BBC One show focuses on fight to save storm-hit Hemsby beach
16:22 18 July 2014
The fight to save Hemsby beach is the focus of a prime time television show going out on BBC One tonight.
Six months after Hemsby’s beach resort was hit hard by the December storm surge, The Village that’s Falling into the Sea will show the nation how locals are coping and campaigning to protect their coastline.
The one-off programme will be presented by David Whiteley, who was at the Lacon Arms filming for The One Show when the surge hit on December 5, destroying the old lifeboat shed and damaging several homes along the Marrams.
David, who returned to Hemsby to film again last month, said the show tells the story of what happened that night, but also highlights how determined residents are not to let Hemsby be lost to the sea.
It also checks in with Steve and Jackie Connelly, who lost their home and all their belongings in just a few hours when their chalet on the Marrams was pulled apart by the crashing waves.
The couple have now moved to Rotherham, using their insurance money to buy a new house and start over.
Bringing them back to Hemsby was an emotional experience said David, who admitted he shed a tear that day.
“I’ve really fallen for the place, the way a lot of people do,” he said.
“We were filming for The One Show on the night the storm hit. We knew the surge was coming - we didn’t have our heads in the sand, but we weren’t expecting what happened.
“We watched the lifeboat station go in. Even then, it wasn’t until we took the Connellys down to the Marrams and saw their home going that I think it hit me. In the film you can see it, I say ‘wait, wait’ because I didn’t know how safe it was out there. We didn’t know what was underneath us.”
David said he hoped the film captured “the spirit of Hemsby” - the way the community has pulled together, not only to help Steve and Jackie, but to save the beach with DIY defences and impressive fundraising.
“There are a lot of positives that come out too; the characters who live there and the effort that is being put in to save the beach,” he said.
Ian Brennan, chairman of the Save Hemsby Coastline campaign group, hoped the show will highlight the village’s ongoing plight - without putting people off.
“We want to show that Hemsby is still open for business,” he said.
“The damage to the beach is there and the risk of erosion is there, but we’re still open and we want people to come. The beach is looking beautiful and businesses are available.
“But the other thing we hope to get across is that the beauty and the availability could be lost if we don’t do something.”
Some 70 seafront homes in Hemsby have been lost over the years, but the tidal surge was the worst to hit the east coast in 60 years. In one night, about 30ft of the dunes were destroyed.
The Village that’s Falling into the Sea is due to be broadcast on BBC One at 7.30pm tonight.
nMeanwhile, Save Hemsby Coastline’s bid for charity status is ongoing and the group should find out if it has been successful any day now. Fundraisers have almost £30,000 in the pot and have spent more than £15,000 so far on gabion defences.