Saturday, 15 October 2011

A Spectacular Landslide on Cornwall's North Cliffs

Cornwall's North Cliffs near Portreath
Only a couple of miles from the Camborne-Redruth mining district are the rugged North Cliffs and today I walked the eroding coastal path from Portreath towards Hayle.

These 200 ft high cliffs, composed of Devonian sandstones and shales, were laid down around 370 million years ago. These and all the rocks of Cornwall were severely deformed 70 million years later with the closing of the Rheic Ocean and the final formation of Pangea. This deformation is most spectacular up the coast in north-east Cornwall, but the tectonic forces created faults in the rocks in the North Cliffs, which led to the formation of the copper and tin deposits in the nearby Camborne-Redruth area (the old headgear of the South Crofty Mine in Camborne is clearly visible from the coast path) and have been the cause of catastrophic landslides and heavy erosion of the cliffs.

Very rarely as anyone witnessed one of these geological events, but as I approached the awesome and scary Hell's Mouth, with its sheer drop to the sea below, I saw the result of the latest landslide, which was not only witnessed by several people, but also videoed by a local geologist. His movie made the national news, and the remarkable footage can be viewed on YouTube.
The aftermath of the recent massive landslide

More Cornwall Walks
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  1. Hi Barry,

    Good to meet up with you on the North Cliffs. John Coggan, Andy Wetherelt, Doug Stead (over from Simon Fraser University in Canada) and myself have all been out and about looking over this and some of the other north coast landslides that we first worked on back in the 1990s. There's a bit more interest following the You Tube coverage and so we're hoping to get someting published. There are also 'issues' down at the Godrevy National Trust site further west due to the road being vulnerable. Here's a link to a bit of local news coverage last week:



  2. Barry - am I right in thinking that's just around the corner from Gwithian? I'm sure I was walking right there in late July.

  3. Yes Dean, just east of Gwithian


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