Vanishing village - Satellite images show incredible erosion at Winterton

An image of Winterton taken from space in August 2019.

An image of Winterton taken from space in August 2019. Using Google Earth's timelapse feature we are able to travel back in time and measure how much material has been lost in the last 20 years. With every erosion streak it is hard to remember what it looked like before - Google Earth is able to remind us of what has been lost. - Credit: Google Earth

Even for those of us who know the dunes at Winterton like at the back of our hands the rate of erosion is shocking to see.

Satellite images provided by Google Earth show more than 50m of material disappearing at the click of a mouse.

In reality the erosion took 20 years, and in that time forgotten seaside paths have ebbed away and a stroll to the beach from the cafe has turned into a sheer drop.

Google Earth image of Winterton in 1999.

The cafe at Winterton pictured from space on December 31, 1999. The concrete blocks are on the top of the cliffs and at least 50m of dune stretches out between the cafe and the beach. - Credit: Google Earth

In the next few days the cafe will be demolished making it  something else missing from the pictures from space.

Along with the swathe of dunes already lost it too will be absent in the next satellite images that allow people to explore the Earth in 3D and time travel.

As well as showing the increasingly precarious position of the Dunes Cafe, the pictures show the curve of the coast and the dramatic increase in the size of the Ness (a cape or headland) providing a perfect sandy nursery for the breeding seal population but, some say, adding to agitation at the foot of the dunes.

Satellite picture of Winterton in 1999.

The coast at Winterton pictured on December 31, 1999. The fishermen's huts are clearly well set back from the cliffs and the whole dune area in front of them and the cafe has been lost. - Credit: Google Earth

Satellite image of Winterton August 2019.

Satellite image from August 2019 showing the change in shape along the coast at Winterton in the last 20 years. The Ness has clearly grown and moved north, putting the area directly in front of the cafe at the mercy of surging seas, taking the brunt of the worst conditions. The cafe, after clinging on for several years, is being demolished before it falls onto the beach. - Credit: Google Earth


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Growing and heading north towards Horsey it is blamed locally for accelerating problems at the cafe, the last three years being particularly damaging to the car park - a great chunk being grabbed by wild waves.

James Bensly, whose council ward includes Winterton, said: "It is almost as though the land is alive.

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"With the Ness moving more north the beach in front of the cafe has been lost. That sitting water in front of it creates a vortex exactly in front of the cliff and it really cuts in."

While the landowner has done all she could to help the cafe to stand its ground, its days had long been numbered.

However, as much as the images paint a bleak and apparently irreversible picture there are some years, as in 2007, when dune material has been taken but then appears to build back up.

The cafe is expected to be torn down in the next few days.

On Tuesday morning staff and villagers reportedly pulled together to empty the building.

The Dunes Cafe posted a message on Facebook sharing their sadness and thanking all their staff and customers for their support.


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