On Wednesday 20th February 2013, work will begin to further secure the East Cliff in the churchyard of St Mary’s Church, Whitby, and to try to prevent further landslips.
Stephen Calvert of Pearce Bottomley Architects is the church’ inspecting architect. He said, “When we had the landslip in December, I think some people were worried that the church was in danger of falling off the cliff – nothing could be further from the truth! The landslip in December was actually some 10 metres from the tower of the church. The church is sat on an the east cliff headland which is a sandstone outcrop covered with a layer of glacial clay that is generally about 4 metres thick. It is the edge of this layer that has crumbled at the face of the outcrop which is about 16 metres from the church. The rugged face of the outcrop can be clearly seen as you walk the 199 Steps and has changed little in hundreds of years.”
“The work that will begin on Wednesday will help to avert further landslips from the cliff. We have a responsibility to look after the churchyard, and will do our best to make sure the people and businesses on Henrietta Street are safe. We can’t guarantee that there won’t be further landslips – they’ve been going on for centuries! – but this work will mean that the best of modern practice and technology is being used to secure the cliff.”
Alan Wood Engineers investigated the December landslip and recommended the work taking place. Andy Borthwick of Alan Wood Engineers said, “Landslides along the stretch of the East Cliff above Henrietta Street have been well documented since 1785, with the most recent ones happening in 2000 and December 2012. The churchyard is a like a dish collecting all the water from the surrounding landscape, and it forms the point where that water drains down to the sea. This has meant that over the years some soil and loose materials have slipped over the cliff, especially when there has been heavy rainfall.
“After the landslip in December, we carried out immediate work to put avalanche netting on the cliff and redress the top slope material. On Wednesday, we’ll begin the second phase of the work to make the cliff safer. We’ll be installing rock fall netting over the outcropping sandstone in the cliff, and installing long soil nails to bolt the soil into the cliff.
“Drainage tubes will be installed to channel the ground water away from the edge of the cliff, which we hope will prevent further slippages. We will also be installing a geo-mat, which will be seeded with plants whose roots will make the soil even more secure, and also bring back flora and fauna to the churchyard which were dislodged in the recent landslip. After a few months the churchyard will be back to its former glory!”