West, Ian M. 2018. Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire: Coastal Processes. Geology of the Wessex Coast. Internet site: www.southampton.ac.uk/~imw/Hurst-Spit-Historic-Coastal-Events.htm. Version: 6th February 2018. [UNDER REORGANISATION]
See also the associated webpage on Hurst Spit:

Milford-on-Sea


Ian West
Romsey, Hampshire

and:
a Visiting Scientist at:
Faculty of Natural and Environmental Sciences,
Southampton University,

Website hosted by iSolutions, Website archived at the British Library
Aerial photographs courtesy of The Channel Coastal Observatory .
R.H. Worth Prize award for website by the Geological Society of London (2008)
Photography, copyright and IT agents - Tonya Loades and Joanna Bentley.

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[N.B. FOR MORE ON MILFORD-ON-SEA - GO TO HORDLE CLIFF AND MILFORD ON SEA WEBPAGE]

INTRODUCTION TO THE MILFORD-ON-SEA WEBPAGE.

The coast at Milford-on-Sea is now being discussed in a new webpage separately from Hurst Spit and separately from Hurst Spit. In the past it had a shingle beach in front of it and this was continuous with Hurst Spit and with the beach to the northwest at Hordle Cliff. This is visible in the areal photograph shown below. It was, therefore, in the past a natural piece of coast and part of the supply connection to Hurst Spit. Now, because of a combination of natural processes and coastal protection for building such as the conspicuous White House and for ordinary housing (although this is set back from the sea wall). There is no discuss matters other than the concrete wall around the White House, and, less important, the concrete wall with concrete beach huts beyond it to the southeast. Years ago, both the White House building and the main sea front were at the back of a good shingle beach. Look at the old photographs and particularly the old aerial photograph.

[OLD AERIAL PHOTOGRAPH TO BE ADDED HERE] ----------

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[NEW INSERT - MOVED FROM HURST SPIT] BEACH MATERIALS - FLINT SHINGLE:

Some Beach Shingle Increase at Milford-on-Sea

New shingle accretion at Milford-on-Sea promenade on the 4th January, 2018

In January, 2018, there was some accretion on the Milford-on-Sea and at the new concrete beach huts, of flint pebble shingle (medium size)that was thrown up by storm waves. This is the indirect result of increased erosion at Becton Bunny (Barton Golf Course) area and at Hordle Cliff nearby. As long as this process continues or even increases the supply system to Hurst Spit might retart. It would be complicated by the various sea defences, including concrete walls, rock armour and old timber groynes in the Milford area, but there a slight possibility of some (nearly) natural longshore drift from Barton to Hurst Spit. It is not impossible that (fairly) natural shingle transport might convey flint pebbles beyond Milford-on-Sea to some version of Hurst Spit once again.

There is no intention of implying here that any recent construction of sea defences at Milford-on-Sea has specifically prevented the natural shingle transport to Hurst Spit. Was has happened is that buildings and promenades have been constructed over the years without allowing for natural retreat of the coast. There was once a good, continuous beach almost all along Christchurch Bay (see the old photographs)with much beach shingle and sand to the seaward of the White House at Milford. When this building was constructed there was probably little thought that this could be a coastal barrier almost preventing longshore drift and pebble supply to Hurst Spit. The people who built probably never worried much about the topic, because it would not have seemed a problem then. Similarly the sea front at Milford-on-Sea is too far seaward.
If you look at this area on Google Earth you will notice the rather irregular and piecemeal sea defences, although it must emphasised that there is not suggestion here of a continuous, high ugly barrier! It is just that natural processes, including recession, have been stopped by varied and irregular manner sea defences at specific point.

Now there is only a narrow and irregular, flint shingle beach at Milford-on-Sea, GI image, go to Google Earth for details

The shingle beach in front of Milford-on-Sea is now very narrow and, in particular, very irregular. The coast should normally move landwards to some extent as a natural result of coastal erosion. However here it has been barred by concrete sea defences and larvickite rock armour at the landward end of Hurst Spit. If the area had been left in natural conditions there would have been a good continuous beach. However, there are houses there now that are well-separated from the sea by car parks and greens and so protective works are serving a purpose.

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The artificial action or artificial obstacles to natural longshore drift are mainly the following:

1. Obstruction of natural beach transport by rock armour to the west of the White House.
2. Major obstruction by rock armour at the White House; and note that the southern part of the building projects seaward into the beach and there is much obstructive rock armour.
3. The main sea front at Milford-on-Sea is very irregular (with a car park projecting into the beach, and with a landward curving, sea wall (the main overtopping site) near the cafe (once with major flooding) to the southeast.
4. Then comes the larvikite rock armour, which is suprisingly high and it stops at relatively low seawall near the cafe (not on high ground).
5. Further southeast, beyond the fairly short but high barrier of rock armour the spit is consists of shingle which sometimes has to be replaced, at least in part, after major storms.

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MILFORD AND HURST SPIT - STORM EROSION

New Coastal Erosion and Deposition at Milford-on-Sea

[Major changes occurred in the 1 in 60 year (?) storm of 2014. Quite severe, but not as much as the 1824 hurricane, or the extreme and very destructive hurricane, Daniel Defoe's Storm, of 1703.]

For more on this topic (but including these photographs), please go to:

Coast Erosion east of the White House, Milford-on-Sea.

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A storm at the Needles, Isle of Wight, as seen from Milford-on-Sea, 11th September, 2017

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A map of Hurst Spit, Milford-on-Sea, Lymington and Sowley areas in 1740, showing locations of ironstone mining and iron ore production

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New erosion just west of the White House, Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire with Hurst Spit in the distance, 15th February 2014

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a new, small, cliffed embayment west of the White House, Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire, revealing Headon Hill Formation and Pleistocene gravel, 15th February 2014

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A new cliff with Pleistocene gravel of a low terrace, exposed west of the White House, Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire, 15th February 2014

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Shingle accumulating in a previous erosional area, west of the White House, Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire, 11th September, 2017

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Good exposure of the Headon Hill Formation, after the storm of 14-15th February 2014, west of the White House and near Paddy's Gap, Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire

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[N.B. FOR MORE ON MILFORD-ON-SEA - GO TO

HORDLE CLIFF AND MILFORD ON SEA WEBPAGE]

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Beach Huts Destroyed or Damaged - 2014

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Very unfortunately for the owners or for the renters, many beach huts were either damaged or destroyed at Milford-on-Sea. Surprisingly the concrete ones proved to vulnerable, in addition to timber huts. The concrete huts have been places at a relatively low level and there significant quantity of protective beach in front of them, except at low tide. Ideally they should have been higher and further back from the sea wall. That would not have stopped all flooding, but it might have avoided the smashing up by waves. I do not know why they are so low, but probably this corresponded to some former level of the former shingle beach here.

Beach huts at Paddy's Gap, west, Milford-on-Sea, near Hurst Spit, Hampshire, damaged by storm action on the 14th-15th February 2014

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Beach hut debris swept up together by the sea at Paddy's Gap, Milford-on-Sea, after the storm of the 14th to 15th February, 2014

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A concrete beach-hut smashed by the sea at Milford-on-Sea, near Hurst Spit, Hampshire, 15th February 2014

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A prescient notice on a concrete beach hut damaged by storm waves, Milford-on-Sea, near Hurst Spit, Hampshire, 15th February 2014

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More concrete beach huts smashed at Milford-on-Sea, near Hurst Spit, Hampshire, 15th February 2014

During fairly severe storm conditions in 2014 (about the 1 in 60 year intensity, not an extreme storm), many of the concrete beach huts of Milford-on-Sea were smashed by the waves. New ones have been build and completed in 2017. It is of course, optimistic to hope for very long term survical of new beach huts at a place like this, a type of promontory directly facing waves that can come from across the Atlantic. This is a very exposed place, unlike the more sheltered Bournemouth. There is some protection by a small amount of shingle and by some small groynes, but it is very limited. However, really big storms, and especially the major hurricanes, only take place at fairly distant intervals and, in any case, these huts may well be stronger than the old ones. They are not conspicuous or ugly and the casual visitor, walking from the car park may not, at first, even realise that they are there (seen from the car park behind, they just looks like a sea wall).

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Beach hut debris, including plastic chairs, have been transported by the St. Valentine's Day Storm along Hurst Spit, Hampshire, even to the southeastern end

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About 600 beach huts have been damaged or destroyed on the nearby south coast of England during the St. Valentine's Day storm. The stretch of coastline managed by New Forest District Council, which includes Milford on Sea and Barton on Sea, has had 40 huts destroyed and 100 damaged. (from report on BBC News online, 19th February, 2014). Of course, beach huts are normally placed near the sea and often at the foot of cliffs. With the possibility of global warming and more storms they inevitably carry increased risk of destruction. Records might be useful indicators of storm intensities, if statistics are retained.

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Overwash Debris

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2014 Major Storm - very destructive

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The promenade at Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire,with debris from smashed beach huts, after the storm of the 14th-15th February, 2014

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Washover seawater on the green behind the promenade at Milford-on-Sea, near Hurst Spit, Hampshire, with a visitor, 15th February 2014

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2017 - Stormy Weather - White House and New Beach Huts - Milford-on-Sea

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At Milford, just northwest of the White House, there is an accumulation of medium flint pebble, shingle, above the short promenade here - is this a future, major, shingle accumulation locality?

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The new Milford-on-Sea beach huts are deserted in stormy weather; there is only myself and a pair of Turnstones

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New, replacement, concrete beach huts at Milford-on-Sea, as seen on a fairly stormy day, 11th September 2017

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At Milford, adjacent to the western end of the rock armour, storm waves have caused washover and thrown pebbles at the white building, St. Valentine's Day Storm, 14th Feb 2014

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The Prime Minister, David Cameron, visits Milford-on-Sea, near Hurst Spit, Hampshire, to see the effects of  some sea flooding as result of a bad storm, overnight, 14th-15th February 2014

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Overwash debris from storm waves on the grass area between the sea front and housing at Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire, 15th February 2014

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Storm action, overwash and pebble-throwing at the landward end of Hurst Spit, Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire, old photo January 2007, for comparison

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An oblique view from Hurst Spit, Hampshire, of the sea-front at Milford-on-Sea, showing the relationship of protruding sea defences at the White House to beach shingle and shingle movement, 6th October 2017

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HURST SPIT - SITUATION - NOVEMBER 2013, AFTER ST. JUDE'S STORM.

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A minor storm, St. Jude's Storm, struck the bank on the night of the 27th -28th October 2013. This gave the beach a mild test. Wind speed at the Needles reached 95 mph but it was not a true hurricane like the "Great Gale" with a great storm surge (about 3 metres in Dorset), as on the 22-23rd November 1824. The 1824 event drove Hurst Spit at Milford back 40 metres in a day. There will probably be adequate warning and evacuation when the real hurricane comes, but the the effects will be numerically less than at the low parts of Weymouth and Sandbanks (and possibly Portsmouth). The hurricane of 1703 seems to have been of similar strength but more over the land. Photographs here show the consequences of St. Jude's Storm, although they are relatively small with some erosion and some limited washover of the bank.

Further damage occurred after another storm, notable for very large storm waves, took place on the night of the 6th to the 7th January 2014. A photograph taken after this is shown further below.

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Hurst Spit, Hampshire, a comparison between 2011 and 2014, looking towards the bend, and showing increased cliffing and substantial loss of the front beach material

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Erosion on the seaward side of Hurst Spit, Hampshire, seen after the storm of 6-7 January, 2014

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Stormy conditions and white water at Hurst Spit, Hampshire, twelve hours before the approach of Storm St. Jude, 27-28th October 2013

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For comparison a photograph of the location shown above, but much later, on the 28th January 2016, is provided directly below. The main significance is that there has been some loss of shingle here. This is not surprising; natural supply is cut off by sea defences further west and by the White House.

The landward end of Hurst Spit, at Milford-on-Sea, shown as at 28th January 2016, and with some depletion of residual shingle and some small-scale erosion

Flint pebbles travelling southeast from the Becton Bunny and Hordle Cliff area are accumulating at Milford-on-Sea at the landward end of Hurst Spit, and some can be seen thrown by a wave, 4th January 2018

Additional, flint pebble shingle has arrived by longshore drift in a storm at the new concrete beach huts at Milford-on-Sea, 4th January 2018.

For more information see:
The Lymington Times, January 12th, 2018. New Beach withstand a storm force battering. Hundreds of tons of shingle thrown on to rebuilt prom. By Roz Waters.
"A 2.3 million [pounds sterling] improvement scheme incorporating 119 new beach huts has withstood a major test after hundreds of tons of shingle were hurled onto a promenade during recent storms. The beach huts which were officially opened in May 2017 were inspected by New Forest District Council's coastal engineering team last week, following storm force winds and waves in late December and early January. A combination of spring tides and several days of unsettled weather were blamed for dislodging a number of paving slabs from the sea front promenade close to the Needles Eye Cafe on Hurst Road. The coastal team estimated that between 400 and 500 tonnes of shingle was swept onto the lower promenade in front of the new beach huts, and waves overtopping the coastal defences also deposited shingle in the sea front car parks. A specialist recording buoy close to the coast at Milford showed wave heights averaging 3m. in conditions which are expected to occur about four times a year. However a spokesman for New Forest District Council explained that the height of the storm occurred over a period of spring tides, combining with a storm surge of 0.6m. leading to larger than normal waves. ....." continues.

Christchurch Bay feeder to Hurst Spit, some preliminary comments.

Christchurch Bay was once a continuous bay with a fairly uniform curve, and ending to the southeast at Hurst Spit to which the beach pebbles travelled (driven generally eastwards by southwesterly waves). The bay has now been made very complex because of partial sea defences in certain places. In particular beach shingle cannot pass the Barton sea defences, but there is rapid erosion near Becton Bunny (east of Barton) because of Terminal Groyne Syndrome (i.e. the effect at the downdrift end of groynes or other sea defences). The renewned erosion is supplying shingle towards Hurst Spit. There has been coastal retreat in the past at the low, coastal and to some extent vulnerable part of Milford-on-Sea. The matter is not simple and the future, of course, is difficult to predict. Now, in contrast to the retreat in area there are now signs of accumulation of shingle, derived from Becton and Hordle Cliff areas at Milford-on-Sea. It is not clear whether the shingle can travel on to Hurst Spit or not. There is a limited stretch of obstructive rock armour at the landward edge of the beach.

The questions are:
1. Will shingle continue to accumulate at Milford-on-Sea?
2. Will it be able to travel on to Hurst Spit?
3. Will it instead accumulate at Milford sea front and form a new spit? (in front of the promenade and beach huts or not?)
4. Is this just some temporary phase and will the coast at Milford return to its natural erosional condition?

It would obviously be very unwise to make predictions, except that the natural enlargement of Christchurch Bay is almost certain to continue, but probably in an irregular manner. Natural retreat of this new bay is the normal process and Hurst Spit has been the natural product (until sea defences, including partial rock armour complicated the whole matter). Now, however, a single eroding Christchurch Bay has become (at least) two eroding bays. It must be noted that the heights of certain parts of Milford-on-Sea may not be very far above the flood level of some of the great storms (like the 1703 great hurricane, the 1824 "Great Gale" etc.). There is no certainty as to what is happening and, of course, great storms cannot be predicted very long in advance. Erosional and depositional complications might be developing in the area.

Copyright © 2018 Ian West, Tonya Loades and Joanna Bentley. All rights reserved. This is a private, academic website intended to be useful for research, reference and educational purposes, including lecturing. Images and text may not be copied for publication or for use on other webpages without permission or for any commercial activity. A reasonable number of images and some text may be used where appropriate for non-commercial, non-charged, non-online and non-published academic purposes, including field trip handouts, student projects, dissertations, lecture etc, providing the source is acknowledged. All images so used must contain the original caption, including the copyright statement. Some images are not those of the author and in that case the copyright is that of the original photographer and these are not for any use without specific permission from the source photographer. This particularly applies to aerial photographs, but also to some sets of field photographs.

Disclaimer: Geological fieldwork involves some level of risk, which can be reduced by knowledge, experience and appropriate safety precautions. Persons undertaking field work should assess the risk, as far as possible, in accordance with weather, conditions on the day and the type of persons involved. In providing descriptive field guides on the Internet no person is advised here to undertake geological field work in any way that might involve them in unreasonable risk from cliffs, ledges, rocks, sea or other causes. Not all places need be visited and the descriptions and photographs here can be used as an alternative to visiting. Individuals and leaders should take appropriate safety precautions, and in bad conditions be prepared to cancell part or all of the field trip if necessary. Permission should be sought for entry into private land and no damage should take place. Attention should be paid to weather warnings, local warnings and danger signs. No liability for death, injury, damage to, or loss of property in connection with a field trip is accepted by providing these websites of geological information. Discussion of geological and geomorphological features, coast erosion, coastal retreat, storm surges etc are given here for academic and educational purposes only. They are not intended for assessment of risk to property or to life. No liability is accepted if this website is used beyond its academic purposes in attempting to determine measures of risk to life or property.

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Dr Ian West, author of these webpages

Webpage - written and produced by:


Ian West, M.Sc. Ph.D. F.G.S.

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at his private address, Romsey, Hampshire, kindly supported by Southampton University,and web-hosted by courtesy of iSolutions of Southampton University. The website does not represent the views of Southampton University. The website is written privately from home in Romsey, unfunded and with no staff other than the author, but generously and freely published by Southampton University.





COAST EROSION AT AND NEAR MILFORD-ON-SEA



COAST EROSION AT MILFORD-ON-SEA:

Paddy's Gap to the White House (Milford-on-Sea)
- Coast Erosion and Storm Activity

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Erosion continues at the somewhat vulnerable area, just west of the White House, Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire with Hurst Spit in the distance, 27th March 2016

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a new, small, cliffed embayment west of the White House, Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire, revealing Headon Hill Formation and Pleistocene gravel, 15th February 2014

Erosion above the sea wall level, at the new embayment, just west of the White House, Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire, as seen on the 28th January 2016.

The changes seen from 2014 to 2016 are mainly just degradation, with the footpath moved back inland a short distance. All looks fairly normal again - until the next really big storm here. The cliff may move inland only rarely, during a great storm, but it has attacked and there has definately been a small coastal retreat. There will be another, of course. It is now expected, whereas it may not have been previously. The sea is naturally advancing here in spite of obstacles placed by humans, and Christchurch Bay will continue its natural growth and development. The problem is not one of steady rate but of the frequency of occurrence of rare, great storms. It may take off a chunk of cliff in the night and then be peaceful and do nothing for years.

Christchurch Bay is a very shallow bay, at least the landward part. It is mostly less than 10m. deep. The cliffs of the bay are largely twice to three times this. This shallow stretch of water is the youngest bay around in the region (Velegrakis et al., 1999) and very rapidly inundated. It was initiated by fast flooding and erosion at the astonishingly recent date of only 7,500 years BP (before the present). By comparison the Pyramids in Egypt were built at about 4576 years BP. This modern and rapid sea encroachment should move on inland into the New Forest area in a short while (geologically speaking). In this perspective, it is not surprising that Christchurch Bay enlarges rapidly, although probably not quite as fast as the similar Brighstone Bay on the Isle of Wight. Both are open to southwesterly storm waves from the Atlantic, and both show coasts with obvious erosion (which is why they are good for fossils).

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A new cliff with Pleistocene gravel of a low terrace, exposed west of the White House, Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire, 15th February 2014

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Good exposure of the Headon Hill Formation, after the storm of 14-15th February 2014, west of the White House and near Paddy's Gap, Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire

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West of the White House, there is evidence of continued erosion above the concrete and rock armour sea defences. Sea level is slowly rising and storms are becoming stronger. They are probably just beginning their process of attacking above sea defences in the region. This may be just an individual case and it is partly just normal retreat. However, it is influenced by the unusual, coastal orientiation problems, caused by the Barton rock armour sea defences (that have shut off some beach sediment supply) and also by changes in the beach at Hordle Cliff. As is well-known, Christchurch Bay has no overall and consistent sea defence scheme. Local sections put up their own barriers (holding back sediment) without concern for anyone down drift. The most obvious case is Barton-on-Sea, once a major source supplier of pebbles (and reworked fossils) to Hurst Spit. The concern there is to preserve houses on the cliff top, without looking too far down drift. It is too late now to repair Christchurch Bay to natural equilibrium without enormous cost and increased risk to houses. Incidently, watch for the possible development of a new Hurst Spit, east of Milford-on-Sea. Pebbles are largely stopped by concrete east of Milford, and as Becton Bay develops further, as a result of Barton-on-Sea defences, then further re-alignment and new Hurst Spit development is a possibility.

(Early signs of a second, new and eastern, Hurst Spit will be looked for. Look around the eastern Hordle Cliff car park. Is any build-up happening. Are there any very early indications? A change in beach orientation has happened recently. However, are changes only small at the moment? Is this a question for the long term future? The answer will probably depend on future erosion and destruction at Becton Bay, i.e. Barton Golf Course. Whatever the case, it would be strange if the Barton-on-Sea sea defences had no further effect on the Milford-on-Sea coast, eastward, down-drift. Bear in mind, though, that Christchurch Bay is naturally retreating and the sea is winning the battle at a slow rate. This has been going on for 7500 years, the youthful age of the bay, and shows no signs of stopping.)

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Sea wall west of Milford-on-Sea in a moderate gale, November 2009

Exposure of the Unio Bed produced by minor erosion above a sea wall, just to the west of the White House, Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire, 2007

The short stretch of coast from Paddy's Gap to the White House is very interesting. It is the part of Christchurch Bay which is most depleted in terms of beach material. This was not the case in the past, and thus its cause is an interesting problem. The relatively low cliff is protected by a sea wall with gravel at the back and, now, rock armour (largely Carboniferous Limestone) in front. Presumably this has been required because of the risk of rapid coastal reatreat which might take place. Apart from the White House, there is no housing immediately on the cliff top, but it is not far back from the cliffs.

Thus, this is an interesting place to observe problems of the horizontal proximity of the sea to the location of the cliff top. There is a very narrow cliff and no beach at high tide. The sea wall is not very high but is regularly maintained. Gaps could be filled with rock armour and gravel, should they appear. However, the longer term prospects are interesting to consider. Rising sea level and more storms are very likely to cause problems here over the next 100 years. Quite apart from a probable rise in sea-level or 60 cm or a metre over a hundred years, major storm events may take place. In any case, the great 1824-type hurricane has not yet returned. When this one-in-250 year event happens again, as, of course, it will then the sea attack here could be very serious, much more so than shown in the photographs below.

Storm wave hits sea-defences, Milford-on-Sea, Christchurch Bay

Storm wave crashes over the cliff top, throwing gravel, Paddy's Gap towards the White House, Milford-on-Sea, January 1998

This storm in the morning of a day in January, 1998 hit the Hordle coastline quite severely (anyone interested could probably find meteorological records regarding the storm). The photographs shown here were taken at Rook Cliff, Milford on Sea, east of the main Hordle Cliff geological section. ,where there are some sea-defences. The location of photography was from the eastern side of a car-park (map reference SZ 282917) on the greensward at the western end of Milford. In the distance is the old sea-front hospital, with a characteristic horseshoe-shaped plan. There is a promenade and sea-wall at the foot of the cliff here and groynes commence at this location and are placed at intervals between here and the building in the distance, as can be seen in the photographs. They seem to be little consequence in these conditions. The storm waves are oblique to the coast and are coming from a southwesterly direction, that of maximum fetch. These can come up the English Channel, just missing the Brittany Peninsula, to the south, and just missing the Isle of Purbeck peninsula, not far away. The southwesterly direction is that of the prevailing wind and storms from this direction are common occurrences when Atlantic depressions and fronts hit the region in the winter. Thus big waves, perhaps originating from the Atlantic, can occasionally attack the coast from Barton-on-Sea eastward to Hordle Cliff, Milford-on-Sea and Hurst Castle Spit (and the western Isle of Wight). Highcliffe, further west is, of course, not completely safe from major wave attack but is protected to some extent not only by the Isle of Purbeck, but also by the promontory of Hengistbury Head. Relatively shallow water can reduce the wave effect to some extent. Nevertheless this is an interesting stretch of coast in geomorphological terms, because it has the combination of cliffs of poorly consolidated clay, sand and gravel and the occasional subjection to major storm waves from the southwest.

We can now consider the details of the particular storm event. The waves were impacting on the sea-wall of the promenade and throwing water and spray high so that it could reach to top of the cliffs, only at about 10m here. Sea-water then ran back seaward down the cliffs eroding Pleistocene gravel and carrying down to the promenade and the sea. This brown gravel is the cause of discolouration of the sea-water. The gravel was churned up in the waves and then thrown back again up the cliff. Gravel thus landed on the cliff top and in one of the photographs an individual pebble in movement in the air can be seen. The showering of gravel on the cliff-top made the author aware that he had parked his car in an unsatisfactory place (quite apart from the sever wind-buffeting and the salt-water wash) and although impact damage to the windscreen was only minor the visit was necessarily curtailed. In the afternoon the wind-speed decreased to more normal conditions.

Lagoon and bar at Hordle Cliff, Hampshire, seen from Paddy's Gap

Milford beach seen from Paddy's Gap at low spring tide, 10 March 2005. The southeastern end of the low-tide lagoon is seen

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Milford-on-Sea is at the eastern end of Christchurch Bay. The prevailing winds are from the southwest and thus the dominant long-shore drift is towards the east. In natural conditions, without the presence of major sea-defences hindering supply and movement, shingle from the Pleistocene gravels of Barton-on-Sea and Hordle Cliff is transported eastward along the beach to Milford-on-Sea and thence to Hurst Castle Spit (where, indeed, some Barton fossils are found). The normal consequence of this is a build-up of beach material at Milford and this has, in the past, probably retarded cliff retreat. The offshore bar, which would also have consisted of material drifted from the west, would also have provided some protection by moderating the effect of waves. The photograph above shows a small part of the beach in its natural condition in 1932. At this time the beach was wide and the berm rose to almost the level of the land surface at this location. The crest shows oblique ridges because of some alignment to a mild promontory at Rook Cliff and Hordle Cliff to the west of this. Thus in natural circumstances Milford is to some extent a location of accretion whereas Barton is primarily a location of erosion and supply of pebbles. Conditions have changed now but Milford-on-Sea has probably been subject to a low rate of coast erosion in the past because of the broad protective beach and the offshore bar. The natural sea-defences have largely been lost now but the concrete and blocks of Carboniferous Limestone, the main artificial substitutes, seem to be holding firmly, at least for the present. The landward beach limit or effective cliff-line has retreated a little beyond the trend of the wall, especially on the east side (the down-drift side) of the concrete defences shown.

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COAST EROSION AT MILFORD-ON-SEA continued:

The White House at Milford-on-Sea

The White House at Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire, formerly a seaside residence of the Walker-Munro family, and later a children's  hospital

An oblique view from Hurst Spit, Hampshire, of the sea-front at Milford-on-Sea, showing the relationship of protruding sea defences at the White House to beach shingle and shingle movement, 6th October 2017

At Milford-on-Sea, the most impressive feature of the sea-front is the White House. This was built in 1902 by the Walker-Munro family, colliery millionaires of Rhinefield House in the New Forest. This summer sea-side residence became a children's hospital from 1938 to 1983, and in 1999 was restored by Colten Developments Ltd. It is a nice building of historic interest. It is also of geomorphological significance as marker with regard to coastline recession and longshore drift of gravel, and is referred to again below (see 1938 ). It originally had a broad beach in front of it, but it is now protected by a small promontory of sea defences.

Wide and high beach in 1932

Sea defences at Milford-on-Sea seen in October 2003

Coast retreat is clearly seen at the White House from the above photograph. One is from 1932 and the other one from 2003.

Comparison of the coast at the White House, from 1932-2001, Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire

A wide and high beach in front of The White House at Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire, in 1932 before the coast was affected by sea defences

Sea defences at Milford-on-Sea seen in October 2003

The seafront at Milford-on-Sea is important to Hurst Spit because it is the feeder area, through which in the past the shingle from the Barton and Hordle cliffs reached the spit. A aerial photograph of the White House, the conspicous white building to the west of the small town (and mentioned above), was taken in 1932. It shows the two lookout or viewpoint buildings aligned with the back of the beach. As mentioned above, it was built in 1902. Its exact relationship to the beach at that time is not known, but since coast erosion here has been progressive it is probable that the beach was even wider or further to south in 1902 than in 1932 . Notice, incidently, that in 1838 the narrow concrete wall, oblique to the coast, was already in existence already. Perhaps, there had already been some threat of coast erosion. I wonder why it is not parallel to the sea frontage of the building; perhaps it was intended to trap the southeast-moving gravel.

In 1938, unlike the present day, there was a wide beach that seems not to have been significantly damaged or destroyed by sea defences to the west. Shingle could then pass by long-shore drift from west to east (in accordance with prevailing southwesterly winds) and supply Hurst Spit.

The photograph of the White House on the 6 May 2001 by the Channel Coastal Observatory, shows a very different situation. Much rock armour has been placed in front, and there is more of this further west. Now shingle cannot easily pass the various obstructions, of which this is only one. In any case it cannot proceed further southeast because of major sea defences at the Milford end of Hurst Spit.

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COAST EROSION AT MILFORT-ON-SEA continued:

Milford-on-Sea - the Main Sea Front

The sea front at Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire, seen here in a moderate gale, has limited beach material and a fairly low sea wall, 22nd November 2009

An aerial photograph of the relatively low coastal area at Milford-on-Sea at the southeastern end of Christchurch Bay Hordle Cliff, Hampshire, and adjacent to the formerly retreating Hurst Spit

The short stretch of low coast at Milford-on-Sea contrasts with the cliffed coast of most of Christchurch Bay. In historic times this area has receded more or less in line with the adjacent Hurst Spit. Now, however, Hurst Beach is a little further back but is protected at this end by a high embankment of larvikite rock armour. This part should resist even very severe hurricanes. The sea front area at Milford has much lower concrete sea walls, although they defend against normal storms. The land behind is m mostly above the possible flood level of the Environment Agency Flood Maps. In fact, it does not seem to suffered much recently, apart from some minor washover at the southeastern end. Whether the lower sea defences here, though, will protect against washover from a severe hurricane with storm surge, like the 1824 event, is not known. Whether there will be any longterm future problem here with global warming and rising sea level is not known either (if necessary, perhaps it might be possible to continue the larvikite rock armour bank westward across the car park, so that a strong and high sea wall would exist from the White House area, Milford, southeast to the southeastern end of the larvikite on Hurst Spit.)

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COAST EROSION AT MILFORD-ON-SEA: Milford-on-Sea
Sea Encroachment in 1953

Newspaper report: Anonymous (1953). Sea encroaches 30-40 feet. New Milton Advertiser, 25 July 1953, p.1. Article not seen, but referred to by Delair (2007).

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COAST EROSION AT MILFORD-ON-SEA continued:

Hurst Spit and its Relationship to Milford-on-Sea

The Milford end of Hurst Spit, Hampshire, seen in aerial view in 1958, shown here in as a version that has been lightly tinted by Ian West, 11 November, 2017

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Hurst Castle Spit, Hampshire, distal part, August 2002

Breach beginning to develop at Hurst Castle Spit, Hampshire in February, 1979

Hurst Castle Spit is discussed in detail in a separate but associated webpage - Hurst Spit. It is, however, relevant to mention it here in relation to movement of beach material from and past Hordle Cliff and in relation to Milford-on-Sea. The spit represents the destination of subangular flint gravel travelling by long-shore drift eastward from the supply cliffs of Highcliffe, Barton-on-Sea and Hordle Cliff. The supply from Highcliffe and Barton has been cut by sea-defences long ago but the beach at Hordle Cliff has remained quite wide, at least until recently. There has been much residual gravel and the increased erosion at Beacon Cliff must have helped. In addition there has been some realignment of the trend of the beach (probably a very small clockwise shift in the Hordle Cliff area) which has had its effect.

The natural overall retreat of the coast must have caused some concern at Milford-on-Sea back in the 1950s because at about that time some defences were constructed there (as indicated by old photographs). The sea-defences have been strengthened there (see the images above regarding Milford) and now it is very difficult for shingle to pass eastward of Milford beach. The Hordle Cliff, Barton and Highcliffe shingle is not able to reach the spit. At the landward end of this geomorphological feature some sea-defences in the form of rock armour were added. This seems to protected part of the beach but reduced shingle supply eastward. Thus, in February 1979, the sea almost breached the beach directly east of the sea-defences and the beach ridge was stepped back out of line. Later, after after a major flattening of the shingle spit by the sea, Hurst Spit was rebuilt from larvikite and dredged shingle. For more information on Hurst Spit and on its artificial reconstruction see: the Hurst Spit webpage.

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Shingle Movement at Milford, early 2018.

Flint pebbles travelling southeast from the Becton Bunny and Hordle Cliff area are accumulating at Milford-on-Sea at the landward end of Hurst Spit, and some can be seen thrown by a wave, 4th January 2018

Additional, flint pebble shingle has arrived by longshore drift in a storm at the new concrete beach huts at Milford-on-Sea, 4th January 2018.

For more information see:
The Lymington Times, January 12th, 2018. New Beach withstand a storm force battering. Hundreds of tons of shingle thrown on to rebuilt prom. By Roz Waters.
"A 2.3 million [pounds sterling] improvement scheme incorporating 119 new beach huts has withstood a major test after hundreds of tons of shingle were hurled onto a promenade during recent storms. The beach huts which were officially opened in May 2017 were inspected by New Forest District Council's coastal engineering team last week, following storm force winds and waves in late December and early January. A combination of spring tides and several days of unsettled weather were blamed for dislodging a number of paving slabs from the sea front promenade close to the Needles Eye Cafe on Hurst Road. The coastal team estimated that between 400 and 500 tonnes of shingle was swept onto the lower promenade in front of the new beach huts, and waves overtopping the coastal defences also deposited shingle in the sea front car parks. A specialist recording buoy close to the coast at Milford showed wave heights averaging 3m. in conditions which are expected to occur about four times a year. However a spokesman for New Forest District Council explained that the height of the storm occurred over a period of spring tides, combining with a storm surge of 0.6m. leading to larger than normal waves. ....." continues.

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Dr Ian West, author of these webpages

Webpage - written and produced by:


Ian West, M.Sc. Ph.D. F.G.S.

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at his private address, Romsey, Hampshire, kindly supported by Southampton University,and web-hosted by courtesy of iSolutions of Southampton University. The website does not necessarily represent the views of Southampton University. The website is written privately from home in Romsey, unfunded and with no staff other than the author, but generously and freely published by Southampton University. Field trips shown in photographs do not necessarily have any connection with Southampton University and may have been private or have been run by various organisations.