Campaigners in Hemsby celebrate their work protecting the coastline
PUBLISHED: 07:30 05 June 2016 | UPDATED: 13:18 06 June 2016
Seaside publican Lorna Bevan-Thompson is gearing up for a busy summer pulling pints for holidaymakers, and pushing a campaign to shore up the beach they come to enjoy.
Hemsby became the centre of worldwide media attention three winters ago when a surging North Sea swallowed seven chalet bungalows on low cliffs unprotected by sea defences – all watched by a visiting TV crew.
But when summer comes, determined residents and traders at the resort village welcome the tourists who continue to flock to its campsites.
The holiday fun will be laced with reminders of Lorna’s Save Hemsby Coastline campaign which has been calling for sea defence protection for people’s homes, jobs and businesses.
Now she and her fellow campaign trustees are set to renew their efforts in the coming weeks.
They will launch a fresh bid to convince officials and funders that some trial concrete honeycomb sea defences, paid for by £120,000 worth of fundraising, have worked and are worth extending to protect the shoreline, homes, and holiday businesses.
In December 2013 a TV crew filming a documentary about the campaign found themselves amid breaking news, when a fundraising event turned into a rescue mission.
Guests at Lorna’s Lacon Arms pub dashed to the nearby shoreline to form a human chain removing possessions from homes before they tumbled over the edge.
Lorna, 51, said: “It was covered worldwide afterwards, with the village full of camera crews and it raised awareness for our campaign.”
It also helped raise the funds for the £150m of concrete blocks providing temporary protection for the village. The campaign group hopes that showing their success will lead to success in a renewed bid for £2.3m of Coastal Communities Fund cash for 1.4km of major defences.
Lorna, who has combined running a busy pub with being the figurehead of the campaign, said: “It should be down to the government to do something, but it is an uphill battle because our beach is privately-owned.”
Lorna believes the concrete has saved homes, and bought time for the village and the campaigners drive to win the war as well as the battle.
“It is so important, we must fight on,” said the businesswoman who came to Hemsby as a child in 1977 with her family and used to play in sand dunes then 100ft from the sea.
Now the sea is creeping closer, because of erosion, but it has not hit the vitality of the village, where her family has invested more than £1m over the past seven years in a range of outlets including amusements, a bar, rock shop, chippy and play area.
Her own pub the Lacon Arms has already had major improvements and there are more plans in place for a £300,000 atrium, garden revamp and toilet improvements, showing commitment to the community’s future.
Mum-of-three Lorna added: “Save Hemsby Coastline is not all about doom and gloom. It is about making people aware of the hidden dangers of coastal erosion, and hopefully inspiring them to help raise funds for our campaign.
“We love it here and we want to protect and we need people to know the bigger picture in the hope of getting some action. You never know who is out there and what connections they have.”
Holidaymakers are aware of the coastal campaign – through collection tins, and sales of wristbands and key rings – but Lorna said they keep coming back because they enjoy the village, its shoreline, big skies and its welcome.
“Hemsby is a home for a very vibrant village and also ‘home from home’ for so many of our regular visitors,” she added.
Her, and Hemsby’s, determined fight for funding and defences figures in a series of short promotional films showing the attractions of the Greater Yarmouth area – and the stories of the people behind them.
The films are part of an expanded marketing campaign run by the Greater Yarmouth Tourism and Business Improvement District (BID), a locally-financed drive to raise the profile of the area and encourage more visitors to stay longer, spend more and return.
Its chairman Gareth Brown said: “The BID is about promoting tourism and supporting business, so maintaining Hemsby’s beach and protecting its holiday facilities is important to our aims – along with showing the passion and determination of people like Lorna who are fighting for the communities they are proud of.”
See Lorna’s story, called Turning the Tide, on the Great Yarmouth tourism website www.great-yarmouth.co.uk. It is in the Behind the Scenes films in the media centre menu.
Now the search is on for other people in the tourism industry, who also have a story to tell or another dimension to their lives that would make compelling viewing, to feature in future mini movies.
Other stars have included a zoo founder, circus ringmaster, hotelier, potter and museum owner, all with fascinating back stories.
If you are a mini movie candidate, or know someone who might be, contact Kirsty Burn at Kirsty.Burn@great-yarmouth.gov.uk or call 01493 846340.
If you can help Save Hemsby Coastline contact Lorna Bevan-Thompson on 01493 733281 or email email@example.com