White Cliffs Collapse

Tonnes of chalk from the world famous White Cliffs of Dover have collapsed into the English Channel.

A big mound of chalk was left on the shore after part of the cliff-face sheared off near St Margaret's Bay between Dover and Deal in Kent.

Dover Coastguard said a bench and fencing which sat on the cliff-top were also sent tumbling to the base, prompting warnings to coastal walkers.

The collapse is suspected to have been caused by a combination of high winds and rain freezing after being absorbed into the chalk and then expanding, causing the cliff to weaken.

A Dover Coastguard spokesman said: "There was a similar fall in 2012 but this one is smaller than that one. A bench and fence have gone down with it.

"Coastguard rescue officers were tasked to make an assessment of the area and take some pictures which were sent off to the relevant authorities.

"The cliff-fall extends about 150 yards from the base of the cliff towards the sea at ground level, and the fall is about 15ft to 20ft high.''

The National Trust, which owns the land, has been made aware of Monday's collapse and warning signs alerting walkers about it have been installed.

The Kent landmark, immortalised by Dame Vera Lynn's wartime song The White Cliffs of Dover, has suffered large falls before, most significantly in March last year.

The chalk cliffs have stood over dramatic moments in English history, including the first arrival of the Romans and the return of British forces rescued from Dunkirk in the Second World War.

They are also home to a rich array of wildlife such as the Adonis blue butterfly and peregrine falcons, Kent's only kittiwake, and plants including oxtongue broomrape and sea carrots.

A National Trust spokesman said: "This cliff fall is part of a process of natural regeneration that happens on this world famous stretch of the Kent coast, helping to keep this special place, recognised by millions across the world, so distinctive.

"We've installed signs and information to help keep access open to this British icon. Throughout the year we closely monitor how the elements affect the chalk cliffs, helping us to manage the coastal footpath.''

Last year, the National Trust, which owns five miles of the white cliffs, successfully raised money to buy a missing mile of the coastline in a campaign backed by celebrities including Dame Judi Dench, singer Joss Stone and chef Rick Stein.