The Morning After

Last night I reported that Cromer was being battered by the combination of a very high tide and onshore winds. This lunchtime the Canes Croxorum and I went down there to see for ourselves. IMG_8053

From a distance, Cromer seems untouched, the pier thrusting magnificently into the sea as much as it ever did, and especially after last year’s £1.2-m refurb.

We concentrated on the East Beach, as that’s the part of the beach that’s closest to the Maison des Girrafes; the part on which we walk most often; and for which we have most affection. Of the long row of beach huts standing on the concrete prom, I don’t think a single one escaped damage, and many were completely wrecked.IMG_8040

Here you can see the devastation – the Canes croxorum are on the beach, to the right of the picture. A few of you will no doubt remember the Maison des Girrafes Marine Biology Field Station Beach Hut, perhaps when you visited it for one or other of the Cromer Is So Bracing unconferences. There are people in this picture some of you might recognise, standing outside it. Happy days.3316113319_8dc2f57459 Budget cuts and a refocus of the interests at the Maison des Girrafes forced us to let go the rental of the Marine Biology Field Station Beach Hut in favour of the Field Research Mobil Unit Caravan. Nevertheless it was sad to find the old institute in a state of substantial collapse.IMG_8034Here it is here earlier today – it’s the dark blue one, pitched forwards, between one more or less unscathed and another rotated 90 degrees.

Now, I remember a storm a couple of years ago in which some of the beach huts were damaged, some quite severely. Our beach hut lost a door, but stayed upright and in place. This morning’s damage is significantly worse.  In fact, compared with a few beach huts, the old Marine Biology Research Station came off pretty well. IMG_8041

After looking at the damage on the East Beach, we walked towards the pier itself and saw quite a bit of damage. Shop windows smashed, cast iron railings bent out of shape, and entire walls vanished – most worryingly a wall whose job is to retain a high bank of Earth on which stands a row of pubs, shops and B’n'Bs.

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In this picture (right) the whitish line extending left to right behind the man in yellow overalls marks the footings of where the retaining wall isn’t. Behind him you can see some quite significant gouges where the waves have taken big bites out of  the unprotected embankment. To the right (out of the picture) is the sea wall itself, which is three or four metres high – the sea surged right over this as if it weren’t there, and still had the power to sweep the retaining wall away.

No, you really can’t underestimate the power of the sea and the wind. How powerless we are to defend ourselves from these primal elements, how puny our defiance.

IMG_8047As if to symbolise this, here is a sign on the prom, bent out of shape and filled, as if it were a sail.

The Pier itself remains closed while engineers assess it for safety. The Pavilion Theatre at the end is still there – but there are reportedly a couple of large holes in the floor where the sea has punched through from beneath.

The East Coast is currently the subject of a Yellow Weather Warning for high winds. This morning’s tide was 5.2m. Tonight’s high tide is 5.1m. This gig ain’t over yet.

Through all this, the Canes croxorum took no notice at all. To them, this was a jolly romp on the beach, where they could run around after gulls,  other dogs, and their own tails, or simply for the joy of being alive. Such things as tides, sea defences, property damage and houses falling into the sea near Great Yarmouth mean absolutely nothing to a dog. Perhaps, if climate change is upon us, with the promise of more frequent and more severe events like this to come, this is a carefree attitude we would do well to adopt.

About cromercrox

Cromercrox is a recovering palaeontologist, author and editor who lists his recreations as writing, beachcombing, playing hard rock organ, supporting Norwich City FC and falling asleep.
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18 Responses to The Morning After

  1. Puddleduck says:

    Thanks for posting these Henry, sad to see the beach huts so bashed and astonished to see the missing retaining wall. Must have been some storm.

  2. Lovely post, Henry. Glad you and your menagerie family are all unscathed.

  3. rpg says:

    What she said. I’m glad we have a flood barrier down sarf, living as we do about 18 inches above sea level.

  4. The Sea giveth… the sea taketh. I’m glad you’re safe and that there is still enough beach left to walk your brood! Great shots, too. Sad.

  5. Glad you and Cromer have mostly survived Henry. It did look a hell of a storm from the pix – we only got a major gale up here, which was scary enough.

    Trying to look on the bright side – time to invest in some shares in wave power?

  6. Steve Caplan says:

    The sea and its untamed violence has always frightened me (not to mention that fact that I get seasick in a rocking chair–I was ill 10 straight days on a small boat in the Galapagos in the early 1990s). So I guess Nebraska is the place for me. Very glad there was no loss of human life, and relatively minimal property damage. The photo from yesterday was utterly surreal.

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  8. John the Plumber says:

    If young Charles Darwin had not set out in Dec 1831 on the Beagle, few of us would have known of the Gallapogos islands – and he was as teriified of the sea as Steve before he set out – but just think of this. The weather that December was as bad in Plymouth as in Cromer this December – and talking of small boats the Beagle was only 100 ft long with a 24ft beam. The voyage was planned to start on the 5th Dec but a southerly gale blew till the morning of the 10th when they finally set out of Plymouth Sound for the open sea. Darwin was seasick. – In the evening a fierce gale came on from the south west and the Beagle rolled and pitched bow deep in mountainous waves. Darwin was sea-sick and terrified all night. – In the morning, Fitzroy the captain gave up and returned to Plymouth. Eventually, on the 21st Dec, the weather was fine again, with the wind coming from the East. They set off again and immediately ran aground, but with all on board running across to one side, then the other, they managed to roll the boat free and off they went. Darwin was seasick for most of the next year and it never really left him till they returned in October 1836

    It’s OK to think of Henry watching DVDs cos its a bit windy – but it is definitely surreal to think of Fitzroy looking at his cronometers (In todays money he took the best part of a million pounds worth with him to plot points of longiitude round the globe.) saying,”I know it’s a bit windy lads, but we are behind schedule.” Life was certainly different in those days. Risk assessment, clip-boards and plastic hats hadn’t been invented that’s for sure.

    • cromercrox says:

      Yup. We had lots o’ things in them days we don’t ‘ave now. Rickets. Diphteria. ‘itler. And all those little ‘eads painted purple ‘cos of ringworm. But we were ‘appy. You could go down town of a Friday Night and get blind drunk, buy three new suits, fibe hundred uranium-enriching centrifuges, a large hadron collider and thee stone o’ monkey nuts and still have change out of a farthing.

      The young ‘uns these days, they’d never believe it.

  9. cromercrox says:

    Thanks everyone. Although the seafront was as battered as the fish at Mary Jane’s Fish and Chip Shop, the Pier has pronounced as open for business and they’ll be doing the Christmas End Of The Pier Show as usual. Us Cromerites won’t be deterred so easily!

    But Seriously, the people who got it bad were those living on flatter, low-lying lands to the west (Wells-next-the-Sea) and east (Yarmoth, Lowestoft) where there was significant flooding. At Hemsby several houses were washed away.

    The time is coming when we’ll have to take this climate-change malarkey a bit seriously. When the government published some long-term doomsday-scenario of having to abandon three Norfolk villages to the sea because putting up sea defences would be a costly waste of time, there was the predictable furor. But the time will come when such decisions won’t be long-term what-if’s, but might actually happen.

  10. And typically, I had no idea this storm was coming to you all. Glad to hear all is ok, even if that piece of seafront property needs some re-engineering.

    Steve and John remind me that one thing that struck me on reading The Voyage of The Beagle was how much time Darwin spent on land while Fitzroy et al. sailed along the coastline. Not so much the seafarer was young Darwin, it seems.

    Did the sea turn up anything interesting on the beach? It’s been a while since we had an “identify the Cromer beach detritus” contest!

    • cromercrox says:

      Just a lot of detritus so far – mostly flint cobbles blasted out of the picturesque brick-and-flint buildings. Sadly I managed to miss the minke whale that washed up on Cromer East Beach a while back.