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.
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.
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. 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.Here 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.
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.
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.
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.