Climate change risk to coastal castles

Climate change risk to coastal castles

The wall of Hurst Castle collapsed

A section of Hurst Castle in Hampshire collapsed in February 2021

Castles that have stood for hundreds of years are at risk of being destroyed by climate change, warns charity English Heritage.

The charity, which manages over 400 historic sites across England, has highlighted six castles under threat from coastal erosion and rising sea levels.

They include Tintagel in Cornwall and Hurst Castle in Hampshire

It is attractive for money to repair walls and improve defenses against storms and stronger waves.

“It seems that the whole natural dynamic of the coastline in some places has been accelerated by climate change,” Rob Woodside, English Heritage’s property manager, told BBC News.

“What we’re trying to do now is basically buy time, so with places that we value and people want to take care of, we’re taking steps to protect them.”

There is broad consensus among scientists that even if emissions of earth-warming greenhouse gases fall dramatically, global sea levels will continue to rise for several hundred years. Higher sea levels mean stronger waves coming closer to shore and faster coastal erosion.

These are the six sites English Heritage says are most at risk:

Hurst Castle

Hurst Castle

Sea defenses are now in place to protect Hurst Castle

Originally built by Tudor King Henry VIII between 1541 and 1544, part of the east wing of Hurst Castle collapsed into the sea in February 2021 after its foundations eroded. As part of the efforts to defend the castle, 5,000 tons of granite boulders have been placed to form a barrier or “lining”.

The wall of Henry VIII’s Hurst Castle is crumbling in Lymington

Tintagel

Tintagel

Tintagel in Cornwall is inextricably linked with the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table

Corrosion is not a new problem at Tintagel. It has been attacked by wind and sea since it was built in the 13th century. There are regular rockfalls and English Heritage says funding is urgently needed to repair damage from last winter’s storms.

Piel Castle

Piel Castle

Piel Castle in Cumbria was built to protect Barrow-in-Furness from pirates and raiders from Scotland.

The 14th century Piel Castle stands on a low island about half a mile off the coast in Morecambe Bay. Much of the island has already been lost to erosion and part of the castle fell into the sea in the 19th century. English Heritage says the castle’s keep and ramparts are now at risk from both erosion and flooding.

Bayard’s Cove Fort

Bayard's Cove Fort

Bayard’s Cove Fort is particularly vulnerable to flooding from sea level rise.

For 500 years, this Tudor fort in Devon guarded the narrow entrance to the Dart estuary as the last line of defense to protect Dartmouth from attack by sea.

Garrison walls

Garrison walls

Garrison walls were gradually built to strengthen the defenses of the Isles of Scilly after the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588

The shape of the Garrison Walls creates pinch points, or ‘armpits’, where the tide focuses. English Heritage says these sections are extremely vulnerable to erosion and will be breached in the coming years if not protected.

Calshot Castle

Calshot Castle

Calshot Castle was built by Henry VIII to defend the approach to Southampton

Calshot Castle sits on a vulnerable little piece of land on the River Solent. The site is at a low level making it vulnerable to sea level rise and erosion.

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