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Co-op Community Heroes: Coastwatch for keeping a close eye on holiday makers

PUBLISHED: 16:03 07 December 2018

Andrew Sharples (left) and Roger Folf, who is the leader of the CoastWatch in Winterton. Picture: Contributed

Andrew Sharples (left) and Roger Folf, who is the leader of the CoastWatch in Winterton. Picture: Contributed

Archant

As part of a partnership with the East of England Co-Op to highlight Community Heroes, reporter Greta Levy spoke to Andrew Sharples about the work he has done in his community to keep holiday-makers safe and keep an eye on suspicious activity.

As apart of his role, the 71-year-old records and details suspicious activity which could involve drugs, people smuggling from this watch tower. Picture: Andrew SharplesAs apart of his role, the 71-year-old records and details suspicious activity which could involve drugs, people smuggling from this watch tower. Picture: Andrew Sharples

As the sun comes out and holiday-makers flock to the coast to sit back, relax and rid the worries of the world, one Norfolk hero is keeping the shores safe in Winterton.

Andrew Sharples from Martlesham has gone above and beyond to keep a close eye on beach-goers and make sure they keep safe as they loosen up for the warmer months.

Despite the seaside role, his position on Coastwatch doesn’t stop during the winter and it continues to be rationed out between 10 volunteers throughout the year.

As apart of his position at the Coastwatch, the 71-year-old records and details suspicious activity which could involve drugs and people smuggling.

From this tower, Andrew Sharples  pays close attention to ships that pass by to make sure they can be easily pin-pointed if they vanish out at sea. Picture: Andrew SharplesFrom this tower, Andrew Sharples pays close attention to ships that pass by to make sure they can be easily pin-pointed if they vanish out at sea. Picture: Andrew Sharples

He also pays close attention to ships which pass by to make sure they can be easily pin-pointed if they vanish out at sea.

“We sit in the tower and keep a close eye on passing ships as well as boats, people run to us if there is an emergency and we can help them out by calling the emergency services,” Mr Sharples said.

As a volunteer at Coastwatch in Winterton, Mr Sharples also monitors the wind metre.

“When the weather gets particularly bad, like we are expecting next week, and in high winds you get debris that comes through the area,” he said.

As well as potentially dangerous debris, Mr Sharples pays close attention to the strength of wind for when people bring inflatables to the water.

He said: “We’ll go down and chat to them and let them know about the wind direction and ask if they have a rope to tie it to the shore, because if they don’t their next destination could be Holland,” he said.

“Once there was a black and yellow object in the water and we couldn’t tell what it was, so I called the coastguard and they just told us to keep and eye on it.

“As it drifted closer to the shore, we realised it was six-foot inflatable penguin. We still have no idea where that penguin came from,” he said.

Mr Sharples began his work at on the Coastwatch at the beginning of this year.

He said: “In the summer we open up and we have two flags flying so all the sailors and wind surfers know the direction of the land.”

“We check the safety phone and make sure that is working for the public, and keep intouch with the humber coastguard,” he added.

From a young age, Mr Sharples had an affinity with water, he remembers frolicking in the shore, swimming out in to the deep blue, playing in the sand and basking in the sun.

This lead to him buying a boat later in life and setting up a home on the broads, “the only reason why I stopped living on the boat was because I was becoming old and creaky,” he said.

As an ex-policeman, Mr Sharples said he always keeps an eye on anti-social behaviour, “I haven’t seen any activity in the year that I have been here, but you always keep your eye out for suspicious activity,” he said.

On the donation from the Co-Op, Mr Sharples said he was “pleased” to receive £500 for Coastwatch through their token scheme.

The money has gone towards a wind indicator which allows the volunteers to assess the wind direction and force.

“It is good the people realise the valuable job we do,” he added.

On water safety, the father-of-five asked parents to keep a close eye on their children and to not panic if you hit dangerous conditions in the water.

He said: “These tides change, they can be treacherous if you don’t know about them.

“If you do get stuck in a strong current, you’re better off not to fight it and just relax,” he said.

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