independent

Friday 19 September 2014

Coastline is suffering constant hammering

Fintan Lambe

Published 11/02/2014 | 05:38

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Footbridge under water in Courtown woods.

ACRES of land have been eaten away from the Wexford coastline as unrelenting rough seas and a series of storms battered the country since mid-December.

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All down and around the coastline, sand dunes, agricultural land, gardens, woodland, public areas and beach entrances, have all taken a severe hammering. Beaches have been left strewn with rocks, and many traditional access points have been eaten away.

From Kilmichael in the very north of the county, where a private road serving five houses remains under threat, to Duncannon, where the main road into the village is at risk, the scale of erosion along the coast since before Christmas has shocked many observers.

Jim Murphy of Courtown Coastguard, who looks after the North Wexford coastline down as far as Cahore, said that serious damage was done in January, even before last week's storms.

The storm in early January resulted in a holiday home overhanging a cliff at Ardamine, and a section had to be cut away to save the rest of the house. Other holiday homes in the area were also threatened.

The boardwalk to the entrance of the North Beach in Courtown was also badly damaged, leaving a sheer drop onto the beach, and the sea began eating away at sections of sand dunes and woodland behind rock armour which was put in place to protect them.

Sections of coastline further north in Ballymoney were also eaten away, and in Cahore the main car park serving the beach was partly washed away, and was covered in debris.

'Paths that people used for walking in Courtown woods are gone,' he said. 'It will take a lot of work to get access to the beach. There has been serious damage this year.'

Further south, Frank Murphy of Curracloe Coastguard said that several beach access points have been eroded. 'A couple of areas that would have been access points for us have now been denied to us,' he said. 'The sea cut through slopes like a knife edge, and you now have 1.5m to 3m drops in sand dunes where there were slopes.'

He said that 'a considerable amount of land' has been lost. 'We haven't lost any houses, but certainly territory has been lost,' he said. 'There's been a lot of slippage.'

Ballinesker beach has suffered substantial damage. There has been damage at access points to the popular tourist spot, including the public walkway, which was also used for vehicular access. Around 12 feet of boardwalk have been torn up, and there's quite a severe drop on to the beach now.

He said that trees and bushes now on the beach are a sign of the amount of slippage that has gone on. Beach protection works, where fence posts and netting were put in to catch sand and build up sand dunes, have disappeared.

'One or two posts are left, but they are out in the surf line,' he said. 'Anywhere there's a soft coastline, it really got hammered.'

Alan Duggan of Rosslare Coastguard said that the popular Rosslare Beach has been particularly badly hit. 'Not much sand is left on Rosslare Beach,' he said. 'The last six weeks have been constant storms. At Carnsore, the sea was running over the banks into the lake. The Marly Banks also got a fair hammering – there could be two or three or even four feet of land gone in areas from Kilrane to Rosslare.'

'I've never seen a storm so prolonged,' he said. 'There's been constant wind, rain and high tides since mid-December.'

In Our Lady's Island, local resident and independent election candidate Ger Carthy said up to six metres depth of farm land has been taken by the sea over stretches of hundreds of metres. He estimated that some eight acres of land, including dunes as well as agricultural land, have been lost between Carnsore Point and Ballytrent.

'Carne Pier couldn't be seen in Tuesday night's storm,' he said, adding that there's serious concern about the sand bank between the lake and the sea at Our Lady's Island, as the sea was crashing in over the bank and flooding the hinterland.

'Thousands of gallons are coming into the lake,' he said. There have long been calls for a tunnel through the bank to allow excess water to escape as well as breakwaters to protect the coastline.

'When you see land destroyed and the sea taking over people's properties, then it's time to act,' he commented. 'The work should be done where it's most needed.'

Jim Kielthy of Kilmore Quay Coastguard said that agricultural land has been eroded along particular stretches near Ballygrangans, while Ballyteigue has also suffered. The Burrow, west of Kilmore Quay up towards Cullenstown, has lost around a quarter an acre in depth, and three miles of sand dunes from the Cullen Bank up to the estuary at Cullenstown have also retreated by around a quarter of an acre. These dunes were used for grazing.

He described Kilmore Quay as 'like a warzone' on Wednesday morning.

Pat McGrath, deputy area officer with Fethard-on-Sea Coastguard, said the area of most concern is the main access road into Duncannon, as it's at constant risk of being undermined. Some properties in the area are also under threat. 'There's just sand dune there now,' he said. 'It's very close to the shoreline. Over Christmas, there was a lot of concern. If the road goes, it will be a serious problem. It needs to be underpinned and protected.'

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