Beaching of the Napoli and a climb up Beer cliffs that almost killed me!

The MSC Napoli, grounded off Branscombe Beach in 2007 (photo by Richard Austin)

IN 2007 there was a story kicking around on the national news about a container ship in trouble and listing dangerously. At that time is was way out into the English Channel, off north Cornwall, or so I thought.

Later that night in the Volunteer Inn I was told the ship had grounded a mile off Branscombe beach in East Devon. So I was on the cliffs before first light with only a TV camera man from ITV Westcountry.

As the light came up suddenly I could see the shape of the grounded MSC Napoli with the containers. The morning sun aluminised the ship and the image became quite an attractive one, almost artistic with the colours and the way the ship was listing, but as I observed and took in the distance and location, the containers started sliding into the water with half a dozen already on the beach surrounded by brand new beer barrels, some wrapped in polythene.

I made my way down the footpath from Beer Cliffs, which was almost a vertical, to the beach. There was one police officer on the beach about half a mile from where I had just emerged from the bushes; he saw me and made all the physical signs with his arms telling me to get off the beach, which I totally ignored until I had photographed what I needed.

It was then back up the cliff path, a path that nearly finished me off, what a climb that is!

As the weeks passed I was sent by various newspapers to Branscombe on a daily basis watching the wreckers come and go with bizarre choices of souvenirs, the larger stuff such as motorbikes were long gone.

People were arriving from all over the country and soon the inevitable happened, local houses in the village were being robbed with one farmer loosing all his chainsaws in a night time break-in. Scavengers is a good word for some of them, thankfully the police closed the beach for the official clear-up – it took months.

Woodmead Halls

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