Climate change risk for coastal castles

Climate change risk for coastal castles

Collapsed Hurst Castle Wall

A section of Hurst Castle in Hampshire collapsed in February 2021

Castles that have been around for hundreds of years are at risk of being damaged by climate change, warns 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’s calling for money to repair walls and improve defenses against more powerful storms and waves.

“It appears that the entire natural dynamics of the coastline in some places has been accelerated by climate change,” Rob Woodside, property director at English Heritage, told BBC News.

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

There is broad consensus among scientists that even if Earth-warming greenhouse gas emissions are drastically reduced, global sea levels will continue to rise for several hundred years. Higher sea levels mean more powerful waves approaching shore and faster coastal erosion.

These are the six locations that English Heritage says are most at risk:

Hurst Castle

Hurst Castle

Sea defenses have already been put in place to protect Hurst Castle

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

Henry VIII’s Hurst Castle Wall Collapses in Lymington

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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 under attack by the wind and the sea since its construction in the 13th century. There are regular cliff falls 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 invaders from Scotland.

The 14th-century Piel Castle sits 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 keep and ramparts of the castle are now at risk of erosion and flooding.

Fort Bayard’s Cove

Fort Bayard's Cove

Bayard’s Cove Fort is particularly vulnerable to flooding caused by rising sea levels.

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

Garrison Walls

Garrison Walls

The Garrison Walls were progressively 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 is concentrated. English Heritage says these sections are extremely vulnerable to erosion and will be breached for years to come 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 small patch of vulnerable 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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