Revealed: True cost of December storms to West Norfolk attractions and nature reserves

Nigel Croasdale at the Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary. Picture: Ian Burt Nigel Croasdale at the Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary. Picture: Ian Burt

Tuesday, June 3, 2014
8:54 AM

One of the most popular attractions on the West Norfolk coast will remain closed all summer.

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Staff rush to rescue creatures at Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary. Picture: Chris BishopStaff rush to rescue creatures at Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary. Picture: Chris Bishop

Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary took the best part of six months to dry out from the drenching it received as the waves crashed over the prom and into its ground floor.

Manager Nigel Croasdale said he hoped it would be ready to re-open for the October half term week – almost 11 months after the storm.

“Unfortunately we won’t be able to open in the summer because of the scale of the rebuild and the complexities of rebuilding an aquarium that has suffered three or four feet of water thoughout the building,” he said.

“The glass in every tank has to be cut out and will require new silicone.”

RSPB Titchwell flood damage 6 months on. Pernille Egeberg with the damage caused on the East bank in December 2013. Picture: Matthew Usher.RSPB Titchwell flood damage 6 months on. Pernille Egeberg with the damage caused on the East bank in December 2013. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Staff carried out a dramatic rescue operation, sprinting with sharks, fish and other creatures to vans which would transport them to other aquariums. Most of the centre’s 3,000 or so residents survived their ordeal unscathed.

“All the creatures went to different locations across the UK,” said Mr Croasdale. “Great Yarmouth have got Ernie the Turtle, our sharks and they’ve got our penguins. All our fish went to the London Sea Life aquariums.

“Most of the creatures which left Hunstanton will be coming back.”

At first, it looked like the RSPB’s reserve at Snettisham Beach had borne the brunt of the storm.

But as wardens surveyed the damage at the society’s flagship Titchwell Marsh a few miles up the coast, they found one of its main floodbanks, on the east of the site, had been weakened and would have to be re-built.

“Although the damage at Titchwell wasn’t that severe, putting it right’s proving more expensive than anticipated,” said Laurence Rose, site manager for both reserves.

“We could take a risk and say the sort of flood we saw in December might not happen for another 100 years, but it could happen next month.

“We’re at the stage where we’re talking to flood defence engineers, we’ve got people on site, we’re getting quotes, but all the signs are it’s easily going to wipe out the appeal money we got in and more besides.”

Bird lovers around the country contributed £80,000 towards an appeal to fund repairs to the West Norfolk reserves, which attract thousands of visitors to the coast each year.

While one of the wooden hides which washed away at Snettisham has never been found, parts of the site have now re-opened.

Breeding birds, including common terns, avocets and Norfolk’s only nesting pair of black-backed gulls have returned.

Some of the hides at Titchwell are still off-limits and the boardwalk leading to the picturesque beach is awaiting repair.

But bitterns have been booming again, while marsh harriers skim the reeds.

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