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Jurassic Coast fossil hunters ignore warnings of cliff falls

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 28, 2012

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Fossil hunters on the Westcountry's Jurassic Coast have been warned they are "taking their life in their hands" after ignoring landslide warnings.

Heavy rain in recent weeks has caused numerous cliff falls and landslides around Devon and Cornwall, affecting road and rail travel and closing sections of coast path.

The danger of further falls prompted a rare warning to be issued by the Met Office. But just 24 hours after people were urged to take extra care in the "dangerous conditions", fossil hunters were scouring fresh landslides on Monmouth Beach, in Lyme Bay.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said: "The problem is that there are large areas which are very unstable and even more so at the moment because of the rain we have had. They are taking their life in their own hands in certain places.

"People have to do their own risk assessment and work out what is safe to do because the risks are very high.

"We know it is very tempting for fossil collectors because there is new stuff there – but it is risky. Even the most beautiful ammonite specimen is not worth being buried for."

The spokesman said anyone venturing onto beaches or cliffs had to be aware of the risks. He stressed people also had to make themselves aware of the tides, so as not to be forced closer to dangerous cliffs by incoming water. The Met Office issued the warning earlier this week following advice from the British Geological Survey. It said coastal areas in the South West were in particular danger of collapsing cliff edges and rockfall.

"We have had such heavy and persistent rain fall over the last few days and weeks and that there is a danger of landslides and rockfall along the coast, even on coastal paths," a Met Office spokesman said.

"We are advising walkers in the South West of England to take particular care in these dangerous conditions, especially those not familiar with the area. Do not get too close to the cliff edge or walk under the cliff face along the beach and remember that coastal paths could be impacted too."

The warning came just a week after the inquest into the death of Charlotte Blackman who was killed when hundreds of tonnes of rock crashed down on top of her.

The 22-year-old died in the landslide on Freshwater Beach in Dorset in July while on family walk.

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