Storm Ciarán Dorset destruction dominates National Trust 2023 weather review

PURBECK faced extreme weather, damage and a deadly bird flu, according to a new report. 

The National Trust’s 2023 Weather and Wildlife review said key patterns and seasonal shifts caused problems throughout the year. 

Among them was Storm Ciarán, which battered Dorset at the start of November, seeing schools close and drivers rescued from stranded cars. 

Up to 15 years’ worth of erosion was suffered in one day, the Trust said, with Studland beach “gouged away” and the lower wall protecting the Hive Beach car park breached for the first time in its history. 

“Ciarán created coastal change at three of our places at a rapid pace,” said Ben McCarthy, head of nature and restoration ecology.

“It was like a starting gun going off, and now these breaches have happened, it’s likely erosion will accelerate much more quickly. 

“The damage we sustained is a clear indication of how the frequency and intensity of storms, together with rising sea-levels, is likely to accelerate erosion and will require us to look at how we adapt and change how we care for the sites to cope with future impacts.”


It comes amid a global climate crisis bringing rising temperatures. According to United Nations experts, July was 1.5C warmer than average – and the hottest month ever recorded –

followed by a warmer-than-average Autumn, and huge levels of rainfall in October. 

Record-breaking conditions, followed by extreme weather events such as Storm Ciarán, “caused chaos” for animal and plant behaviour, the Trust said. 

Another worrying development was the discovery of bird flu on Brownsea Island.

The disease came from the Farne Islands – off the coast of Northumberland – and spread across the country. 

Avian Influenza on the Farne Islands. Photo: National Trust.

Avian Influenza on the Farne Islands. Photo: National Trust.

Brownsea is one of the most significant Trust sites for breeding seabirds, making the influenza particularly problematic, according to ranger, Harriet Reid.

“We’re hopeful that perhaps immunity is building in some species and populations already impacted by the disease,” she said. 

“We need to rapidly understand what more we can do to protect these precious seabirds and are in a race against time to carry out the necessary research to inform how best to conserve them.”

READ MORE: Storm Ciarán: Roads and schools closed as Somerset, Wiltshire and Dorset battered

READ MORE: Community art on Swanage concrete blocks highlights coastal efforts  

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