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In this paper the marine factors of erosion contributing to the chalk cliffs located on either side of the English Channel are examined. From an analysis of the literature, the main physical phenomena determining the marine erosion of the shore platform and the foot of the cliff are considered. Field observations of the coastal chalk cliff show that the vertical erosion of the shore platform does not appear to be the main cause of cliff erosion, which is mainly governed by cliff collapse processes. To estimate the impact of waves on the base of the cliff, experiments were carried out in a wave flume. The pressure due to the waves and the dissipation of waves were measured for three simple configurations of the boundary conditions between the cliff and the sea. The pressure never exceeded the compressive strength of chalk rock. Nevertheless, pressure fluctuations due to periodic waves can induce a fatigue process within the fracture structures.

The experimental results showed that the shingle by itself has a low effect on wave energy dissipation. The main effect of shingle is to reduce the water depth at the toe of the cliff. Furthermore, it is demonstrated that a lower water depth leads to a lower impact of the waves on the cliff.

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