Walking by the shore of North Norfolk’s beaches under vaulted blue skies, it’s hard to imagine that a relentless battle is being waged. But man is being beaten back from the coast at a rate, in some cases, of meters every year. The North Sea is taking back the land, and laughing at the futility of human efforts to ‘stem the tide.’
The numerous tattered wooden groynes, broken concrete slabs, and piles of housing bricks bear witness to nature’s relentless attacks. Many of these defenses date back to the period of time after the North Sea Flood of 1953, and in the area around Happisburgh (pronounced /ˈheɪzbrə/) they are really showing their age. Ragged wooden piles, twisted iron reinforcements, and heaps of concrete are all that remain of these monuments to Canute.
A managed retreat from the most vulnerable areas has been proposed. The plan would let the marshes regain their role as a buffer for the flood tides, but the local residents are resisting, asking for more money to be invested into the Sisyphean task of protecting the coast.
And yet, there is a stark beauty in the landscape / seascape. This delicate border of sand and flint cliffs form the ‘last ditch’ defense of the flat Norfolk hinterlands.