Climate change risk for coastal castles

Climate change risk for coastal castles

Collapsed Hurst Castle Wall

Part of Hurst Castle in Hampshire collapsed in February 2021

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

The charity, which manages more than 400 historic sites across England, highlighted six castles threatened by 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 more powerful waves.

“It seems that the whole natural dynamics of the coastline have been accelerated in some places by climate change,” Rob Woodside, English Heritage director of estates, told BBC News.

“What we’re trying to do now is essentially 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 greenhouse gases that warm the Earth are drastically reduced, sea levels worldwide will continue to rise for hundreds of years. Higher sea levels mean stronger waves moving closer to shore and faster coastal erosion.

Here are the six sites most at risk according to English Heritage:

Hurst . Castle

Hurst . Castle

Sea walls have now been erected to protect Hurst Castle

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

Henry VIII’s Hurst Castle Wall Collapses in Lymington

Tintagel

Tintagel

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

Erosion is not a new problem at Tintagel. It has been attacked by wind and sea since its construction in the 13th century. Cliffs fall regularly and English Heritage says money is urgently needed to repair damage from last winter’s storms.

Castle Piel

Castle Piel

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

Fourteenth-century Piel Castle sits on a low-lying 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. According to English Heritage, the castle keep and bastions 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 rising sea levels.

For 500 years, this Tudor fortress in Devon has guarded the narrow entrance to the Dart Estuary as the last line of defense to protect Dartmouth from attacks from the sea.

Garrison Walls

Garrison Walls

The Garrison Walls were built gradually 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 is concentrated. English Heritage says these sections are extremely vulnerable to erosion and will be breached in the coming years if not protected.

Castle of Calshot

Castle of Calshot

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

Calshot Castle sits on a fragile short headland in the River Solent. The site is at a low level and is therefore vulnerable to rising sea levels and erosion.

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