Is this the height of madness at Birling Gap?

The man held his son over the steep cliff edge. Photograph by Peter Cripps
The man held his son over the steep cliff edge. Photograph by Peter Cripps

Shocked onlookers were wondering if this was the daftest dad in Britain on Bank Holiday Monday.

Picknickers and day-trippers witnessed an astonishing double act of recklessness 400ft up on the cliffs at Birling Gap.

Clad in shorts and a T-shirt, a man dangled his young son over the daunting sheer drop to the beach far below, grinning broadly and holding the boy loosely around his legs and chest.

Then the dad was again captured on film, this time crouching to peer over the chalk edge with the child, this time held by only one arm around the waist.

In both cases, just a stumble or loss of grip could have ended in tragedy with the child plunging hundreds of feet of feet to the pebble beach. The unidentified man was not alone, however, as other visitors to the beauty spot indulged in foolhardy antics.

Some were spotted jumping in the air and posing for selfies just inches from the sheer drop.

Shocking photographs taken last autumn revealed huge cracks at the top of nearby Beachy Head following warnings the cliffs could crumble at any moment.

The cliff top was fenced off at dangerous spots after Eastbourne Borough Council warned there was a ‘high risk’ of a large cliff fall in the Shooter Bottom area.

A council spokesperson said: “We have been notified that there is a high risk of a large cliff fall at Shooter Bottom [near Beachy Head house]. Please stay away from the edge and base of the cliffs and avoid the area if you can.”

There were several large cliffs falls last year, including one at Birling Gap in August – which closed the steps down to the beach for several weeks – followed by falls at Seaford Head and Beachy Head in October.

People had to run for their lives after the Birling Gap fall, which saw tonnes of chalk crumbling onto the beach below.

After the Seaford fall, the town’s council said: “Everyone enjoying the downland and coast needs to exercise common sense and take heed of the warning signs in the area.

“If you see anyone in danger or witness someone who has fallen, the advice is to immediately dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard and not to attempt to rescue them.”

The Coastguard has repeatedly warned members of the public not to risk their lives for a selfie.