A couple 'could definitely have been victims ' after part of a cliff collapsed onto a beach in front of them without warning.

Judy and Michael Haines were walking their dog at Stonebarrow, keeping an eye-out for fossils, when the cliff collapsed suddenly.

The stunned couple were just 10 metres away from danger.

Judy said: "We could definitely have been victims this time. There was no warning at all, it sounded just like a lorry load of stones being dumped. We realised there was a huge chunk of rock just hanging there so we warned a couple who were already examining the fall to get right back and pointed out the danger. We then went back home. A few hours later, around 9pm, we were on the balcony when I noticed a wide puff of smoke drifting across the beach.

"We got a photo just as the cloud was drifting out to sea. It is very far away but it looks from the surface of the sea as if there were small pebbles falling out of it. I reckon the second fall was probably larger than the one we saw as the dust took longer to disperse.

"I'm glad the dog, Mike and I made it back in one piece."

The couple, from Charmouth, say they will avoid walking in the same spot in future and have issued a stark warning to others.

"We were shaken as, although we knew the cliffs were dangerous, we had no idea how fast it could happen. We have looked for fossils along the beach for several years now and to be that close was sobering

"At this point the loosening material is so low that there would not be enough time to move away - even if you heard the warning noise immediately," said Judy.

Charmouth Heritage Centre warden Anna Holbrook says the combination of dry weather, which causes the rock to shrink and crack, and heavy downpours as a result of a recent storm will have caused the falls.

"Any time we have a fall, it's never safe to go on the beach straight away. This is because the rock will have moved and could be dislodged. We would advise people to stay away from the area immediately after a fall and always seek advice before going out."

Walkers and fossil-hunters can find safety advice at Charmouth Heritage Centre.