Six months on: Is Hemsby ready for summer following tidal surge destruction?
06:30 06 June 2014
Archant Norfolk © 2014
When the early summer sun shines on Hemsby beach, it’s hard for visitors to picture the damage caused by the December tidal surge.
Six months after the sea tore down the old lifeboat shed, destroyed seafront homes and ate away at the ancient sand dunes, the beach is looking better than it has for years.
The shadow of the storm, however, looms large for locals who have spent almost every day since doubling their efforts to save their shoreline from disappearing all together.
Bernard Harris, coastal manager for Great Yarmouth Borough Council, has kept a close eye on east coast erosion for 20 years but said public interest has increased “exponentially” since December 5. “The engery we’ve seen from people has been amazing,” said Mr Harris.
“Five years ago I didn’t think we’d have any protection on this beach, but people have acted and acted fast.”
The message today is that Hemsby is open for business.
Lyndon Bevan, who has run local businesses since the 1970s, said the Easter break was one of the busiest they had seen in years.
Great Yarmouth borough councillor and Hemsby resident Shirley Weymouth had voiced concern that ‘bad publicity’ - those shocking images of the now demolished beach chalets tumbling down the dunes - could put people off visiting but remains hopeful that holidaymakers will return.
“We want everyone to know how wonderful the beach is looking right now,” she said. “We can’t wait for summer.”
Meanwhile in Yarmouth itself - where hundreds people evacuated their homes on the night of the tidal surge storm for fear of catastrophic flooding but only 12 homes actually flooded - there is little physical evidence of that night’s drama thanks to the fact the river defences held.
Meanwhile, the The Save Hemsby Coastline (SHC) campaign continues.
The cause garnered celebrity support last week when singer Michael Ball was photographed sporting a fundraising wristband.
Maureen Wilkinson-Rouse, a member of the Michael Ball fan club, visited the West End singer while he was presenting a show on BBC Radio 2 and asked him to wear the yellow band for a good cause.
The SHC group formed in early 2013 after tough - but not unusual - winter weather took its toll on Hemsby’s dunes. After the storm, members have pulled together to clean the beach, build more DIY gabion defences and transplant marram grass from Great Yarmouth beach.
And they have so far managed to raise about £37,000 to save their beach, collecting donations down on the beach on busy days, producing a naked calender, and selling branded mugs, tshirts and wristbands.
At the same time, SHC are still bidding for £7.5m of government funding to build heavy rock defences along the length of Hemsby’s beach to provide solid and lasting protection against the pounding North Sea.
The group submitted an application to the Coastal Communities Fund (CCF) for the seven-figure sum, which would allow them to build sustainable defences to protect the 2km stretch of sand, last month.
On June 22, they will host Hemsby Family Fun day on the village playing field with a car boot, stalls, fancy dress, face painting and a five aside mini football tournament.
Call 07917437018 for details.