Search

Former soldier armed with digger determined to save his home from the sea

PUBLISHED: 15:01 11 February 2020 | UPDATED: 15:27 11 February 2020

Former soldier Lance Martin is battling to save his Hemsby home. Eleven of his neighbours' chalets were bulldozed in the wake of the Beast from the East making him the last man standing Picture: Liz Coates

Former soldier Lance Martin is battling to save his Hemsby home. Eleven of his neighbours' chalets were bulldozed in the wake of the Beast from the East making him the last man standing Picture: Liz Coates

Archant

After the Beast from the East struck a vulnerable stretch of the east coast two years ago, Lance Martin isn’t taking any chances.

Lance Martin's home is the last one standing on the east side of The Marrams. He has pulled the bungalow towards the road and once had 40m of garden out the back Picture: Liz CoatesLance Martin's home is the last one standing on the east side of The Marrams. He has pulled the bungalow towards the road and once had 40m of garden out the back Picture: Liz Coates

After the Beast from the East struck a vulnerable stretch of the east coast two years ago, Lance Martin isn't taking any chances.

The 62-year-old former soldier from Hemsby is moving heaven and earth - along with tonnes of sand and rock - to protect his teetering home.

So far he has spent more than £100,000 saving his dream retirement haven in the stricken Marrams where 11 chalets were lost.

And this week he upped the ante and started digging up and re-positioning coast protection rocks laid down seven years ago at the foot of the eroding soft cliffs - now some 40m away.

Lance Martin is digging up old coast protection rocks to place around the base of the dunes to protect his home in The Marrams, Hemsby Picture: Liz CoatesLance Martin is digging up old coast protection rocks to place around the base of the dunes to protect his home in The Marrams, Hemsby Picture: Liz Coates

With borough council permission he hopes the work will see him through this year's winter storm season, which usually takes its toll in February and March.

He is digging up around 40 or 50 huge rocks to form a barrier beneath the cliff face under the home he has named 'Dune Fall' in a nod to its precarious position.

The work will probably take around a week and will see him make good any deep pools that are created.

When he moved in on November 4, 2017 he had 40m of garden, the dune at the end of it towering over his chalet home.

The line of rocks taking shape at the base of the dunes. Lance Martin's home is behind the fence which sits on bread boxes, a surprisingly robust barrier Picture: Liz CoatesThe line of rocks taking shape at the base of the dunes. Lance Martin's home is behind the fence which sits on bread boxes, a surprisingly robust barrier Picture: Liz Coates

Five months later, virtually overnight, it was grabbed by churning seas - the swirling waves beneath visible through his kitchen floor.

Today the dune ridge is frayed and dotted with debris - his stretch of clifftop standing firm, despite the best efforts of Storm Ciara.

Bread baskets and wriggly tin have held the line and he hopes the semi-circle embrace of the rock barrier he is building will keep him and his partner safe.

Previously he was handed an injunction by the borough council for undertaking work without permission, but this time he has official blessing.

Huge rocks now sit at the base of the dunes protecting Lance Martin's home after he hired a digger to find and reposition ones used in a previous coast protection scheme Picture: Liz CoatesHuge rocks now sit at the base of the dunes protecting Lance Martin's home after he hired a digger to find and reposition ones used in a previous coast protection scheme Picture: Liz Coates

Having already heroically pulled his whole home away from the cliff edge and virtually rebuilt it, he now has more room to move - with planning permission granted that would take him across the road, although it does involve a purchase cost of the land.

But that, he says, is "Plan Z."

The blocks he is using were laid in 2013 by Save Hemsby Coastline. He has already taken around 50 and is now going for the rest.

"I found nine straight away," he said. "But you cannot see where they are because of the water infill.

The home Lance Martin is battling to save is brimming with bright flower tubs. At the back it is exposed to the churning North Sea which two years ago took 40m of garden Picture: Liz CoatesThe home Lance Martin is battling to save is brimming with bright flower tubs. At the back it is exposed to the churning North Sea which two years ago took 40m of garden Picture: Liz Coates

"You have to scrape away with the bucket and dig around and try to find the edge.

"I have laid six or seven already and it is something I want to get done by the end of March for obvious reasons.

"It is quiet here now so I'm not going to upset people and I am filling it in so it is not a danger to the public.

"We are as snug as a bug but the worry is always there at the back of your mind that you could get another Beast from the East but you have to take it in your stride."

Lance Martin is redoubling efforts to protect his clifftop home in The Marrams, Hemsby, ahead of likely winter storms Picture: Liz CoatesLance Martin is redoubling efforts to protect his clifftop home in The Marrams, Hemsby, ahead of likely winter storms Picture: Liz Coates

However, his seaside haven was worth all the effort, he said.

"It's my home. I retired to come and live down here and spend the rest of my days here. I love the wildlife. It is just a beautiful area and the people are fantastic.

"I have spent over £100,000 but it has been worth it."

Meanwhile Mr Martin said he was hopeful a plan to bring a rock berm to his stretch of coast would happen in time to help him.

Hemsby Marrams in March 2018 (top image) and May 2018 (bottom image) Photo: Mike PageHemsby Marrams in March 2018 (top image) and May 2018 (bottom image) Photo: Mike Page

James Bensly, who has a beach cafe and whose borough council ward includes the area, said there was a lot of work going on to resolve the problem.

An environmental impact assessment was almost complete and a national bid to the change the funding formula which decided who got what was in progress.

A rock berm was considered the best way forward in the short term, and it could be adapted to form groynes in the longer term, Mr Bensly said, adding: "We are not asking for a ring of steel."

MORE: Gaping holes on clifftops are stark reminder of the erosion at Hemsby homes

The home of Lance Martin perched on the edge of The Marrams.
Picture: Liz CoatesThe home of Lance Martin perched on the edge of The Marrams. Picture: Liz Coates

Lance Martin is rebuilding his house on the cliff edge at the Marrams at Hemsby. Photo: ArchantLance Martin is rebuilding his house on the cliff edge at the Marrams at Hemsby. Photo: Archant

Lance Martin outside his home in Hemsby where the ever-retreating dunes are claiming more homes. Photo: Liz CoatesLance Martin outside his home in Hemsby where the ever-retreating dunes are claiming more homes. Photo: Liz Coates


If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Eastern Daily Press. Click the link in the yellow box below for details.

Related articles

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years, through good times and bad. Coronavirus is one of the greatest challenges our community has ever faced, but if we all play our part we will defeat it. We're here to serve as your advocate and trusted source of local information.

In these testing times, your support is more important than ever. Thank you.

Most Read

Most Read

Latest from the Eastern Daily Press