Is this the height of stupidity? Visitors ignore warnings to keep clear of crumbling cliffs on North Norfolk coast
- Credit: Archant
A middle-aged woman is pictured leading a child down crumbling cliffs along the North Norfolk coast with one hand in her pocket – despite repeated warnings of landslides.
And she has to let go of his hand halfway down the eroding slope as she struggles to find her own footing, leaving the youngster, believed to be no older than six or seven years old, to make his own way to the bottom.
However, despite their difficulties reaching safe ground on the beach below, the group of two adults and two children returned soon after to scramble back to the top, to save themselves a short walk to the road access at Water Lane.
The alarming series of photographs was taken at West Runton on Sunday as visitors headed to the beach for the Bank Holiday weekend.
In less than an hour, around a dozen people – both adults and children - were caught on camera ignoring warning signs to keep clear of the cliff edge.
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Also pictured were two school-aged youngsters using the steep slopes as a playground and an older male who posed for a selfie at the top, all blissfully unaware of the danger.
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Commenting on the photographs, councillor Angie Fitch-Tillett, portfolio holder for coastal management and environmental services at North Norfolk District Council, said: 'It's just unbelievable.
'The more people who go on these cliffs, the more people will destroy them.
'That is a very dangerous environment; they can get stuck in the horrible muddy quicksand and then how are they going to feel like if a boat overturns out at sea and someone drowns because the Coastguard had to go and pull someone out of cliffs?'
In January, a dog walker was killed after being crushed underneath a collapsed cliff in Thorpeness, Suffolk.
Councillor Fitch-Tillett said: 'One of my friends is involved with the local voluntary Coastguard. He is telling me all the time the things he has to do and the stupidity of the general public - it is putting a horrendous strain on the emergency services.'
Local cafe owner Louise O'Shea revealed she has installed extra signs to warn visitors of the danger. However, they continue to be ignored.
She added: 'I've installed seven signs on ourland to try and make people aware of the dangers along the coastal path. People keep exiting the coastal path down the cliffs.
'Personally I think it's not if an accident will happen, it's more a case of when.'
The cliffs at West Runton are renowned after they unearthed one of the most complete skeletons of a mammoth ever discovered in Europe.
And there is renewed interest in the area following the discovery of another giant bone on Friday.
But the Coastguard has reiterated its pleas to the public not to get too close to the cliffs following the latest near tragedies.
A statement from Cromer Coastguard said: 'To all the people who say this is not dangerous, it was not fun for the lady who lost her footing and broke her back in two places.
'It was not fun for the family who got struck by a rising tide late one night, and had to use it as a place of safety, but the tide was removing the sand from under their feet.
'They are not safe cliffs, no coastal cliff is safe. If you see someone in trouble along our lovely but dangerous coastline please call the Coastguard on 999.'
Fences erected to prevent the public from getting too close to the edge of the cliffs continue to fall victim to erosion. And local residents fear that if tragedy strikes it could put off holidaymakers visiting the area, which relies on tourism, in future.
Councillor Sarah Butikofer, who represents the area on North Norfolk District Council. said: 'It is a constant concern to see people climbing the cliffs at East and West Runton. As most people are aware, many of the cliffs along our stunning coastline are constantly eroding, and I would strongly urge people to follow the advice of the Coastguard and not take a shortcut to the beach.
'I have discussed the possibility of extra fencing with officers at the Council but, as the cliffs erode, this ends up on the beach alarmingly quickly; in addition to which I have witnessed several people climb over what fence is there.
'The new find on the beach will inevitably lead to more visitors all hoping to find the next piece of history and we are so lucky to have this at our front door. But I want people to go away from The Runtons after a happy day out enjoying some of the best beaches Norfolk can offer, not with memories of the day they or their friend had a terrible accident.'