184 Fiona Beglane and Jerr y O’Sullivan
Fig. 8—Staad Abbey, Co. Sligo: (a) antiquarian record of the chapel in 1880 by William Wakeman (courtesy of Sligo County Library); (b) the chapel in 2012.
Thady Moffat, who told us that he ‘lost half a field’ at Staad during one night in the 1970s.
Close examination of the regression data demonstrates that there is complexity in the erosion pattern. The periodic scourings of the cliff face can undermine the land surface without affecting the location of the grassy edge. Over time, this undermining then causes a slump, and grass regrows on the slumped area.As a result, during survey work it can be difficult to determine exactly where the edge should be defined and therefore mapping the grassy edge can sometimes suggest deposition of material rather than its loss.While the majority of the surveyed length has seen little change since 2014, the north-eastern end, in the area of the visible peat horizon, has experienced the greatest degree of erosion. In this area the cliff is only c. 0.5m high, and shifting beach cobbles are probably the major cause of instability.This demonstrates that the vulnerability of the coastline can vary considerably even within one site.
It is impossible to conserve without altering, and ‘rescue’ can often amount to controlled destruction. One lesson learned at Staad is that stripping away the vegetation from an eroding cliff face in order to clean, record and sample the stratigraphy will result in a short-term acceleration of erosion. In the spring of 2000 O’Sullivan and McCormick addressed the cliff face with trowels and spades.The following winters saw scouring and slumping that would otherwise have occurred over a longer period.We have no doubt that the sacrifice was worth it in terms of the information gained, although consolidation of the cliff would have been a better option than the loss of the deposits if any feasible engineering solution had been available.
A number of local residents have become interested in Staad and are undertaking an informal watching
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