6th December 2013 was the date when the biggest tidal surge in 60 years stuck the North Norfolk coast, and struck it did. Homes were completely destroyed, shops and businesses wrecked and whole villages flooded. The North Sea made light work of man’s best efforts to keep it out; almost as a reminder of its awesome power that it can unleash at will. The effect was most devastating in some of the villages along the North Norfolk coast. The picturesque villages of Walcott and Hemsby, where the sand dunes recede by up to ten metres a year, suffered immensely. In Cromer itself, the pier was damaged and huge chunks of concrete weighing several tons were broken off from the sea wall on the promenade and lifted meters away. Hundreds of beach huts were smashed to pieces and all the turf up a lot of the cliffs was ripped off. Shops and amusements on the promenade were destroyed. The place was a mess.
It’s interesting to see the speed of recovery since then. Hats off to North Norfolk District Council who made a lot of very quick phone calls and in no time at all, diggers were digging, dumpers were dumping, carpenters were chipping and builders were building. Some things take longer to heal, there are still scars on the cliffs, and spare a thought for the pier office staff who have been working out the corner of a dressing room, and now a porta-cabin located right next to the men drilling into the concrete sea wall to repair it – headaches all round. But, long before the holiday season kicked off the hotels of Cromer were ready, of course The Grove was no exception.
So what is the future? Well one thing for certain is that this will happen again. There has long been erosion of the cliffs and beaches of the coastline of Norfolk, and this will continue whatever King-Canutian efforts we employ. In recent times, this can clearly be seen in the stretch of coast from Overstrand to Yarmouth and beyond. Examples of Cove-Hythe, Cart Gap and Trimmingham bear witness to this. Further back in time, Cromer has seen this more than most. The name Cromer comes from Crows-on-the-Mere. There once was a mere between Cromer and the town of Shipden, which has long been swallowed by the waves. The legend goes that on a clear night, you can still hear the bell from the church tower chiming from its watery grave.
Successive governments have cut sea defence costs for the smaller villages, Hemsby now takes matters into its own hands and the local residents are supplying, and paying for, their own sea defences. These cuts are a great shame, some of these villages along the coast are beautiful, and what’s more still embrace a gentle rural way of life, with the locals keeping on a troshin’, as we say. But, King Canute was right, you can’t turn back the tide, and those who live by the sea will tell you that it is such a powerful beast. If it wants to go somewhere, it simply can’t be stopped. Who knows when the next tidal surge or great storm will happen? I have little doubt that villages such as Southrepps and Lessingham will be coastal at some point in the future, it’s really a question of when.
Image courtesy of Andy Davison Photography www.andydavisonphotography.co.uk