Let the boulders absorb the wave energy on Seaford Beach

With reference to Seaford sea defences, I have some observations regarding the current strategy of using heavy plant to move shingle as a means of compensating for the predominant west to east longshore drift.

So far as I am aware, not least of all because I regularly used the beach as a child in the 1940s, and watched the construction of the present beach in the 1980s, I understand that below the current man-made shingle beach there are huge boulders immediately in front of the original Victorian concrete sea wall.

This original wall would take immense battering from the raw power of waves that were pushed up the English Channel and did not have any power diluted, until they reached this solid slab sided wall.

The explosive force of these waves could often be felt from many yards away from the wall, and I could often feel and hear the heavy thuds, from my own bed, in Church Street some 200 yards inland!

If, in those days, the concrete wall had the same boulders that are positioned there today, in the immediate front of the Victorian sea wall, the waves would have lost much of their energy within the giant boulders, making the shock to the wall considerably lessened.

This would have resulted in fewer requirements for the constant repair works to the wall – which was never considered completed and was an ever increasing, unrelenting cost to the rate payers and the Crown. The fact that, at great expense, these wall defending rocks have been buried beneath layers of shingle has not only rendered them totally inept, but, along with the shingle under which they lie, has effectively made a gradual ramp which allows large waves to swiftly accelerate to the level of the top of the original wall, and then onward across the smooth Tarmac of both foot way and road down into the Salts, or worse, the town.

This situation is made worse by the compaction of the shingle by the repeated trips of the heavy plant, which has the effect of giving the beach an almost impervious quality similar to solid ground. The sea, once upon it, simply cannot drain through it and the momentum of the wave has nothing to dissipate its energy.

Interestingly around 1945, the sea breached the Victorian wall along a stretch that was the length of the Salts Recreation Ground. The remains of the broken wall were left in situ, on the beach just where the sea deposited the

I remember that, for many years afterwards, they formed a reef, that greatly reduced the wave power along that stretch. At the same time, the sea defence engineers of the day, had the foresight to rebuild a replacement sea wall, a considerable distance inland and that is the origin of the ‘dog leg’ in the present wall from the end of Dane Road, to the bottom of Edinburgh Road. Although repeated damage was suffered by the Victorian wall especially around the Buckle area and around West View, I cannot remember any serious damage being inflicted upon the area that was protected by the old sea wall reef adjacent to the Salts. Surely this is proof that large rock based obstructions will absorb tremendous amounts of latent energy, before that same energy can reach vulnerable points.

It is my belief you would have more effective defences by allowing the present artificial beach to waste away, but maintain just the heavy rock revetments immediately in front of the old wall. In addition to absorbing the wave energy, these ‘rocks’ will prevent the full awesome power of large waves to slam full on to the wall, which will, in turn, prevent the backwash, that invariably met the next wave, and this had a cumulative effect of the two immense energies forcing the water to travel in the direction of least resistance – upwards. This could double the perceived wave height, and, allied with a south westerly storm force wind, it presented a virtual mountainous wall of water, for the defences to contend with. The rocks may well need to have some form of protective mesh covering in order to protect inquisitive members of the public and adequate safety notices should be posted. Access to the beach will require some ingenuity, but would be a fairly simple stumbling block to overcome. As a bonus, Seaford would regain a beach that the sea would wash twice a day. To further calm the westerly seas, some prominent reefs should be built at points offshore, as I have seen working very successfully throughout England and Wales.

Rod Goodyear