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World War II defences excavated from New Forest beach

WWII metalwork being removed from Hordle Cliff beach The council is taking advantage of Spring tides from 27 March to 2 April to remove the most prominent sections of World War II defences from Hordle Cliff beach on the New Forest coast. The jagged metal defences, known as Admiralty scaffolding, are partially buried in the sand just below the waterline but emerge periodically due to beach erosion caused by rough weather. Particularly low tides this week are allowing the heavy machinery necessary to remove the weighty metal remains to access the lower parts of the beach which are usually under water.

The work is being carried out by Kevin Coghlan Plant and Transport Ltd on behalf of NFDC, using two 21 tonne excavators, one fitted with a long arm reach (30m) and a dump truck. Work is initially focussed on sections of the beach where the material is most extensive.

The long-arm excavator is positioned just above the waterline at low tide (early morning and late afternoon) and reaches into the water to lift out the metal and beach material. The second excavator, fitted with a griddle bucket designed like a giant sieve with a capacity of one tonne, then sifts out the pebbles and sand, retaining the metal which is deposited in a compound at the rear of the beach for later removal. Several tonnes are expected to be extracted this week.

Small sections of the beach will be closed off while work is carried out but people can still walk the length of the beach along the upper section. The public are requested to keep away from the working area.

WWII admiralty scaffolding The council has previously surveyed the beach and used divers to identify the locations of the underwater metalwork and install warning buoys. Warning signs have been in place and the public has been warned not to swim. The survey results have been supplied to Citizan (Coastal and Intertidal Zone Archaeology Network) and the New Forest National Park Authority archaeologist, ensuring a record is kept of this historically significant relic.

The jagged ironwork is the remains of formidable wartime defences known as Admiralty scaffolding placed on the beach by the Wiltshire Regiment in 1940-41, in the face of the very real threat of invasion by German troops. Unfortunately, within two tides of being installed it had sunk into the beach by 16 inches.

Work to dismantle the defences began as early as 1949, by which time they had sunk by several feet. Over the decades much of the structure disappeared below the sea bed, but constant coastal erosion causes new sections to reappear regularly.  For the last nine years the council has been removing them as they emerge. Further removal is scheduled for the next Spring tide from 24 April.

Updated: 10 May 2017
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