New improved access at Westward Ho! slipway.

Local Contractors and Council Officers worked in partnership to complete an upgrade and extension to the slipway access to the Blue Flag designated beach at Westward Ho!. With one eye on the tide timetable and careful preparations, the team were able to deliver the ambitious project in less than a week from start to finish.

The existing concrete slipway had already been extended on two separate occasions in the past, but a report to Councillors at the end of June recognised that storm damage and ongoing erosion had necessitated the need for a further extension.

Off-site preparations included the construction of a steel reinforcement cage which was welded so that it could be craned directly into place once delivered to site. A modular system was then utilised to create forms around the structure into which concrete could then be poured. These were designed to be quick to construct and remove in-between tides and facilitated the pouring of around 650 cubic feet of concrete for the main slab of the slipway.

Extensive ground works were also needed to reach down beneath the sand to the clay subsurface of the beach into which the newer slipway structure has now been cast. The depth of the excavation meant that dealing with the constant ingress of groundwater was another challenge the engineers had to overcome. Rock armour from the soon to be redeveloped Clarence Wharf Car Park in Bideford was aligned around the finished slipway to give it further protection from the fierce storm and wave action it will need to withstand in this location.

The cost of the works was £38K and was allocated from existing budgets and funding balances already earmarked for Westward Ho! and also from the North Devon Coast Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Sustainable Development Fund.

Further coast protection works are planned to follow-on in September and will involve the placement of further rock armour along the upper beach area. Small sections of the beach will need to be restricted during these works and further details will be provided nearer the time. The rock armour will provide an interim measure to help mitigate the impact of severe winter storms prior to the long term coast protection works funded by DEFRA and managed by the Environment Agency.

Councillor Nick Laws, Ward Member for Westward Ho! said: “The extension to the slipway was designed to alleviate the scouring and associated ponding at the bottom of the slip, which made access very difficult at times. I stood at the top of the slipway today and watched a motorised mobility scooter simply glide off the beach and onto the slipway. This is a fantastic achievement by Torridge’s engineering team and contractors and I am full of admiration, not only for the design, but also the dedication and determination to see everyone finally able to enjoy our wonderful beach.”

Jenny Carey-Wood, AONB Manager, said: “We were delighted to support this slipway improvement, addressing a key priority this year to improve physical access to the AONB for local people and visitors. Westward Ho! beach and the Burrows offer a great opportunity to improve our wellbeing with the stunning views along the coast, beach based recreation, and a chance to discover its fascinating nature and heritage.”

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