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Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Hordle Cliff Steps Shut

Hordle Cliffs: Old Path & New Steps
click image to enlarge
We have heard from a reader who describes herself as ‘A thoroughly grumpy Milford resident.’  This is far from their personality by nature, but the ‘grumpy feelings’ have been stirred due to frustration at the slow progress of works at Horde Cliff.

Regular beach and cliff top walkers may have spotted that the access to the beach huts at Hordle Cliffs has been closed since Easter, and there is clearly several more weeks of the “beach access project” work ahead.  Progress appears painfully slow, and apparently there was one spell of almost two weeks when no progress was made at all.

It seems that the site of the new wooden steps is actually where the cliff erosion is at its worst, yet nothing appears to have been done to reinforce the bank which is now in a much worse condition after the workmen have walked all over it.

The work is also making access tricky for older beach hut owners, as the alternative steps are sometimes just too far away.

click image to enlarge
Furthermore, there is a notice on the next set of steps down to the beach (next to the cafe), saying that “Work will start here in July”.

Our ‘grumpy resident’ has written to the Coastal Management Department at New Forest County Council, raising the following points:

‘Why have you chosen to ruin the “summer season” with totally unnecessary construction work, mud, mess and reduced accessibility to the beach at Hordle Cliff?’

‘Why are the council not taking the opportunity to create a winding path that could be used by wheelchairs and buggies?’

‘Do you realise that Milford relies on visitors and tourists to keep local shops and cafes in business?’


The council seem to do a great job maintaining the ever-disappearing shingle on Milford on Sea beach each year, and it is good to see investment continue on our seafront and geologically challenging cliffs. 
However, the timing and progress on the project seem to have created some issues, and it will be interesting to hear the District Council’s take on the matter.


  1. Steve Cook, NFDC Asst Engineer, Coastal Protection, has spotted the above story, and responded with the following explanation:

    “Thank you for your article regarding the coastal steps being replaced at Hordle Cliff.
    The works have been inspected during the construction period and I’m pleased to say that they have been progressing to programme, considering the poor weather that we have had over the last few months. Works actually started around the 10th of May, so almost 5 weeks after the Easter weekend. As you know there are a number of other steps available, so access to the beach huts and beach has not been adversely affected. The reason for the inactivity after the works started would have been to allow the concrete footings to set and the timber to be cut and fabricated before delivery to the site.
    Once the current set of steps have been completed the contractor will move onto those by the kiosk car park. The existing steps at this location will remain open during the construction of the new set. The programme is for these to be completed by around 20th July, which is when the schools break for the summer holidays and full use can be made of these new facilities.
    Considering the wet weather that we have had I would say that that the site is fairly clean and also that the replacement of these steps will have no effect on the Milford businesses and income to the local area.
    The Council currently has a step replacement programme to replace most of the coastal steps over a number of years, this has already included the steps replaced to the eastern end of Hordle Cliff a couple of years ago, along with a set replaced at Barton last year. There are a number of reasons for undertaking these works which I have detailed below:-

    1. Existing steps require high level of maintenance with mud and clay washing onto them causing slippery surfaces and complaints
    2. Stones get kicked onto the steps and can be uneven causing slipping etc
    3. Require regular weeding etc.
    4. Rotting timbers >20 years old resulting in riser replacement every year / handrail post needs constant attention
    5. Uneven step height / width increasing difficulty for users.

    New steps are better because:

    1. NFDC committed to maintain / improve facilities for beach hut users and general beach users alike
    2. Anti-slip inserts with yellow edge strips on steps for easier use / partially sighted etc.
    3. Double hand rails on set 24
    4. New resting seat on set 24
    5. Uniform steps and risers
    6. Low maintenance
    7. Aesthetically improvement
    8. Environmentally better: Natural England are in favour of the removal of the existing steps and reduction of concrete present in the cliff: i.e. the cliff will end up being in a more natural cliff state which is important as it is a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest)

    The area is not suited to the construction of a ramp for wheelchair and pushchair access as there would be an adverse effect on the SSSI and the area is not suited to this type of access with the narrow paths between the beach huts.

    Unfortunately there will always be some disruption when works of this nature are going on, but this is being minimised by working on one set at a time. We do hope that users of the area will see the benefit of these works, as has been the case with the other steps that have been replaced through this programme.”

  2. Brilliant. I'm guessing that no one considered what parents with young kids are supposed to do with prams. The old steps were far easier to bump a pram up and down than the new steps. The angle of incline is hugely increased and it has, in my opinion, made it dangerous for prams/buggies. Milford has many young families and plenty of visitors (with kids) yet it always seems that families are under represented in local decision making. Finally, as someone who walks the cliff top in all weathers, can someone please have some drainage slots cut into the path edges which act as a perfect dyke everytime it rains....

  3. My wife had a chat with one of the workmen yesterday. In their conversation she said that she hoped they would leave the current steps in place. The workmen said that option was in fact under consideration. To do so would be a victory for common sense. I guess as many of us as possible should petition the council on this.

    John Ormerod (hut 414)