26 February 2018
The current problems being experienced on the Northam Burrows have been well publicised centring as they do around the old tip at the northern end of the Burrows behind the pebble ridge. Recent storms have washed away the protecting pebbles to expose the old rubbish (much of it plastic) under the sand dunes and there are serious concerns that further erosion could see the material being washed all along the North Devon coast – and hearsay has it that there is much that is very nasty buried along with the domestic rubbish.
Many things have been tried before to anchor the ridge and guard against this doomsday scenario but all have failed to a greater or lesser extent. Techniques include; a massive sea wall, off-shore breakwaters, groynes, gabions (pebble filled wire cages), a massive berm behind the ridge, recharging of the pebbles annually (moving them back from the northern to the southern end) and rip-rap. The latest 'solution' is to put rip-rap boulders in front of the current breach – but this could leave an 'island' of rubbish if the ridge crumbles away either side! Some years ago now Green party member Mike Harrison prepared a map showing what would happen if the ridge goes following a storm surge allied with on-going sea level change through man-made global warming – as you can see the main effects are in the estuaries – with North Devon council area actually suffering more damage than Torridge – though Westward Ho! is Torridge's only real tourist beach. When people say global warming won't affect us show them this.
Here are a number of photos showing efforts made over the decades:
Building old sea wall
Peter's A Level class notes on the subject