IN PICTURES: Dramatic cliff collapse images show how close caravans came to destruction
- Credit: Archant
Three caravans left perilously close to disaster after a 'devastating' cliff collapse will be moved.
Tonnes of sand and silt fell away from the cliffs next to the Trimingham House Caravan Park, near Mundesley, overnight between Sunday and Monday.
Although no-one was hurt in the incident, a woman who lives in one of the caravans closest to the cliffs was evacuated and is now staying with relatives.
Tony Garbutt, senior coastal operations manager at HM Coastguard, said a land surface equivalent to "a couple of football pitches" had fallen away.
Mr Garbutt, who was on the scene on Monday along with Norfolk Fire and Rescue, police and other Coastguard officers, said: "We've disconnected the utilities and we're pulling the caravans that were closest to the edge back. This coast is unstable and we're not going to be able to stop that."
Mr Garbutt warned people to stay away from the area as further falls were possible.
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The beach below the cliff is impassible with sludge more than three metres high in places.
"It becomes a bit like quicksand and people can get stuck," Mr Garbutt said. "It will be left to nature to be washed out to sea."
Pete Revell, rescue officer from Bacton Coastguard, described the collapse as far larger than a cliff fall at the same spot after heavy rain in December.
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He said: "I thought it was big last time, but this is about three times as big.
"It has gone right into the sea. We don't want anyone going near the beach at all."
Shirley Cross, who works in the caravan park's office, said the cliff fall was "devastating".
She said: "It was a big shock.
"I was out walking [Monday] morning with the dog and thought 'oh, that's funny, there's no fence where the fence should be'.
"I went closer and saw it went right up to one of the caravan deckings.
"It must have gone 12 to 14 foot from where it was."
Frank Rumble, 72, and his wife Beth, 82, live next to the caravan park in a house that has been in Mrs Rumble's family since 1937.
Just a fraction of the land that once separated the house from the cliffside still remains.
Mrs Rumble said: "There used to be a gardener's house, a little bungalow, a sunken tennis court and an orchard with 150 trees. We had so many things, they're now all gone. There's so much history, it's a terrible thing to lose it all."
Mr Rumble said they had not heard the cliff fall, and only became aware what had happened on Monday morning.
He said: "I heard the doorbell ring and it was the police. I went into the other room to get dressed and I saw a chunk of the cliff had gone."
Mr Rumble said they had got used to living on a crumbling coastline.
He said: "Anyone who knows the north Norfolk coast learns to live with the threat of erosion. It's going on and we can't change it.
"The fall-back is that I own some land nearby, I can build a new bungalow there or put a cabin on it. For four months of the year everyone wants to live in my hose because of the beautiful sea views, but they forget about the other eight months."
The couple have documents including a development plan from 1900 - the same year their home was built. The plan shows dozens of proposed homes, about half of which would have been built on land which is now part of the North Sea.
A Maritime and Coastguard Agency spokesman said: "The cliffs along the UK coastline are continually eroding, with pieces falling from them that can be just a few small rocks or as large as a car. It's impossible to predict when the next piece might fall or how big it will be.
"We've seen a number of cliff collapses around the coast in recent months, particularly after intense rainfall."
"As ever, our message is keep safe, but if you see anybody in trouble or if you get into difficulty, call 999 and ask for the Coastguard."
Where next? Our eroding coastline
The cliff collapse at Trimingham is the latest in an ongoing process of erosion which has put scores of homes around the Norfolk coast in danger of tumbling into the sea.
The village of Happisburgh, with its iconic lighthouse, is considered to have one of the fastest-eroding coastlines in the UK and other areas at risk include Sidestrand, Mundesley, Walcott, Hemsby, Caister-On-Sea and Hopton-On-Sea.
Shoreline management plans have been drawn up outlining the approach for management over the next 100 years - a mix of holding the line, managing retreat or not intervening.
While the line will be held at Cromer, Sheringham, Wells-Next-The-Sea, Gorleston and Great Yarmouth, that means, in the long term, there will be no intervention at all for stretches such as Kelling to Sheringham, Overstrand to Mundesley and Gorleston to Hopton.
The government is keen to get the highest level of benefit for investment, which means focus tends to be on larger conurbations - bad news for rural villages.