Picture gallery: Hemsby lifeboat abandon base to the sea

The beach next to the Hemsby Lifeboat station building which is now very close to the edge of the sea. Picture: James Bass

Fierce tides have forced Hemsby lifeboat crew to abandon station, with their sea-going vessel taken out of action.

The beach next to the Hemsby Lifeboat station building which is now very close to the edge of the sea. The drop in the beach level. Picture: James Bass

Their ramp has been wiped out - with a 10ft drop in its place - and waves have cut behind rock defences fronting the old lifeboat station.

Lifeboat men fear the old station will crumble into the sea, and have cleared it of key equipment including a Land-Rover.

'This is the worst I've ever seen it,' said Daniel Hurd, second coxswain of Hemsby Inshore Rescue Service. 'The sea is now 4ft from our old lifeboat station.

'It got behind the rocks and cleared all the sand out - we've lost 8ft in the last two days.

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'If it hits the old station it will flood down into the valley and my concern is we don't want to lose the lifeboat station.

'We had to abandon it on Tuesday.'

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Volunteers used a digger to carve the 10ft drop in beach level back into a lifeboat ramp last week, but the harsh weather demolished it for a second time within days.

The old station contained cookers used for Hemsby Herring Day - the service's key annual fundraising day - and are unsure where the event can be held this summer.

Maurice Watts, chairman of the service, said: 'If this doesn't abate then within a few years it will take the station completely.

'I've never seen it like this. We got hit in 1993 and 1995 which took our ramp out, but the sea just don't seem to go back.'

The 82-year-old, who has been with the service for 27 years, said 12-tonne rocks have been 'thrown about' by the sea in recent days.

And when the crew were called out on a shout last Saturday their launch was delayed for more than two hours by the conditions.

Mercifully the incident was a broken down boat and no lives were at immediate risk.

Crew member Scott Bensly, 42, has a digger licence, and used a hire machine to stack up the defences with sand and re-align the rocks a fortnight ago.

There are around 40 of the 12-tonne rocks, but the sea has already undone his work.

'The concern isn't only us, but for the people who live there,' he said.

The service - whose coxswain is Ross Hewitt - has two lifeboats.

While the sea-going lifeboat has been taken off station, the Broads inshore lifeboat is still in use - taken to where it is needed by trailer.

The old lifeboat station - built around 1986 - sits around 25m in front of the main line of dunes, and crew say it is only the rock defences keeping it in place.

They moved most equipment to their new station by the Beach Cafe in 2001.

Shirley Weymouth, borough councillor for East Flegg ward, said a meeting with landowner Geoffery Watling is being held on Wednesday.

Hemsby Inshore Rescue Service costs upwards of £28,000 to run each year.

If you can help with funding, or free use of heavy plant such as a digger to help shore up the rock defences, email samuel.russell@archant.co.uk to be put in touch.

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