Why did living the dream above a glorious Devon beach turn into a nightmare?

The answer is right before your eyes. You can’t fail to notice the exposed red rock above the beach. This is a landslip. But what is a landslip and how did affect the clifftop homes?

The house clinging on above the landslip © Pat Wilson

To answer that question look at the grey/white headland just beyond the beach. You’ll notice immediately that it’s very different in colour to the red rocks. These grey rocks are Devonian limestone formed 380 million years ago. 

The cliffs you are standing on now are also made of the same Devonian limestone but sandwiched in between is the startlingly red rock. And this is the problem. The red rocks are 100 million years younger and date from the Permian period.

After a major mountain building period, pressures in the Earth’s crust caused parallel cracks or faults to appear in it.  As a result a block of younger Permian (red) rocks dropped down between the older limestones.  This created an unstable area which over time has created land slipping along the fault line.

We know from Victorian photographs that the landslip was a known fact but even so houses were still built over the fault line. In 2003 a major rock fall resulted in beach closure and concerns began about the instability of the slip. In 2010 a buyer bought the house nearest the fault line for £154,000 yet just eight days later a 5,000 tonne rock fall turned the dream into a nightmare. The sea turned red, the beach was closed and the house was now situated just 150 feet from the cliff edge. 

 The clifftop house that fell into the sea © Mark Robinson Flickr cc

By 2013 it was in a collapsed state and the cottage next to it ‘deemed officially uninhabitable’. By 2016 the original house had disappeared completely down the landslip and no longer exists.

As property becomes ever more expensive, desirable clifftop homes around our coastline are reaching staggering sums, but at what cost?

Faulty Towers

Redgate Beach near Torquay © Pat Wilson

Babbacombe Downs viewpoint

With views across Babbacombe Bay and out to the English Channel and perched just above the glorious Oddicombe Beach, the large detached house in the picture below appears to be the dream seaside home. 

But since the photo was taken in 2010 the house has completely disappeared. 



Why did living the dream above a glorious Devon beach turn into a nightmare? Click to reveal the answer

Location : Babbacombe Downs, Torquay, Devon
Grid reference: SX 92675 65550
Getting there:

From Torquay take the A379 for approx 3 miles passing the large Palace Hotel on the right. After ¼ mile take the second right into Babbacombe Downs Road. Follow it until you find a space to park. Cross the lawns to the cliff path and stop by the viewing platform.

Keep an eye out for: On a clear day if you look right you’ll see the Isle of Portland famous for providing the building stones for St Paul’s Cathedral and Buckingham Palace.

Babbacombe Downs viewpoint credits

Thanks to -

Pat Wilson Hon. FRGS for creating this viewpoint

Tom Bastin and Mark Robinson for photos reproduced under Creative Commons Licences

It is a beautiful spot …red cliffs and rocks with wooded hills like Italy"  - Queen Victoria