They wouldn’t let the Norfolk Broads flood, would they?

Filed under: Happisburgh,opinion,rants — jaydublu @ 5:44 pm

EDP: ‘We can’t hold back Mother Nature’ - Minister says some Norfolk coast will be lost to the seaLast weekend there was a splurge of national publicity over a leaked document that considered options including allowing the sea to breach defences between Horsey and Winterton, flooding low-lying areas as far inland as Potter Heigham and Stalham, where new sea walls would be built. The villages of Eccles, Sea Palling, Waxham, Horsey, Hickling and Potter Heigham, as well as parts of Somerton, would be lost to the sea.

It is one of the options that were discussed behind closed doors at a conference in Norwich on climate change in the Broads, organised by Natural England and attended by representatives of the Environment Agency, Broads Authority and Norfolk County Council, plus other organisations.

Listed as option four in the document outlining the proposals for the Upper Thurne basin in the face of rising sea levels: “Two retreated defences would be built at Potter Heigham and Stalham and land seaward of these would be breached, creating an embayment on the coast between Eccles-on-Sea and Winterton Ness,” it reads. “The total flooded areas would thus be approximately 6,500ha. The broads (Martham, Horsey, Heigham Sound and Hickling) would become inundated by the sea, fen vegetation would be lost. It is likely over time that a spit would develop behind which coastal and inter-tidal habitats would develop.”

The document says that maintaining coastal defences in their current position will become “increasingly difficult and expensive”, adding: “The increasingly unsustainable nature of the Horsey to Winterton frontage beyond the next 20-50 years thus opens up the possibility of re-aligning the coast as described above within this timeframe.” It continues: “There is an argument for progressing straight to option four, for it can also be argued that by selecting a radical option now, the right messages about the scale and severity of the impacts of climate change is delivered to the public. However, a decision to progress immediately to option four is likely to be met with strong political resistance and the up-front costs would be large.”

The first option listed is to do nothing to adapt to climate change: to fail to maintain coastal defences and inland flood embankments, allowing them to fall into disrepair and be breached by the River Thurne and the sea.

The second is to hold the line, the current policy of the Environment Agency. This involves maintaining the sea defences and flood embankments in their current positions. Under this option, saline intrusion – something all farmers fear – would get worse as sea water passes under the coastal dunes.

The third option is to adapt the line: allow the sea to flood some places while building barriers and embankments to protect other parts.

Now this isn’t actually a new plan – it was was initially drawn up by English Nature and the Environment Agency in 2003 under what was called the Coastal Habitat Management Plan (CHaMPS) for the Winterton Dunes. It has been discussed widely by those involved in coastal issues and is not some new secret conspiracy, it just hasn’t grabbed mass public attention before.

Neither is it a certainty – the people who drafted it and considered it’s merits are mainly doing so from a viewpoint of wildlife, environment and habitat. Little or no thought has gone into the practical effects on economy, infrastructure or practicalities, let alone trifling subjects such as human rights.

I’m not about to add my voice to those who are slamming the Eastern Daily Press for initially publishing the story – I believe they are doing their usual top class job of responsible journalism – the public in Norfolk have a right to know what is being discussed that could impact their lives, irrespective of whether or not it could / will happen, it’s being talked about.

At Happisburgh, we can clearly demonstrate the result of taking the view ‘it will never happen here’ – because it can and probably, eventually, will. What we’re fighting here is a growing reluctance to expend effort and resource defending our vulnerable coastline against an encroaching sea.

I appreciate the view that we can’t fight the sea forever; that there must be some land lost, but I have seen absolutely no evidence that anyone has considered how we can actually allow that to happen in a controlled fashion with due regard for fairness and social justice to those that are affected by that move.

Despite all their rhetoric and considered sound-bites, at Happisburgh we have found out what it means in reality – that those on the ground are just abandoned to ‘take on the chin’ the loss of property, livelihoods and communities, and without even any sign of appreciation for the sacrifice were being expected to make, if indeed they even realise we are making a sacrifice.

Many in Happisburgh had their head in the sand about losses on the cliff: “It will stop before it gets to the village” they said until we lost the lifeboat ramp to the beach – then the village got behind the fight. Neighbouring villages said “poor Happisburgh, but it will never happen here” until the publication of the second generation Shoreline Management Plan announced the intention to abandon defences of all but Sheringham, Cromer, Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth. Now there is vocal campaigning from Overstrand and Scratby and others now those communities realise what’s in store for them if we don’t stand up and be counted.

I hope this news finally gets the rest of Norfolk to wake up and see what’s in store for our beloved county if we don’t stop these faceless bureaucrats.

Somewhere between defending all of our coastline forever, and retreating sea walls to a more defendable position (Norwich?) there lies the path that will be followed. And I bet if it’s not a formal ‘do nothing’ strategy then that will still be effectively what happens – it costs them less! But next time a storm surge comes down our coast we may not be as lucky as we were last November – this time the sea might get in somewhere and we could have a major disaster.

If this were a fight against a new airport runway, victory is preventing them doing it – here we have to stop them not doing something – in the mean time they’re winning.

We cannot allow this to happen – we have to fight, now!

Plastic Flotsam

Filed under: Happisburgh,rants — jaydublu @ 7:43 pm

Flotsam It’s been a long time since I’ve been on Happisburgh beach, which is a real shame since I live less than a mile away, but I often walk the dog heading inland which takes me half an hour, rather than the two hours or so if I go to the cliff because I get carried away.

There was more than the usual amount of flotsam washed up at Low Light, reminding me of David Shukman’s article on BBC news about the new battle for Midway – plastic rubbish washing up and killing Alabatrosses (Albatrosii?)

It is absolutely disgusting the amount of crap we leave behind in our environment – I often return from walks with hands full of plastic bags and such like found in hedges and on the side of the road. That we’re also polluting somewhere so remote is horrifying!

I don’t know what the answer is, but there must be a way to reduce our consumption of plastic, to recycle more, and to better dispose of what we don’t / can’t recycle.

Climate Change, or Hooey?

Filed under: Happisburgh,rants — jaydublu @ 4:02 pm

Whatever the reason behind it, there’s no doubt that Happisburgh has a bit of a problem. The fact is that without maintained coastal defences, the sea is reclaiming land it has been denied for so long, and those unlucky enough to be living there at the time are paying the price for the decision to stop maintenance of the defences.Many cite Happisburgh as an example of the impact of Climate Change – sea level rise obviously means that in years to come we will have a different relationship with the coastline than we do now. However others suggest that what’s happenening at Happisburgh doesn’t have anything to do with Climate Change and everything to do with isostatic rebound after the ice age causing the east coast to fall while the west coast rises.

But to claim that ‘stories like this are constantly peddled by the leftist media‘ also misses the point. For whatever reason, our government now feels unable to continue funding defence of the majority of our coastline, but is neglecting it’s moral responsibility to mitigate the cost of that decision on those it affects.

If we get more publicity for the injustice by saying the root cause is climate change – guess what my opinion is?

Storm surge

Filed under: Happisburgh,rants — jaydublu @ 8:30 pm

Happisburgh beach two hours after high tideIn the early hours of this morning, one of the biggest storm surges since January 1953 came down the east coast caused by low pressure and high winds. Combined with above average high tides warnings were sent out that seas an estimated 3 metres above normal could top defences and potentially cause massive flooding along the Norfolk and Suffolk coasts.

Luckily, the surge missed the high tide by a matter of minutes, the sea level rise was approx 20cm less han forecast, and most experts believe disaster was missed by a hairs breadth.

Still damage was done, and as the Telegraph reports devastation was caused just up the coast from us at Walcott with the sea wall damaged, windows smashed and walls pushed over.

I was at the old ramp at Happisburgh at just after 7 this morning, two hours after high tide but the surge was still being felt. The sea was crashing over the top of the revetments that are around 4 metres about nornal high tide. We were lucky that there wasn’t more north in the wind to put more energy in the swell so instead of lapping at the base of the cliff it would have smashed – but still one of the storage buildings to the south of the old ramp finally went over.

Despite a noisy stormy night, the bulk of Happisburgh survived relatively unscathed, as it is likely to do in the future as our cliffs keep the rough sea away from the village as they have for millenia. But our neighbours of Walcott to the North and Eccles to the south have to rely on partificial protection from concrete sea walls, and as we know locally all too well the plan is to stop repairing them.

What will happen next time we have a surge of this size? It is sure that Happisburgh will survive but I dread to think what will happen to surrounding communities if the sea has a real chance at low lying areas or the broads.

We cannot just abandon our sea defences without helping our coastal communities adapt to the risk of incidents like this and the loss of their security, and until they have adapted we cannot stop maintaining the defences. We cannot afford for what almost happened this morning to become a reality.

18th century English lighthouse cottage for sale

Filed under: Happisburgh,opinion — jaydublu @ 8:55 am

A nice post on Lighthouses Forever publicises that one of the lighthouse cottages is for sale – has been for some time.

It’s tricky selling property in Happisburgh right now – there are some real bargains to be had before common sense prevails and Happisburgh stops being treated as a pariah village.

When the waters rise, Happisburgh will fare a lot better than many of the surrounding villages.

Nice plug for the Happisburgh Lighthouse website.

Flickr Groups

Filed under: Happisburgh,photography,tinkering — jaydublu @ 11:09 am

I’ve been slowly building a Flickr group for Happisburgh, and it’s coming along very nicely.

It was originally as a bit of R&D for work as a client wanted to use a group for some promotional work, so I needed to check how groups work. Initially I put a load of my pictures up, but thought I’d give it a go to run it properly so I searched for likely members and sent them FlickrMail invites – and most responded positively. Currently the group has 25 members and 215 pictures.

So I do a bit of administration, improve the group description a bit, do a bit of promotion on other groups and invite some new people to join. Also I make a couple of discussion postings.

Do I dare start another? Why not – I’ll not push it too hard yet but if I set it up right it might take off by itself – it will certainly be an interesting experiment. So I start Happisburgh Lighthouse group, put some of my pictures up, and link to it from the Lighthouse website.

That starts another line of enquiry going though – it would be cool to have a Flickr badge on there with a random selection of images, but it’s powered by Joomla! and the way TinyMCE is set up it doesn’t like Flickr’s badge code. So I’m now playing with flickr4j Joomla! extension.

Of course I’ll report back how I get on.

photos in Happisburgh Lighthouse More photos in Happisburgh Lighthouse

Webcam working

Filed under: Happisburgh,tinkering,webcam — jaydublu @ 7:12 pm

I couldn’t bring myself to blog last week I was so cross – things were definitely not going my way and despite having top notch kit, a lovely day, plenty of time, and no excuses I couldn’t get the naffing new webcam to work up the Lighthouse.

Everything worked perfectly at home, I got all the external stuff mounted, all the wires routed and clipped. I turn it on and then run into problem after problem. The camera doesn’t seem to be working, I forgot to turn the new wireless rig in my roof on so I had to run back home to do that but still the Access Point couldn’t see any signal. All in all I was up and down those blasted stairs at least 10 times.

For a break then I take the old camera down to Cliff House and mount it in one of the front windows – at least something works. So I return to the Lighthouse and start eliminate issues one by one.

As the day was drawing in and it was starting to get dark – I had a breakthrough and discovered what was wrong – for 2 feet I had the network cable to the camera cable tied to the wifi coax running to the external antenna – there was only one route from inside the lantern to outside and all cables were using it.

If I turned the camera off, the access pooint started picking up signals, and vice-versa – I was suffering from cross-talk.

That discovery having been made I didn’t have enough time to fix the job but could I bodge it enough to work until my next opportunity to play? Almost – I made a silly mistake on network addressing for the camera that I didn’t notice until I got home, and trying to adjust subnets remotely I made another mistake and locked myself out of the repeater up the lighthouse.

Anyway, I get the key this afternoon and go up there all tooled up and feeling confident. Despite initial problems where nothing seemed to want to be playing ball, I worked through it methodically and suddenly I’d started getting pictures posted to the website – success! So I’m a happy bunny now.

For reference, the camera is now an Axis 211 in the Verso external housing kit (very tidy, but quite a costly setup) with a Linksys WAP54G access point at either end of the wireless link, each with external antennae (an 8dB Omni on the house and a 12dB directional up the Lighthouse). It appears I’ve got a good strong link between the two – fingers crossed it stays that way.

Happisburgh Webcam

Filed under: Happisburgh,tinkering,webcam — jaydublu @ 7:30 pm

I set up a webcam over a year ago mounted on Happisburgh Lighthouse looking at the end of Beach Road – it was a bit tricky because of the exposed location, and that there was no local Internet connection.

I bought a D-Link Wireless IP camera on eBay, put it in a cheap external housing with an external wifi antenna to make the 1 mile jump back to my house. I’m running a homebrew access point aounr an old Pentium II box, a Netgear 802.11b PCI card, and a stripped down OS called pebble with an extension to allow meshing – the original idea was to build a wireless network around the village to share a Satellite link before the days when we realised we would get Broadband.

So the setup works, but it’s a bit poor. Now something’s finally getting done at Happisburgh I thought I’d try and improve things, but I’ve got several hundred quid’s worth of gear invested already, without all the time I’ve had to put in, so I put an appeal out on the Happisburgh site for sponsors.

At this point I have to thank John Opie from and and Robert Ferguson for answering that appeal and giving me a budget for some proper gear. But life’s not that simple – it may be old gear but it’s a complex setup and it’s stable. I’ve got the entire new system working at home, but when I tried to start upgrading bits everything fell over.

Somehow, I’ve got to upgrade the whole lot in one go – and that’s going to take a bit of doing for one person. When you’re in controlled circumstances and you can tweak one variable at a time it’s quite easy to get things working. However, it’s a pain in the derrier to drive from home to the lighthouse, park, unlock, climb all the way to the top, tweak, find I need to tweak something at home so climb in and down, lock up, drive home …

If it was easy, would it be as much fun though?