Most Harbour users will know East Head – the sand dune Spit that extends from the end of West Wittering beach in a northerly direction at the eastern side of the Harbour Entrance. It is a wonderful place but has proved vulnerable to erosion, with the Hinge – the area where the Spit joins the mainland – at particular risk of being breached.
East Head is owned by the National Trust who are following an “adaptive management strategy” with the aim of achieving a stable formation that doesn’t rely on the previous system of hard defences comprising timber groynes and stones. This strategy is overseen by the East Head Coastal Issues Advisory Group.
Over the past few years following this change in approach we have seen major changes at the Hinge with the previously long-established line of windblown trees washed away and the high tide line gradually moving inwards. This is illustrated in the picture above. The blue area shows land that was previously well above the highwater line but is now underwater and/or inundated by storm waves at high tides.
This winter it reached the point where at high spring tides storm driven waves were washing across the parking area nearby such that the car park’s owners, West Wittering Estate, had to warn people not to leave their cars there.
To try to address this, a programme of major work is under way to shift large volumes of sand and gravel from the beach off the north-west tip of East Head and use this material to raise the level at the Hinge. The area being raised is shown by the speckled red area in the satellite picture above.
The slideshow below shows what’s happening. Let’s hope it proves to be a long-term solution.