Beach to remain shut until August 14 as ordnance is cleared

Cowden’s big bang sends out vibrations across community

By Andrea Kirk, News Reporter

LOUD BANGS from a section of Cowden Sands beach were heard in Aldbrough as explosive experts clear the beach of unexploded ordnance. 

A section of Cowden Sands beach remains closed until August 14 to protect the public from the risk of unexploded ordnance. 

But booms were felt and heard in Aldbrough and Cowden last Thursday, July 30, as ordnance was blown up. 

On the evening of July 30, local residents took to social media to complain about the unexpected louder than normal noise and vibration from the explosions at around 9pm. 

One Cowden resident commented: “I live in Cowden near the cliff and have a one-year-old daughter who has only just gone to bed because the house has been shaking so badly. She was absolutely terrified. I would greatly appreciate a warning!” 

Sue Hickson-Marsay from Hornsea Inshore Rescue commented on the evening: “We were training with lifeboat tonight and the booms shook us all! Never known anything like it. I’ve lived in Aldbrough for over 30 years and never felt or heard it be so bad as tonight. Felt for anyone that has dogs or livestock.” 

The Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) and the British Army have temporarily closed a section of Cowden Sands beach to protect the public from the risk of unexploded ordnance (UXO). This part of the beach will be temporarily closed until August 14 to protect the public whilst UXO is cleared.

RAF Cowden was used as a bombing range from 1959 to 1998. Over the years it has been subject to extensive coastal erosion which leaves UXO on the beach. To date, relatively small amounts of UXO have been left and the Ministry of Defence (MOD) has removed it with minimum disruption to public access to the beach. 

However, recent erosion has revealed UXO which is now appearing on the beach more frequently and in larger amounts. As MOD’s first priority is to ensure the public’s safety, they are undertaking a UXO clearance programme as a matter of urgency. Signs and red flags warn the visiting public which area of the beach is closed. 

Clare Hetherington, DIO’s principal estate surveyor for the north said: “Due to recent weather and tidal events, a significantly larger amount of unexploded ordnance has been uncovered on Cowden Sands. We have worked with the Crown Estate and local councils to close the beach. Until this work takes place, we remind the public that they must avoid the beach whilst it is temporarily closed. Unexploded ordnance is dangerous and should not be touched or removed as it can cause serious injury. This temporary partial closure, whilst regrettable, is needed to protect the public. It will be our priority to reopen the beach when the immediate risk to the public is reduced.” 

It is an offence to pick up military materials from the beach under the RAF Cowden Byelaws 1977. If you find UXO or witness a member of the public handling UXO, please do not attempt to move it and contact 999.