Birling Gap faces further erosion after crack appears

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Media captionThe crack appeared a week after the National Trust revealed the popular coastal attraction has suffered seven years' worth of erosion in two months

Walkers have been warned to keep away from the cliff edge at Birling Gap in East Sussex after a huge crack opened up following the recent stormy weather.

In January, more than 9ft (3m) of the chalk cliff - between Seaford and Eastbourne - fell into the sea.

The cliffs have suffered about seven years' worth of erosion in two months.

The beach at Birling Gap has been shut since the new year after steps leading down to it were damaged in the storms.

The National Trust has also urged members of the public to keep away from the base of the cliffs.

Jane Cecil, general manager for the South Downs, said: "We do get these cracks at Birling Gap from time to time.

"But with the weather we have had lately, the chalk has become so wet and heavy, we are likely to see more emerging."

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Image caption More than 9ft (3m) of the cliff at Birling Gap has been lost to the sea this year

Earlier this month, fears about how quickly the erosion was occurring caused the National Trust to demolish the sun lounge and ice cream parlour at the Birling Gap tea rooms.

Spokesman Gerry Silverstone said the rest of the building was fine "for the time being and perfectly safe".

"The way the building had been constructed - in stages - meant it could be taken down in stages because we always knew that it was going to be close to the cliff," he said.

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Image caption Birling Gap sits in the dip where the Seven Sisters cliffs meet the shore

A row of coastguard cottages are also at risk - two were demolished some years ago when the cliff edge became too close, and the BBC understands arrangements are being made for a third one to be dismantled.

Mr Silverstone assured visitors that Birling Gap was "open as normal".

"We've had to take precautions, we've had to close bits of the cliff and seafront.

"We've done that for a very good reason but please be safe and please be sensible," he said.

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