'We're devastated', say Welsh homeowners left on brink after huge cliff collapse

Andy Wells and Chris Parsons
·5-min read
Houses are seen on the edge of a cliff after it collapsed in the village of Nefyn, Wales, Britain, April 20, 2021. Picture taken with a drone. REUTERS/Carl Recine     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Houses are seen on the edge of a cliff after it collapsed in the village of Nefyn, North Wales, this week.

Shocked homeowners living above a huge landslide say they’re ‘devastated’ that the cliff fall has forced them to leave their houses.

Tonnes of rocks collapsed onto the beach in Nefyn, near Pwllheli, North Wales, on Monday, leaving homes at the top of the cliffs teetering on the edge.

Dramatic pictures showed turf, paving and even garden furniture which had tumbled way down onto the sand following the landslip, which happened minutes after people had walked along the same beach.

Investigators have since told residents to avoid the area while the cliffs are stabilised, with homeowners now worried their properties could disappear altogether.

Local hotel owner Melvyn Jones is the only permanent resident on the row of houses now dangerously close to the cliff edge.

Jones, 64, lives in a bungalow immediately next to the site of the landslide.

Hotel owner Melvyn Jones, whose house backs onto the landslide, with wife Paula and son Harri. (Yahoo UK/Courtesy of the Jones family)
Hotel owner Melvyn Jones, whose house backs onto the landslide, with wife Paula and son Harri. (Yahoo UK/Courtesy of the Jones family)

He bought the property 10 years ago and lives there with his wife, stepson and seven-year-old son.

He told Yahoo News UK: “I’m devastated. I can’t do anything right now until I find out more from the council, but I don’t want to sell it - and who would want to buy a house on top of a cliff anyway?

“My brother-in-law was in the house when it happened, doing some work for me. He rang me and said, ‘You’d better come home quickly - there’s been a landslide.’ I thought it was a joke.

“It’s a lovely bungalow with views across the bay. There’s a farmer’s field a few hundred metres away which has had bits of cliff chipping away over the years, but nothing like this cliff fall has ever happened from under our house before."

Company director Nick Smith, 66, who owns a property which is closest to the edge of where the cliff fell apart, told Yahoo that a large section of the garden at the front of the property has fallen away.

Houses are seen on the edge of a cliff after it collapsed in the village of Nefyn, Wales, Britain, April 20, 2021. Picture taken with a drone. REUTERS/Carl Recine
An estimated 13ft of cliffside was lost this week in the Nefyn landslide. (REUTERS/Carl Recine)
Nick Smith (pictured) at the end of his garden in Nefyn, North Wales, before the cliff fall took away 13ft off his property. (Yahoo UK/Courtesy of Nick Smith)
Nick Smith (pictured) at the end of his garden in Nefyn, North Wales, before the cliff fall took away 13ft off his property. (Yahoo UK/Courtesy of Nick Smith)
Mr Smith's garden before the landslide. (Yahoo UK/Nick Smith)
Mr Smith's garden before the landslide. (Yahoo UK/Nick Smith)

Smith usually stays at the home, which once belonged to his late mother, twice a week throughout the year for work – and found out about the landslide shortly after it happened on Monday.

He said: “I was shocked. My first concern was nobody on the beach was injured or killed.

“After that, the extent of what damage had been done to the cliff. But it’s taken a section of the garden away at the front of the property.”

Smith, who lives in Shropshire, said he has “not considered” selling the house while investigations into the incident take place.

He said: “The main consideration at the moment is to assess the damage, what's got to be done to stabilise the cliff so that it won't go anymore and after we've got that we'll go onto any other decisions.”

Houses are seen on the edge of a cliff after it collapsed in the village of Nefyn, Wales, Britain, April 20, 2021. Picture taken with a drone. REUTERS/Carl Recine
The landslide has left a handful of properties dangerously close to the cliff edge. (Reuters)
A satellite image of the Nefyn cliffside before the landslide happened. (Google Maps)
A satellite image of the Nefyn cliffside before the landslide happened. (Google Maps)
NEFYN, WALES - APRIL 21: Houses are seen next to the cliff edge after a landslide at Nefyn Beach in Gwynedd, North Wales on April 21, 2021 in Nefyn, United Kingdom. Following the large land slip people were advised to temporarily relocate. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Residents say the landslide could've been caused by a build-up of moisture in the cliffs. (Getty)

Another landslide happened in the same area around a month ago, according to North Wales Live.

A resident sitting outside his beach house when the landslide happened told the website that he “wasn’t surprised at all” by what he saw, adding that landslides “happen all the time”.

He added that a similar incident took place around six years ago, causing the pipe in a nearby house to burst.

Jones said that a burst pipe or build-up of moisture could have been the cause of this weeks landslip.

He said: “I think there’s been a build-up of water behind the cliffs - and if you look at how far the cliffs go into the sea there’s obviously something else wrong.

“With the amount that came down, it must’ve been something which happened back inside the cliffs - it could’ve been to do with a burst pipe or something.”

NEFYN, WALES - APRIL 21: In an aerial view houses are seen next to the cliff edge after a landslide at Nefyn Beach in Gwynedd, North Wales on April 21, 2021 in Nefyn, United Kingdom. Following the large land slip people were advised to temporarily relocate. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
A bird's eye view of that landslide at Nefyn Beach in Gwynedd, North Wales. (Getty Images)

Tragically, there was also a fatal cliff fall in Nefyn two decades ago.

In January 2001, Shirley Race died when the car she was in with her husband Donald was swept over a cliff at Nefyn, narrowly missing a chalet below, before being swept into the sea.

Donald Race was rescued but suffered serious injuries.

The couple’s vehicle was one of seven engulfed by mud in the landslide, which was the third to take place in weeks.

The cliff was thought to have been weakened by heavy rain and Gwynedd council officials looked into ways of making the area safer.

The scene of a landslide at Nefyn on the remote Lleyn peninsula in North Wales January 2, 2001, in which a woman was killed and a man critically injured. Seven cars were believed to have been caught in the landslip, with two of them reported to have been swept at least 40ft down towards the sea. Emergency services launched a major rescue operation in the face of an incoming tide.

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Tragedy struck Nefyn from another landslide in 2001, when several cars were caught in a cliff fall and a woman was killed. (Reuters)

While this week’s landslide comes following a period of dry weather, Dave Petley, a pro-vice chancellor of the University of Sheffield who writes a blog on landslide events occurring worldwide, said footage showed “multiple scars of previous landslides”, and that this week’s failure “comes as no surprise”.

Following Monday’s landslide, the council said they had spoken to residents and warning signs were being installed.

A North Wales police spokesman said: "The public are advised to avoid the area until further notice, whilst emergency services and utility companies make the area safe."

The British Geological Survey said that the slopes at Nefyn Bay are covered in weathered debris “that is particularly susceptible to shallow landsliding, especially when saturated by water”.

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