Norfolk Broads – a well kept secret

Filed under: opinion — jaydublu @ 1:14 pm

broads.jpgI wonder if it was people trying to protect the peace and tranquillity of the Broads doing some tactical voting that led to the Norfolk Broads being voted ‘most boring destination‘ after Blackpool Pleasure Beach, and Bournemouth & Poole by travel site TripAdvisor. Or is it that some people find calm, beauty, nature, serenity, relaxation etc. is boring?

Well I don’t care – the more the public discover its charm the more people will come, and it won’t be so charming.

Personally, I can’t get enough of the place.

Filed under: rants — jaydublu @ 10:17 am

From Critical Faculty Dojo:

“It is stupid, even bordering on criminally irresponsible, to just throw their [Natural England’s] hands in the air and just abandon large swathes of the country to the sea until we are absolutely forced to – and there is no guarantee that this will in fact happen.”

Amen!

I’ve discovered, there are increasing questions being asked about the new quango Natural England that took over from Countryside Agency and English Nature.

No matter how well meaning and reasoned arguments may be for how best to cope with unsustainable defences, they’re all based on the premise that the defences can’t be maintained. My position is that they must be maintained until it’s impossible – we may not be able to stop nature, but we can at least give it a bloody good fight.

As for these suspicious motives wishing to abandon swathes of coastal communities – I wonder how much Horlicks it takes them to get to sleep at night?

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!

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.

On the Broads

Filed under: life — jaydublu @ 11:05 am

I’ve lived in Norfolk most of my life, and in North Norfolk for the last 10 years. So why is it that I’ve only just had my first real experience of the Norfolk Broads?

Yes I’ve been on a couple of boat trips from Norwich, and in my hazy memory I recall an 18th birthday party held on a Wherry out of Wroxham, but I’ve no real appreciation of the Broads and why so many people come here on holiday. I do know that it’s difficult to get from A to B by road sometimes if there’s a river in the way, and there are big chunks of the region I’ve never been to because there’s no useful through route (by road)

I needed a break, big time, and really fancied the idea of a boating holiday – a good reason to do nothing, with a bit of changing scenery. Peace, relaxation, and a great chance to unwind. I did quite fancy the idea of a canal holiday, but Mellie felt more comfortable being closer to home so we settled for a week on the Broads.Last Saturday, we joined the throngs at Richardson’s Boat Yard at Stalham Staithe to collect our cruiser and get our quick bit of tuition. ‘How hard can it be’ I thought? Well it wasn’t rocket science, but it did take a bit of getting used to.The boat wasn’t keen to go in a straight line, and didn’t hardly steer at all going backwards, and visibility behind was very poor it made mooring etc.quite ‘exciting’.

Apart from one day that rained heavily almost constantly we were very fortunate with the weather. Pootling along was indeed very relaxing, with plenty to look at – I was pleasantly surprised how much variety there is along the Broads – every section has its own personality. We deciding against trying to cross Breydon Water our first time out so were restricted to the Northern Broads, and given the high waters we couldn’t get through Wayford, Potter Heigham or Wroxham bridges further reducing the area we could investigate, but that still left an awful lot to see and do, and I think we had a fair stab at doing as much as we could. Neither the dog or the wife were perhaps quite as enamoured as I was with the whole experience, but they both seemed to enjoy bits of it – some wonderful walks, and some stunning scenery.

Living on a boat I imagine is much like caravanning (no exeperience of that either, but I don’t feel an urge to rectify the situation) in that you’re in relatively cramped environment with limited comforts and amenities. It’s all a bit of a fiddle, especially if you’re 6’6″ in a boat that was onviously not desined for six footers – peeing standing up is a bit of a challenge, and having a shower almost an impossibility. Waking up in the morning and everything is cold and damp … well actually I really enjoyed it – brought back memories of camping in the garden when we were kids.

We were worried about morring, and had it not been for the dog it would have been no problem at all, but having to find somewhere to stop with a bit of a path to walk along limited things a degree – you couldn’t just drop a mudweight in the middle of nowhere. Nowhere were we unable to moor, but some popular locations e.g. Neatishead and Horning got a bit ‘interesting’. If you didn’t want pubs etc, there were some fantastic moorings out in the middle of nowhere.

All in all a toally enjoyable week, and I’m hoping that we will do it again some time. More photos on Flickr

But it does make you appreciate the comforts of home.