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Tidal scours have long devastated the beaches of the East Coast

PUBLISHED: 21:15 29 March 2018

Beach huts washed away at Gorleston in 1969 after gales caused erosion. Picture: MERCURY LIBRARY

Beach huts washed away at Gorleston in 1969 after gales caused erosion. Picture: MERCURY LIBRARY

Archant

Sumer Is Icumen In, according to a 13th century ditty more commonly rendered as “summer is a-coming in”. So we will soon be enjoying summer’s delights, the only downside for me being mowing the lawn!

Wide and golden: Gorleston beach in 2014. Picture: PEGGOTTYWide and golden: Gorleston beach in 2014. Picture: PEGGOTTY

Work had already begun, preparing Great Yarmouth and Gorleston, our coastal neighbours and the Norfolk Broads for the influx of holidaymakers and trippers we hope to welcome here.

Then came the big setback, gales and scouring tides creating havoc at major venue Hemsby, necessitating the demolition of sea-front properties perilously close to tumbling down to the scoured-away sands beneath them.

Heartbreaking, but no human casualties, other than owners of those homes suffering broken hearts and dreams.

It is well documented here that Mrs Peggotty and I regularly walk along Gorleston’s Lower Promenade, marvelling at the almost-white sands and the fact that the distance between sea-wall and the water’s edge seems to be increasing...until a recent stroll where it was evident erosion had suddenly become a problem after years of respite.

The view from Gorleston cliffs in 1945 showing beach huts on the sands. Picture: MERCURY LIBRARYThe view from Gorleston cliffs in 1945 showing beach huts on the sands. Picture: MERCURY LIBRARY

At least, that is how it looked to us; perhaps it caused no alarm to the authorities who monitor these things.

Soon after a March gale, we found ourselves trudging through soaked sand covering large areas of promenade.

That was soon removed by workers who then proceeded to re-flatten the beach itself, using mechanical plant.

Many folk running seafront enterprises, and residents who enjoy our shore, must have been relieved to see that beach back to its wide golden self.

Desolate and ravaged: a sorry Gorleston beach in 1983. Picture: MERCURY LIBRARYDesolate and ravaged: a sorry Gorleston beach in 1983. Picture: MERCURY LIBRARY

Then, last week, on a bright day after another bad snap, we again went for our stroll, only to be alarmed by seeing much of the beach’s width had been scoured away.

At the end beyond Jay-Jay’s cafe, there was no beach, the sea right up to the granite boulders ferried from Scotland and placed in front of the promenade years ago to absorb and deflect the crashing waves and protect it.

In front of the cafe, the sands were scoured away to a depth of three or four feet, only a pace or two from the concrete sea wall. Along the whole length of the beach there was evidence of severe erosion.

It brought to mind the devastating tidal scour a half-century ago when wooden beach huts alongside the sea wall, and countless tons of sand, were washed away by a combination of gales and high tides.

Beach huts washed away at Gorleston in 1969 after gales caused erosion. Picture: MERCURY LIBRARYBeach huts washed away at Gorleston in 1969 after gales caused erosion. Picture: MERCURY LIBRARY

For much of the 20th century rows of beach huts gracing the sands were a feature of Gorleston and were seldom, if ever, imperilled during the decades; then, overnight, there was scarcely any beach left on which any could be sited!

Local boatmen and others familiar with these inshore waters differed with the experts over whether the sand drift was lateral or in-and-out.

Various ideas were aired - one was to acquire old ships, fill them with concrete and scuttle them offshore to protect the beaches...

Schemes were suggested to combat sand losses and restore our shores to their former glory.

Wide and golden: Gorleston beach in 2014. Picture: PEGGOTTYWide and golden: Gorleston beach in 2014. Picture: PEGGOTTY

It is hard to recall now if the regeneration was natural or resulting from civil engineering.

To our eyes, it all looks precarious again, and summer is imminent.

The £140,000 scheme to site 70 new huts on the Prom edge was mooted before those recent storms hit our golden sands.

At least they will be up on the promenade, not in jeopardy on the beach below it. At present there are only a police hut alongside a brick building.

The view from Gorleston cliffs in 1945 showing beach huts on the sands. Picture: MERCURY LIBRARYThe view from Gorleston cliffs in 1945 showing beach huts on the sands. Picture: MERCURY LIBRARY

Perhaps I am getting more cynical with age, but I would be surprised if the proposed huts - however well-meant - all attract occupants.

But I assume the council has test-marketed the potential take-up and acted on it.

And will factors like vandalism and changing public tastes render the idea an expensive and under-used luxury which will be a white elephant, putting the rates up and further stretching household and business budgets?

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