A giant 40ft sinkhole has appeared in a coastal hotspot near Sunderland – and it has unearthed a secret hidden beach.

What was once a small sinkhole and minor inconvenience to passersby in 2003, has since grown into a natural phenomenon known as the Souter Hole. Due to erosion and landslips, the gaping hole in the cliffs at Whitburn has grown larger year on year.

It has grown so big that it now reveals a beach underneath with the sea forcing its way through one of the cracks in the cliff walls.

Former GP and beach artist Clair Eason captured the true extent of the sinkhole while exploring the coastline near her home.

“This deep sinkhole near Souter Point, South Shields, began as a small hollow a few years ago,” she said.

“It’s growing into a huge beast, adding even more drama to the rugged coastline.”

Claire Eason Soul2Sand / SWNS

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The National Trust has been forced to cordon off the sinkhole, which is close to the cliff coast path.

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

“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.”

Claire Eason Soul2Sand / SWNS

“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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