'An absolute shock' - clifftop cafe closed amid demolition fears

Winterton cafe has been closed

The Dunes cafe at Winterton has been closed and is reportedly being prepared for demolition. Just a few feet of hard surface remain at the back of the cafe after surging seas and winds ripped into the sandy cliffs. - Credit: Liz Coates

A teetering cafe at risk of falling into the sea has been shuttered and emptied amid fears it faces demolition.

Some seven feet of  material was reportedly lost from the back of The Dunes cafe at Winterton overnight, with the whole stretch scarred by severe erosion.

Railings and debris are visible at the bottom of the cliff.

In response, the toilets and car park are both closed and safety warnings have been issued about climbing on the newly eroded cliffs or walking under them.

James Bensly, whose borough council ward includes Winterton, said he was also applying for Beach Road to be completely shut off to deter sight-seers and minimise the danger.

He said the cafe's position was now too dangerous and demolition teams would likely move in by the end of the week.

The only silver lining was the community effort that saw villagers come together to help clear the building,  he added.

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He said the amount of material that had been taken in the storms was "unbelievable" in what was a fast-moving situation.

Winterton dunes cafe

The cafe at Winterton has been closed and emptied. The car park and toilets are also closed for the time being. - Credit: Liz Coates

The coast faces another high tide tonight (Tuesday, December 1), although winds are set to weaken.

People at the scene said they saw the building being emptied this morning with the contents being taken off to the cafe's other sites at Acle riverside and Waxham barn.

Jamie Denton, manager of the nearby Hermanus complex, was among those helping out.

He said the scale of the damage caused by last night's high tides and strong winds had been "an absolute shock."

Clearing the cafe had been "quite a community effort", and  everyone was pulling together to help the owners out.

Beach debris at Winterton

Debris at the bottom of the cliff at Winterton including railings from the cafe. - Credit: Liz Coates

The cafe has long been popular with walkers and wildlife fans, its popularity boosted by the seal season which had bought even more visitors to the wilderness dunes and beach.

For Jan Hewitt who owns the land trying to combat the erosion has been a constant and costly battle.

Eric Lund, former parish council chairman and seal warden said he understood the alarm had been raised by fishermen at around 8am.

He said: "It seems they are clearing out the cafe to demolish it. If it goes onto the beach it is going to be a lot more expensive."

Safety warnings were issued last week about steering clear of the area at the base of the cliffs where material was overhanging.

Permission for a mobile catering unit in the car park has already been granted, as a back-up plan in case the worst happened.

On Tuesday afternoon news of the erosion streak had drawn a steady stream of sight-seers taking pictures on their phones and bemoaning the damage.

"It is just such a sad scene," one woman said.

People have shared their sadness on social media many saying the cafe held many happy memories.

One woman said: "Such a shame. We visit often, but knew it would happen at some point. The sea takes over, you can’t stop it,

"I hope they will reopen somewhere and hopefully let the public know,.

"Sad times what with everything else going on in the world."

Winterton Dunes cafe

The Dunes cafe facing out to sea at Winterton from its precarious position right on the cliff edge. - Credit: Liz Coates

Zoe Johnson, a meteorologist with Norwich-based Weatherquest, said strong north-westerly winds and rough seas had combined with a full moon, bringing spring tides.

However, winds are expected to ease over the next few days.

Great Yarmouth Borough Council said: “The car park is reduced in size and part of the cafe’s patio area has been closed off for a few weeks.

“Surges at the end of last week left the dunes more vulnerable by removing the beach material which had formed a barrier against some of the wave action.

"Last night, a further surge, combined with a spring tide and a strong northerly wind, resulted in significant loss of dune material around the café, which is now right on the edge and

currently closed.

“People are advised that physical access to the beach at Winterton is restricted because of the erosion and the current height of the sand.

"As part of adapting to ongoing coastal change, the council and Coastal Partnership East have been working closely with the landowner to develop options that are compatible with a naturally changing coast."


Beach debris at Winterton

Debris at the bottom of the cliff at Winterton including railings from the cafe. - Credit: Liz Coates

Access to the beach at Winterton

The slope from the cafe has been cut short by the high tides, and left with a 5ft drop. Access to the beach is now difficult and people are being asked not to clamber down the dunes for safety reasons. - Credit: Liz Coates

The Dunes cafe at Winterton

After Monday night's battering The Dunes cafe has been deemed too close to the cliff edge to be safe. Many people have shared their sadness and offered sympathy to the landowner and business operators. - Credit: Liz Coates