or landslides may occur, and we don’t know if they will be small or large-scale events. But we do know that they can be deadly. 

“Please keep away from any cliff edges and keep clear of the bottom of the cliff. We don’t want anyone to get hurt and we don’t want to put additional strain on our emergency services at this time.” 

Tom Mansell, RNLI Regional Lifesaving Lead for the South West, said: “With schools closed over the half-term and a break in online learning, it is likely we will see people lucky enough to live close to the coast using it to exercise. We are encouraging everyone to follow government guidance on what they are able to do and where they are able to go during lockdown. 

“The school holiday will look very different this year, but for those able to use the coast for exercise, we would urge them to familiarise themselves with local risks and be as safe as possible and not put unnecessary strain on front line services.” 

The RNLI and HM Coastguard has launched a winter coastal safety campaign to highlight the dangers of stormy seas, changing tides and unstable cliffs at this time of year. 

Tom added: “In particular at this time of year, we ask people to stay well back from stormy, wintery seas and cliff edges, check tide times before you go, take a phone with you, and call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard if you or someone else is in trouble.” 

James Instance, Her Majesty’s Coastguard Controller based in Falmouth, said: “We understand that people will be looking to get out into the fresh air this half-term and explore the coastline with their families for their daily exercise allowance in line with COVID-19 restrictions – and, especially because other activities families may usually enjoy in the holidays are unable to happen as usual at the moment. 

“But, please, if you do venture out and are lucky enough to live close to the coast, take extra care, follow our safety guidance and make sure you make it home safely.  

“We’ve had plenty of rain lately so it’s important that you take plenty of care near cliffs, as some clifftops are really unstable and could easily collapse. Our advice, as always, is to stay well back, wear appropriate footwear and ensure that you check tide times and the forecast before setting out.  

“As ever, our message is – keep safe, but if you see anybody in trouble or if you get into difficulty, call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.” 

The RNLI’s key water safety advice is: 

  • Take care if walking near cliffs – be aware of mud, ice and frost, know your route, keep dogs on a lead and be wary of unstable edges  
  • Check tide times daily 
  • Take a full-charged phone  
  • If going afloat, always wear a lifejacket or other personal flotation device and take a means of calling for help 
  • Check your equipment is in good working order 
  • Be aware of the conditions and your capabilities and only enter the water if it is safe to do so 
  • In an emergency call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard 
  • Additional safety advice is available on the RNLI website