'It's a sad day for us' - Coastwatch tower is decommissioned

Brian Thompson and Roger Rolph of Winterton Coastwatch

Brian Thompson and Roger Rolph of Winterton Coastwatch - Credit: Neil Perry

For 17 years its volunteers have scanned the coastline to help keep seafarers and beach lovers safe.

But now the Winterton Coastwatch tower stands empty as its operations ended this week due to the power of Mother Nature.

On Thursday Coastwatch volunteers ceased using their binoculars and monitoring the airwaves at 4pm due to dramatic erosion of the village's coastline.

Coastwatch at Winterton has launched an online donation page to help fund its move.

The coastwatch tower at Winterton is moving ever closer to the edge of what are now vertiginous cliffs at Winterton. - Credit: Liz Coates

The fast pace of erosion has led to the tower being de-commissioned so it can be moved to another safer location, when one is found and money secured to finance it.

It means that until the watchtower is relocated there will be no Coastwatch presence at Winterton. 

Station commander Roger Rolph, who has been with Winterton Coastwatch for 14 years, said: "It is an end of an era.

"The last day in terms of watches was yesterday so at 4pm Thursday it ceased operating as a Coastwatch station with the Coastguard.

Station commander Roger Rolph and his deputy Brian Thompson of Winterton Coastwatch

Station commander Roger Rolph and his deputy Brian Thompson of Winterton Coastwatch - Credit: Neil Perry

"From now on we start decommissioning, so for example we start removing antennae, because this unit and the unit below will be lifted and placed into storage until we can find a new location.

"We will be coming back, but where we are coming back is the big question. If this continues we may have to lift it again, but we can't afford to lift it twice.

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"We have got to make a positive decision to find a stable site for this unit and then work towards that end.

"This has all happened so quickly, so we did not have a ceremony to mark the end."

Brian Thompson, deputy station commander and who has been in Coastwatch for six years, highlighted that it was not only sailors and ships' crews who relied on them to keep safe.

The clifftop at Winterton is unstable

The clifftop at Winterton is unstable - Credit: Neil Perry

He said: "It is not only a sad day for us, it is sad day for the patrons who use this car park and beach.

"Many of them have expressed it is really sad we are going. We gave them confidence in coming and using this area while we were here.

"We wish we had more definitive answers to give, not only to our people but to the public, but sadly we have not got to that stage yet as it has all happened so quickly."

The Coastwatch watchtower at Winterton

The Coastwatch watchtower at Winterton - Credit: Neil Perry

The station aims to raise £10,000 for the relocation and has set up a gofundme page. Search for tower relocation fund at www.gofundme.com

People are urged to keep a mobile with them while they are at Winterton beach and to call Coastguard on 999 if there is an emergency.

A couple enjoy a walk along Winterton beach

A couple enjoy a walk along Winterton beach - Credit: Neil Perry

Life at the Coastwatch station

The volunteers said September is usually the busiest month, with up to 25 vessels a day spotted and logged.

Incidents where volunteers have helped people on the beach area include an 81-year-old woman who broke her hip after a fall.

People have also been treated for falling off rocks, weaverfish stings and dog bites.

The station, which is dedicated to James McMurchie and replaced a former one in 2005, also helps co-ordinate seal rescues and volunteers have enjoyed seeing pods of dolphins and humpback whales.

The station had provided seven hours cover a day, 365 days a year and wanted to thank the local Bowles family for their support.

Despite the latest bout of erosion Winterton carpark is still open.