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Climate change risk for coastal castles

A section of Hurst Castle in Hampshire collapsed in February 2021

Castles that have been standing for hundreds of years are at risk of being damaged by climate change, warns the conservation charity English Heritage.

The charity, which manages more than 400 historic sites in England, highlighted six castles threatened by coastal erosion and rising sea levels.

They include Tintagel in Cornwall and Hurst Castle in Hampshire.

It is appealing money to repair walls and improve defenses against more powerful storms and waves.

“It seems that the whole natural dynamic of the coast in some places has been accelerated by climate change,” Rob Woodside, director of estates at English Heritage, told BBC News.

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

There is a broad consensus among scientists that even if emissions of greenhouse gases that warm the earth are drastically reduced, global sea levels will continue to rise for several hundred years. Higher sea levels mean more powerful waves moving closer to shore and faster coastal erosion.

Here are the six sites that English Heritage says are most at risk:

Hurst Castle

Hurst Castle

Sea defenses have been established to protect Hurst Castle

Originally built by the 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 eroded. As part of the efforts to defend the castle, 5,000 tons of granite boulders were laid down to form a barrier or “revetment”.

Henry VIII’s Hurst Castle wall collapses in Lymington

tintgel

tintgel

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 in Tintagel. It has been under attack by wind and sea since it was built in the 13th century. There are regular cliff falls and English Heritage says funds are urgently needed to repair damage from last winter’s storms.

Fur Castle

Fur Castle

Piel Castle in Cumbria was built to protect Barrow-in-Furness against pirates and raiders from Scotland.

The 14th-century Piel Castle stands on a low-lying island about half a mile offshore 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 bastions of the castle are now at risk from both erosion and flooding.

Bayard’s Cove Fort

Bayard's Cove Fort

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

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

garrison walls

garrison walls

The Garrison Walls were built progressively 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 that these sections are extremely vulnerable to erosion and will break up 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, vulnerable spit of 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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