A huge sinkhole at a UK coastal beauty spot has revealed a secret hidden underground beach.

In 2003, a small sinkhole appeared in the cliffs at Whitburn, near Sunderland.

The natural phenomenon, called Souter Hole, has since grown and has now left a gaping 40ft-wide hole.

The hole is now so big that a hidden beach has been revealed with the sea forcing its way through a crack in one of the cliff walls.

The National Trust – which manages the cliff path around the sinkhole – has been forced to cordon off the area which is close to the cliff coast path, while also warning walkers and dog owners to avoid the location.

Beach artist Clair Eason, a former GP, captured the true extent of the sinkhole while exploring the coastline near her home.

She said: “This deep sink hole near Souter Point, South Shields, began as a small hollow a few years ago. It’s growing into a huge beast, adding even more drama to the rugged coastline.”

A spokesperson for the National Trust said: “We want all of our visitors to have an enjoyable, relaxed and safe visit to Whitburn Coastal Park.

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“By its nature the coastline is constantly changing, with some areas particularly prone to erosion and landslips.

"This sinkhole first appeared around 2003 and is regularly surveyed.

“We have put up fencing and warning signs around this sinkhole, which is away from the main path running along the cliff tops of The Leas and Whitburn Coastal Park, known locally as The Wherry.

"There are warning signs at key points along the cliff edges, as well as visitor information panels in each car park. We'd urge people to take a moment to look at these signs, and to stick to the main paths to keep themselves, their children, and their dogs safe."

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