Flooding at Selsey and along the Sussex coast
Every year there is ever more alarmed debate about whether Selsey should be left to the vagaries of the encroaching sea or defended until the bitter end.
Sussex's flooding double whammyWhile the Sussex coast is not the only part of the United Kingdom to face a threat from changes to sea levels, the exposed parts of the south coast are vulnerable because of an extremely unlucky double whammy.
Everyone knows that global sea levels are rising and that low-lying settlements around the world are already at risk.
But southern England is suffering a hangover from the end of the last ice age around 10,000 years ago.
The end of the ice ageSure, the melting of the ice sheets that had covered northern England and Scotland sculpted the beautiful contours of the South Downs. And the raising of sea levels around the world meant that we suddenly had mile after mile of wonderful coastline. On the downside, you could no longer walk to France, but let's not quibble - Sussex did pretty well out of the ice melting.
On the other hand, the northern part of the British Isles and the North Sea no longer had the huge weight of the glacial ice pressing down on it. As the weight was reduced, this allowed the northern United Kingdom to spring upwards, rather like a sponge when you let go of it.
As a result of this, as Scotland climbed ever higher so the south of England started to be tilted downwards dipping the Sussex coast ever so gently into the English Channel.
The combined effect of these two massive unstoppable geological and climactic effects, southern England is expected to dip around 30 cms over the next century, although, as with any prediction of this sort, opinions vary.
Sussex's lost coastal villagesThere are many lost villages and settlements all along the Sussex coast, like Barpham south of Angmering, Kingston Church, parts of old Middleton-on Sea and Clymping and, most famously, Saxon Selsey - the very place where St Wilfrid first set foot in Sussex.
These effects are still going on today and will be for centuries to come. More land will be lost in the future somewhere along the south coast as a result.
An unsolvable problem?And when the only way to resist the rising water is to spend hundreds of millions of pounds or make choices over which places to save and which to leave to the rising waters, maintaining the status quo is a very natural reaction from the authorities.
In a way, the plight of Selsey is an unsolvable problem, but a very real worry for the people who live in the village nonetheless.
- Bognor Regis
- Burgess Hill
- East Grinstead
- Haywards Heath
- Bognor beach
- Pagham Harbour
- Protecting East Head