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Barton On Sea Hampshire Case Study

The Naish Farm section of cliffs from Chewton Bunny at Highcliffe eastward to Barton Cliff House forms the conserved stretch where erosion still continues and where there is a high degree of exposure and fossils can be collected. The cliffs here are retreating in a manner similar to that of the natural recession of the coast. A consequence of this is a low-angle, pleasant sand and gravel beach of natural appearance which is used by walkers, swimmers and surfers. It is, therefore, a useful amenity. Geologists and conservationists, in particular, consider this remaining section too important to conceal with sea-defences. At the top of the cliff there is a holiday camp rather than permanent housing, but unfortunately, as the pictures show. this much suffer some problems from the coastal retreat. Much of the remainder of the Barton and Highcliffe coast once looked natural, with eroding cliffs, like this Naish Farm area. For understanding degradation processes here consult the papers of Dr Max Barton.

The original coastline was relatively straight (examine old maps), in balance, and supplying shingle destined for Hurst Castle Spit (which contains Barton Clay fossils from here - Clavilithes). This present Naish Farm section of the coast is not natural in the sense that it represents an embayment between sea-defences. Loss of natural supply of beach material by longshore drift (from west to east) probably enhances the local erosion rate, but later when the embayment is deeper it might erode at a slower rate than would open unprotected coast. It will take some more years to find out whether this will happen. For more on the erosion rate, here, see the separate Naish Farm erosion section.

Naish Farm [Naish Estate] Section continued

- Coastal Recession of the Barton Clay

Various papers by Dr Max Barton and his co-authors have provided important information on the erosion and degradation of the Barton Clay. There has been a particular invesigation into the cliff degradation of the Barton Clay cliffs at the Naish Farm area of Highcliffe where erosion of this clay is most obvious.

First the rate at which the coast has retreated must be considered. Barton and Coles (1984) stated that the rate of recession here in the nineteen fifties was only 0.4m per annum. Although this is still quite a high rate for the south coast of England, it was not extreme because there was already an excess quantity of beach material here. Barton and Coles (1984) said that this had been discussed by Wise (1963), although the present writer has not seen this report. Certainly Burton (1931) discussed changes in the position of the Run at Mudeford and the periodic breaching of Mudeford Spit, and this resulted in a supply of sand to the western parts of the Highcliffe coast. Later when the excess of material was lost by longshore drift (eastward), the coastal recession which accelerated to 1.3m per annum.

There was a further change to a significantly rapid rate of to 1.9m per annum at Naish Farm during the nineteen seventies, probably because the Highcliffe groynes were constructed just before this decade (in 1968-1970). Beach material here, shingle and sand moves in general in an easterly direction by longshore drift. The groynes trapped much of the material from passing from west to east, as, of course, they are designed to do. This, however, led to some "starvation" of the beach at Naish Farm and some "terminal scour" as a consequence (see the Joint Local Inquiry Report of the Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, 1975). The originally fairly uniform coast now has a notable "step" in it and a new shallow bay has been created. This now, though has a sandy beach with some shingle, quite pleasant for tourists, and with "natural" fossiliferous cliffs that are educational and informative.

Naish Farm Section continued

- Collapse of Barton Clay Cliffs to Form Benches

The cliffs at Naish Farm, and in the past, all along the Barton coast section, are conspicuously terraced. These terraces or benches and their mode of formation was investigated by Barton and Coles, (1984) in their studies on the degradation of the cliffs just here (and see also other papers by M. Barton). Prior to their study the increase erosion in this area, as discussed above, steepened of the overall cliff angle from an average of 14 degrees in 1947 to a maximum recorded average of 19 degrees in 1976. The cliffs were, thus, particularly prone to landsliding and were found to collapse predominantly on a series of major shear planes (Barton, Hillier and Watson, 2006), more or less horizontal, but curved up at the back (at the landward side). The shear planes are located at certain lettered and numbered, geological horizons within the Barton Clay. These are shown in the cliff section illustration. They result in obvious benches or terraces in the cliff. These benches consist of collapsed clay debris and have top surfaces several metres or more above the specific shear planes. The benches have been named by Barton and Coles, (1984) as in the following sections:

Naish Farm Section continued

- - - The Top Scarp

The Top Scarp, shown here, is a cliff of a few metres high in brown-stained, subangular flint gravel, with some Brickearth or loam above. Both the gravel and the brickearth are of Pleistocene age. This is the Tenth River Gravel Deposit of the Geological Survey. Palaeolithic artefacts have been found in the gravels of this stretch of cliff. Slices of the gravel and loam cliff top subside on curving shear surfaces in the Barton Clay beneath.

The top-left photograph was taken in 2001 about midway between Barton and Highcliffe, and just west of the western end of the Barton section of sea-defences. There is a greensward on the top of the cliff here. Notice the block with brickearth which is out of position on the right, still with its soil and grass capping. A semicircular area has collapsed on the left. Incidently, you can see sand lenses in the periglacial, braided-river gravels.

The top-right photographs and the bottom photographs, all taken in 2003, shows collapse of the gravel at the Top Scarp at Naish Farm, just east of Chewton Bunny. Here coast erosion is a constant problem. Clearly some of the falls are quite recent.


- - - F2 Bench

This bench is near the top, in front of the top scarp. It is a narrow bench based in a shear plane at the base of bed F2, and with Plateau Gravel forming much of the back-scarp cliff. You can see it in the photograph above and in the central photograph below. The bench contains collapsed gravel debris and is broken up by a number of fissures parallel to the cliff. The flint gravel is progressively disrupted and becomes mixed with clay and turves of soil and grass, and slides gradually down the cliff.


Naish Farm Section continued

- - - D Bench

As shown in the left and central photographs above, the middle bench, forms the extensive central part of the cliffs. There is the F scarp at the landward (northern) side of it with exposure of the upper part of the Middle Barton Clay. Shearing curves down from the scarp and continues nearly horizontally near the base of bed D, and beneath the terrace shown. See Barton, Hillier and Watson (2006 ) for information on the initial origin of the D shear surface by a lateral rebound response to coastal recession.

This middle bench is complex in pattern with much colluvium (debris) and also ponds developed as a result of rotational movement (notice the bullrushes in the pond in the central photograph, although they are have largely died off in this winter scene). These ponds, shown in the photographs, are mostly present near the F scarp. Small alluvial fans extend into the ponds and miniature deltas develop, as shown in the right-hand photograph (looking southward with reflection from the sun; note the little distributaries on the delta; note also how the reeds have grown on the shallower southern slope, away from the clay scarp). Not shown in these pictures are amphitheatre-like features which develop in places as a result of specific landslides.



D Scarp and D Shear Surface

The D Scarp contains the D Shear Surface, shown in the photographs here. The name has been given by Barton and Coles (1984) because of this shear plane. Do not confuse this reference to D with the strata present in this scarp. It is mostly in Bed C, the Voluta suspensa Bed, the shear surface being almost at the base of Bed D. Lower down and in front of it is the A3 Bench of colluvium. Debris is falling onto this from the shear surface, which is very slowly moving forward. If you stand on the beach in this area, you may sometimes see small pieces of clay falling from the shear plane. However, this only happens when sliding is very active. This fresh, damp debris is browner in colour than the older material. It is dominantly weathered sandy clay from the Barton Formation, but with some yellowish-brown, flint gravel intermixed. This gravel has come from the Pleistocene, Plateau Gravel high in the cliff and has fallen into the other colluvium on a higher bench. Apart from this there is some plant material, and pieces of septarian nodules.



- - - A3 Bench

This is the low bench extending upto about 3m above the beach, and obvious from the shore at Naish Farm. The shearing is at the base of A3. Further east, near the old gun emplacement, this disappears eastward under the beach, and the lowest sea cliff is then formed by bed C, beneath the D Bench.

Thus, the presence of the three shear surfaces at various elevations within the cliff produce a benched type of cliff profile, comparable with that seen in the Gault and Lias Clay controlled cliffs of Fairy Dell, near Charmouth, Dorset and can be seen in the London Clay of the Isle of Sheppey. Barton and Coles (1984) pointed out that excavating the toes of such landslides has reactivated slides of this type in the USA.



- - - Degradation Processes

The degradation processes, according to Barton and Coles (1984), include scarp slumping, spalling (including toppling and soil falls), bench sliding (involving movement of colluvium over a preferred bedding plane), debris sliding (including movement of screes over clay scarps), mud sliding (i.e. traditional lobate 'mudflows'), mud runs (true flows), stream (or gully) erosion and man-related processes. The diagram alongside, after Barton and Coles, shows the main processes. Regular surveying and monitoring using a variety of techniques and having to surmount difficult field conditions, has begun to elucidate the characteristics, rates and inter-relationships of these processes. A flow chart representing the systematic transfer of soil from the in situ state via various colluvial modes (including the three bench levels) en route to the sea and an accompanying colluvial soil budget for the year July 1981 to July 1982 has been drawn up. It is shown that bench sliding is by far the most significant process in terms of volume of colluvium moved through the undercliff, accounting for 93 percent of the total volume of colluvium contained in the area. Mud and debris sliding, although important processes, are of relatively minor importance.


- Exposure Ratio

Barton (1998) has put forward the theory of Exposure Ratio. This, ER = (sum of exposed strata height/total cliff height) x 100. In other words it is just the relative height of exposed strata.

The table below, from Barton (1998), gives approximate values of exposure ratio in the Naish Farm area, east of Highcliffe. Accumulations of colluvium now cover the basal scarp at locations 1 and 2 because of the construction of a strong point at Chewton Bunny. Prior to this the exposure ratio at both of these locations would have been larger.

Easting Range
Recession Rate (m. /annum)
Exposure Ratio (%)
(maximum value)
1 2182-2183 0.74 34
2 2186-2190 1.14 39
3 2215-2225 1.14 54
4 2230-2235 1.71 55
5 2245-2250 0.94 47
6 2260-2270 0.60 23
1.045 42

An important point made by Barton (1998) is that the type of cliff degradation that takes place results in much of the cliff being covered by colluvium (see diagram above). This means that only certain limited stratigraphical horizons are well-seen at any one time. Before the sea-defences were constructed various parts of the Barton succession were seen at different places along the coast. For instance, the Earthy Bed (E) is actually present at Naish Farm but is now rarely seen in good condition. The main exposures of this were further east and I used to collect from it in the area now covered by the Barton-on-Sea sea-defences. The old geological literature on the coast shows that various parts of the dipping succession have been seen at various places and at various different times. The cliffs have never been static and neither have the positions of the exposures. Dr Barton explains that certain specific stratigraphical levels, of around 0.5 to 1.0m above the preferred plane shear surfaces, have never received the stratigraphical and palaeontological study such has been devoted to the rest of the sequence. From a stratigraphical point of view, the colluvium never makes up the deficiency since the solid strata are completely remoulded within the interior of the benches by the intense shearing suffered by the softened material as it accomodates to the markedly non-circular slip surfaces.

Dr Barton states that the prediction of the likely exposure ratio of benched-form clay cliffs following partial toe protection will need to encompass a series of factors which he lists. The main objective is to avoid both the high rates of recession associated with rapid toe erosion and the eventual slope coverage associated with zero toe erosion. The aim therefore is for the state of moderate toe erosion (perhaps aiming at a value of about 0.3 to 0.6 metres per annum, although this would be subject to negotiation).

Such moderate toe erosion might be achieved at Naish Farm by an offshore breakwater or by partial beach replenishment. With the Chewton Bunny Stongpoint already reducing the exposure ratio at the western end of Naish Farm it is unlikely to please geologists and conservationists; with the cliff still retreating it may not please local objectors. It is, however, one possible way to resolve the problem of these cliffs and the original ideas in the Barton (1998) paper should be studied. If this scheme had originally been applied to the whole Christchurch Bay coastline and the blanketing sea-defences never constructed, it might have been acceptable to all. If and when the sea-defences ever collapse an offshore bar right round Christchurch Bay might be a solution but is likely to be unacceptable or impracticable or both (see section on the "Oceanus" scheme mentioned below).


Between Naish Farm and the Barton Sea Defences

(see also the note on the D shear surface given above in the Naish Farm section)


Barton on Sea (often hyphenated as Barton-on-Sea) is a coastal village situated in Hampshire, England. As a settlement, Barton has a history dating back to Anglo-Saxon times, although the modern village was largely built in the 20th century. It is effectively a suburb of New Milton. Barton is notable for the many fossils to be found in the Barton geological beds in the cliffs, as well as for the significant sea defences built to defend the cliffs against coastal erosion.


The area of Barton has been populated since prehistoric times. A number of bronze agefunerary urns were uncovered in Barton during the early 20th century, although most of them have been lost or destroyed.[2] While Barton is a common English place-name, the etymology of Barton-on-Sea is unique. It means Beorma's Farm, and appears twice in the Domesday Book, as Bermintune and as Burmintune.[3]Roger de Montgomerie, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury, and friend of William the Conqueror, held both Barton manors in 1086.[4]

A manor is mentioned in 1559, when John Dowce died in possession of it.[5] William Juniper acquired it soon after, and at his death it was described as the capital farm called "Barmeton".[5] In 1654, Richard Stephens, lord of Winkton Manor, is said to have owned the "site of the manor" of Barton.[5] It remained in the Stephens family until 1733, when Richard Stephens sold it to Thomas Le Marchant of the Inner Temple.[5] In 1771 John Le Marchant of Guernsey conveyed "the scite of the manor of Barton, etc.," to Edward Dampier of Corfe Castle, in whose family it remained (the last holder having taken the name of Crossley) until 1903.[5] A distinctive row of Coast Guard Cottages is to be found in Barton Lane, Barton on Sea; these were built at the end of the nineteenth century by the Government of the day to house armed guards to try to stop the smuggling that was rife at the time. The Barton on Sea and Mudeford coastline was renowned for smuggling with many of the offshore seaways and routes to shore being named after well known local smuggling families.[6]

As late as the 1880s, Barton largely consisted of two farm estates, but in the 1890s, both farms were auctioned and the estates were broken up.[7] Subsequent land sales in the period 1904-1907 allowed the full development of the village as it appears today.[7] In 1897 the first golf course was built at Barton along the cliff top, although the modern golf course at the east end of Barton dates from 1922.[7]

In the First World War Barton was the site of a convalescent home for Indian service men,[4] and this is commemorated by an obelisk in the village which was erected in 1917.[8] In 1927, a maternity hospital known as the Grove Maternity Hospital was founded, and where many local people were born, until the hospital closed in 1988.[9] During World War II, the sea front at Barton was made a restricted area and metal defences including a pillbox were built, in the event of a German invasion.[10]

At the east end of Barton was Becton Farm, where the famous showjumper Marion Coakes lived.[11] Her horse, Stroller, is the only pony to have competed at the Olympic Games in Show Jumping, winning an Individual Silver Medal in the 1968 Summer Olympics.[12] The pony was buried at the farm. The farm was later bought by the Barton on Sea Golf Club, and Stroller now lies underneath the golf course with a plaque over the grave.[11]

The footballers Russell Perrett,[13]Jamie Redknapp,[14] and Neil Moss,[15] were all born in Barton on Sea. Famous residents of Barton have included the novelist Beatrice Harraden;[16] the cricketer Denys Hill;[17] and the conductor Harry Norris.[18]George Campbell Wheeler who served in the British Indian Army during World War I and was awarded the Victoria Cross also lived here.[19] The GCHQ whistleblower and intelligence agency officer, Jock Kane, lived in Barton in the 1980s, where he worked as a milkman and school bus driver.[20]

Barton on Sea is effectively a suburb of the inland town, New Milton and is a very popular retirement location. Approximately 36% of the population are retired.[21] The population of Barton in the 2001 census was 6,849.[22]


See also: Barton Beds

The coast at Barton on Sea is particularly well known for its geological content, being home to many fossils in the Barton geological beds. The Barton Beds may give their name to the Bartonian stage of the Eocene Epoch of geological time.[23]

The beach is separated by a 34-metre-high cliff, although there are connecting paths from the village. A cliff-top path runs between Barton and the village of Milford on Sea; the Solent Way stretches to Emsworth, on the West Sussex border. It is also well known for the fact that it was the first place in England to try out rock groynes.The cliffs are frequently used for paragliding.[24] At the eastern end of the village is the Barton-On-Sea Golf Club, which is notable for comprising three loops of nine holes.[25]

Barton on Sea has had for many years a problem with coastal erosion. In the past, the cliffs have eroded away at a rate of up to 1 metre a year, and several buildings have been lost.[26] In the early 1900s the grassy promenade at the top of the cliffs was 100 metres wide, today it is around 20 metres at its furthest points.[4] The erosion was encouraged by the sea-defences added to the west at Bournemouth, thus starving Barton of the sediment needed for protecting its cliffs. Some coastal protection measures at Barton were installed in the late 1930s but fell into disrepair during World War II.[27] In 1964 a series of timber groynes and a cliff drainage system was installed along 300m of the sea-front.[27] This was followed in 1965-8 by a timber revetment backed by large rocks; an extension to the drainage system; and some rock groynes.[27] Later improvements have consisted of replacing the timber groynes with rock groynes; and replacing the timber revetment with a rock structure of dark grey limestone boulders to protect the toe of the cliff.[28] Today's cliff slip problems are largely due to inland water seepage.[4] There have been recent experiments with vegetation defences (planting shrubs, plants and trees on the cliff face) to prevent rotational cliff slump, and therefore slowing the retreat of the cliff towards land which is in use.

To the west of Barton is Naish Farm, now a holiday park, but which was once a farm estate with a history dating back to the 14th century.[5] To the west of that is Chewton, notable for the chine called Chewton Bunny running down to the sea. To the east of Barton is Becton, once a farm with a history dating back to the Domesday book – the Saxon name means "Becca's farm" – now a golf course.[29] Another chine called Becton Bunny can be found here, but it has become much reduced by coastal erosion. To the east of that are the farmlands of Taddiford ("Toad ford").


  1. ^"New Milton Ward population 2011". Retrieved 20 October 2015. 
  2. ^A. T. Lloyd, J. E. S. Brooks, (1996), The History of New Milton and its Surrounding Area, Centenary Edition, page 10
  3. ^Barton-on-Sea HistoryArchived 12 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ abcdThe History of Barton-on-Sea NewForest-Online, retrieved 30 November 2010
  5. ^ abcdefWilliam Page (editor), 1912, A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 5, Victoria County History
  6. ^A. T. Lloyd, J. E. S. Brooks, (1996), The History of New Milton and its Surrounding Area, Centenary Edition, pages 28-29, 39
  7. ^ abcA. T. Lloyd, J. E. S. Brooks, (1996), The History of New Milton and its Surrounding Area, Centenary Edition, page 47
  8. ^A. T. Lloyd, J. E. S. Brooks, (1996), The History of New Milton and its Surrounding Area, Centenary Edition, page 57
  9. ^A. T. Lloyd, J. E. S. Brooks, (1996), The History of New Milton and its Surrounding Area, Centenary Edition, page 95
  10. ^A. T. Lloyd, J. E. S. Brooks, (1996), The History of New Milton and its Surrounding Area, Centenary Edition, page 79
  11. ^ abA. T. Lloyd, J. E. S. Brooks, (1996), The History of New Milton and its Surrounding Area, Centenary Edition, page 48
  12. ^Show Jumping Nostalgia - retrieved 30 November 2010
  13. ^SoccerBase: Russell Perrett, retrieved 30 November 2010
  14. ^Liverpool FC, Past Players, Jamie RedknappArchived 29 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine., retrieved 30 November 2010
  15. ^Bournemouth Echo 1 June 2009, retrieved 30 November 2010
  16. ^Joanne Shattock, 1993, The Oxford guide to British women writers, page 204
  17. ^Cricket Archive: Denys Vivian Hill, retrieved 30 November 2010
  18. ^D'Oyly Carte Who Was Who, retrieved 30 November 2010
  19. ^Max Arthur, 2005, Symbol of Courage: The Men Behind the Medal, page 684. Pan Macmillan
  20. ^"Obituary: Jock Kane". The Daily Telegraph. 20 October 2013. Retrieved 21 October 2013. 
  21. ^Victoria Pybus, 2008, Where to Retire in Britain, page 146 Crimson Publishing
  22. ^Population for the Barton Ward = 5,056. Population for east Barton = 1,793. Combined total = 6849
  23. ^https://www.britannica.com/science/Bartonian-Stage, retrieved 4 January 2016
  24. ^Wessex Hang-Gliding and Paragliding Club - retrieved 29 November 2010
  25. ^Barton-on-Sea Golf ClubArchived 24 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine. Template:Webarch ive, retrieved 14 August 2011
  26. ^Eric Bird, 2010, Encyclopedia of the World's Coastal Landforms, page 430. Springer
  27. ^ abcJanet M. Hooke, 1998, Coastal defence and earth science conservation, page 251.
  28. ^Ian West, 2010, Barton, Highcliffe and Christchurch Bay - History of and Future of Coast Erosion and Sea Defences - retrieved 29 November 2010
  29. ^A. T. Lloyd, J. E. S. Brooks, (1996), The History of New Milton and its Surrounding Area, Centenary Edition, page 13

External links[edit]

World War I Obelisk with an Urdu inscription
Paragliders at Barton cliffs
Sea defences at Barton on Sea

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