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Tintagel among castles in danger unless England can hold back the tide | Inheritance

The wonderful wilderness of the place, a rocky Cornish promontory relentlessly pounded by Atlantic breakers, has inspired poets, artists and dreamers for many centuries.

But Tintagel, immortalized in British mythology as the birthplace of King Arthur, is one of a series of castles at risk of falling into the sea as climate change accelerates the rate of coastal erosion.

English Heritage has appealed for funds and identified its six most vulnerable castles, warning that some of England’s most beloved places could be lost if nothing is done.

Rob Woodside, Estates Director at English Heritage, said: “The erosion along the English coastline is nothing new, but the rate of land loss we have seen in recent years is alarming. Rising sea levels and more regular storms pose a real risk to the future of many of our sites.

Pieces of Tintagel have long since fallen into the sea, but parts of the cliff just opposite the visitor center have recently been lost to erosion, eating away at a viewing area and a coastal path.

Piel Castle, Cumbria
The keep of Piel Castle, on a low island off Morecambe Bay, Cumbria, is in danger. Photograph: Christopher Ison/English Heritage/PA

Other risky sites in south west England include Bayard’s Cove Fort, built in Tudor times to protect Dartmouth in Devon. It is located on a terrace cut off from the rocky bank, a beautiful location but prone to flooding. English Heritage says work is urgently needed to study the impact of sea level rise.

Off the Cornish coast, English Heritage is also concerned about the garrison walls of St Mary’s, the largest in the Isles of Scilly. They were built after the Armada attacked in 1588 due to fears that Spain would send a second fleet.

But the sea is now more of a threat than enemy forces, with the shape of the walls creating pinch points, or “armpits,” where the power of the tide is concentrated.

English Heritage is also concerned about Piel Castle in Cumbria, located on a low island about half a mile from the coast in Morecambe Bay. Much of the island has already been lost and the castle keep is in danger.

Calshot Castle, a fort built between 1539 and 1540 to defend Southampton Water.
Calshot Castle, a fort built between 1539 and 1540 to defend Southampton Water. Photography: Geoffrey Swaine/Rex/Shutterstock

Two Hampshire castles are under threat. Calshot, built by Henry VIII, is considered at risk, with work needed on a spire and foreshore.

Part of Hurst Castle, also built by Henry VIII, collapsed days before planned work to stabilize the site in February last year after the sea exposed and undermined its foundations. While stabilization of the damaged section has taken place, the levees around Fort Tudor urgently need to be repaired and reinforced.

Woodside said: ‘The partial collapse of the east battery of Hurst Castle was a devastating reminder of the power of the sea and the risks facing our coastal heritage, but Hurst is not an isolated case.

“Hundreds of heritage sites in the UK and around the world are under increasing threat. If these coastal properties are to survive for decades to come, we will need to reinforce their walls and build sea defenses to protect them.

theguardian Gt

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