What’s that lurking just around the corner?

Originally posted October 2015.

If you go down to the beach today, it looks amazing.

This is Cliff End at Pett Level, East Sussex, the beach my parents first took me to many many years ago. Wildlife includes Northern fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis) at the eastern edge of their breeding distribution along the English Channel, Peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) spying from the cliff tops, the occasional common seal (Phoca vitulina) fishing in the shallows and of course many species of marine organisms in the pools, in the sand and mud, on the rocks, everywhere.

In front of the cliff there’s the submerged mixed forest that was flooded and flattened by rising sea levels around 5000 years ago. And nearby the wreck of the HMS Anne lies, run aground and set alight in the aftermath of the Battle of Beachy Head in 1690. What an amazing place to live.

On the surface it seems untouched, blissful, wildlife-full, historical.


Just around the headland is a sign of modern times.

Two berms have been constructed to protect the cliff which has been crumbling consistently into the sea.

Behind which a trash lagoon is building up.

How much trash is here? Too much.

Where has it come from? The sea has put it there, but much has originated from land based activities. And all from human activities.

What trash is there? Plastic single use items – bottles etc, remains of fishing equipment – nets, ropes, traps etc. Polystyrene pieces in their million from packaging, fishing boxes etc. Sewage related items – cotton bud sticks, tampon applicators, wet wipes etc that have been flushed! And much much more.

This trash lagoon is only accessible at low tide after a 30 minute walk (potentially in danger of being cut off), and so not too many people may know it is there, assuming their local beach is as clear as in the top photo.

One positive outcome is that it has been taken out of the sea and won’t be endangering marine animals. But what of the strandline animals living where the land meets the sea?

What can be done? This post is not the end.


18th August 2020
Strandliners has organised a project to clean up this bay in partnership with the Pett Level Independent Rescue Boat.

Volunteers and members from the Strandliners-trained Community Action Team are involved in their first post-COVID lockdown beach surveys and clean ups from August 27th 2020. They will visit seven times in small groups to bag up the rubbish and sort into polystyrene, plastic bottles etc by volume and weight.

For more information please see our Fairlight Berm page.