At Chesil Cove, on the eastern end of Chesil Beach where it adjoins the Isle of Portland, there is a long history of stormy seas and violent wave action. If the massive natural pebble bank is breached, or more likely over-run by high tides driven aggressively upshore, the town can be flooded. The local churchyards hold many memorials to those who perished in just such circumstances in the past.
Protecting the community from inundation is a vital necessity. The present reinforced concrete sea wall, esplanade, and steel floodgates were built in the 1960’s and they have subsequently been further enhanced by the installation of stacks of large metal cages full of beach pebbles (gabions) that form substantial sea defence walls on top of the concrete constructions.
The term ‘gabion’ was traditionally used to describe a cylindrical wicker basket, usually open at both ends, and filled with earth for use in fortifications and engineering; and it is said to date back to times of medieval warfare. The word is now still used to describe a fortifying and defensive structure but is more typically made like the ones illustrated in these photographs – although the contents of the cages may vary – and is more generally seen in use to minimise the ravages of natural processes.
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