A 'sad day for the village' as clifftop cafe is demolished

The Dunes Cafe in Winterton being demolished. Picture: Danielle Booden

The Dunes Cafe in Winterton being demolished - Credit: Danielle Booden

It was a sad day for one of Norfolk's best-loved beach cafes as demolition teams tore it apart.

The popular Dunes Cafe at Winterton-on-Sea has suffered a long and costly battle with coastal erosion ever since storms first brought it to the brink in 2004.

dunes cafe

The Dunes Cafe, just before it was demolished - Credit: Danielle Booden

But despite surviving against the odds, its fate was sealed on Monday, November 30 when storms brought down seven feet of material from the back of the cafe, rendering it unsafe.

Demolition began on Friday, December 4 at around 11.30am and carried on until after 2pm, with the JCB making its way front to back through the walls and roof.

The Dunes Cafe in Winterton being demolished. Picture: Danielle Booden

The Dunes Cafe in Winterton being demolished - Credit: Danielle Booden

The coastguard helped monitor the area, and while the car park and toilets were closed, it didn't deter sight-seers and villagers from coming to raise a final farewell to one of their favourite haunts.

Norman Parcell was one such villager who braced the icy cold to watch the scene unfold.

Workers at Dunes Cafe in Winterton preparing to demolish the buildng. Picture: Danielle Booden

The road leading to the cafe was quiet at 8am, but was overflowing with cars by midday when demolition work was fully underway - Credit: Danielle Booden


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He said: "My wife and I moved here from London six years ago, and straight away this cafe became a focal point for us.

"It was the place where everyone gathered, and where you met new people. 

The Dunes Cafe in Winterton being demolished. Picture: Danielle Booden

The Dunes Cafe in Winterton being demolished - Credit: Danielle Booden

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"This is a sad, sad day for the village.

"We're really going to miss it."

Liz Gibson, from Bradwell, had come with her mum who has lived in Winterton for 22 years.

winterton dunes

Liz Gibson (right) with her mum, who lives in Winterton village - Credit: Sarah Burgess

"It's such a shame that it's had to be torn down. I remember coming here when I was little", she said.

"We used to play on all the big stones which are now down at the foot of the cliffs. They used to be up next to the cafe - so you can really see how much the beach has been been battered by erosion over the years.

"The walkway down from the cafe to the beach was long and gradual, but in a matter of days it's almost disappeared. I can't quite believe it."

The Dunes Cafe in Winterton being demolished. Picture: Danielle Booden

The Dunes Cafe in Winterton being demolished - Credit: Danielle Booden

Pat and Peter Pearce had come all the way from Norwich to see the place where they always got "the best bacon butties".

winterton dunes

Peter and Pat Pearce, who live just outside Norwich - Credit: Sarah Burgess

Mrs Pearce said: "We come here all the time and will miss it a lot. They did the best bacon butties.

"Every winter you see it disappearing a little bit more, though. It's a miracle it's lasted this long.

"I remember seeing those photos from years ago when it looked like the cafe might have to be torn down then. But it clung on."

The Dunes Cafe in Winterton being demolished. Picture: Danielle Booden

Demolition teams moving in on the Dunes Cafe - Credit: Danielle Booden

The stretch of coast at the end of beach road has suffered significant damage this winter, with a chunk of the car park also taken in the storms.

Borough councillor James Bensly said it was an upsetting state of affairs, but that he hoped the village would support the cafe's owners in whatever venture they try next.

He said: "I offer my condolences to the business owners and land owners. It's such a sad thing to have to happen. My heart goes out to them.

"The biggest issue going forward will be parking, because we absolutely cannot afford to lose that car park.

The Dunes cafe at Winterton

The Dunes cafe at Winterton has stood its ground for as long as it could. The battle with the sea came to an end this week. - Credit: Liz Coates

"I understand that the owner is working with GYBC to re-open the toilets and car park as soon as possible, but we have to make sure everything is safe first.

"Losing that car park would lead to parking chaos in the village."

Workers at Dunes Cafe in Winterton preparing to demolish the buildng. Picture: Danielle Booden

Demolition teams at the Dunes Cafe - Credit: Danielle Booden

For the owner, the situation the cafe eventually found itself in has been a long time coming.

With the patio hanging over the cliff 15 years ago an application was made for mobile units which were allowed by planners and renewed every five years since. 

In 2019, the landowner Jan Hewitt said it was needed "just in case the worst happens".

It is understood some kind of temporary catering offer will spring up now the old building has been demolished.

Beach debris at Winterton

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

Great Yarmouth Borough Council said: "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."

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