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When walking alongside eroding cliffs in more built up / touristy areas, there's usually big warning signs or closed paths if the cliff is unsafe to walk on. Sometimes it's obvious why, if the path is very close to the sea or has disappeared altogether.

If walking in a more rural place though, it's likely that the cliff isn't inspected regularly and therefore such signs don't necessarily exist. What should I look out for, if anything aside from the obvious (big cracks, paths perilously close to the edge) to determine if such a path is relatively safe to walk on?

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

I guess you should check also:

  • The hardness of the rock: Some rock tend to be harder than other and thus endure much more stress without eroding.
  • How much the cliff is exposed to waves? How far is the sea or the ocean from the cliff?
  • Is the rock lying on a more volatile material like sand? Since sand is very volatile, it will not bound with the rock.
  • How is water drained out of the cliff? Is the cliff evacuating all the rain water in an effective way or retaining in a or several underground basin? If so the accumulated water might be pushing the rocks. This criterion is very tricky to check.
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