A few years ago we purchased a static caravan in the nearby village of Scratby for family holidays. In fact, coming from Northamptonshire, we had not even heard of the area before some friends of ours purchased their own static caravan in a resort the other side of Great Yarmouth.
During walks along the coastal path we kept being drawn to Hemsby as it just seemed to have a great atmosphere all of its own. So, when on one holiday walk along The Marrams, we noticed that a couple of properties came up for sale one at each end of the road, a quick call to the Agents and after a viewing we instantly fell in love with the house that we now live in.
The question that we are always asked is “were you not aware of the erosion” to which we answer, yes, we are not stupid and did not enter into this blind. During our time with our caravan and walks we did not see any movement and were aware that planning permission was being sought for a more permanent sea defence. Coupled to that our home is right at the back of the land owned by The Geoffrey Watling Charity so we felt that we had many years before any problems would arise, with the hope that the sea defences, after years of delay, would be installed at some time in the future.
Recent coastal erosion events have really scared everyone who lives here, not just those poor families that have lost their homes directly but also the ones living at the far end of the road, past the point that it has now collapsed, who are in a terrible limbo. For us, personally, the really scary part is the complete lack of clear information from the people that you need to take charge at times like this. Not knowing if, at any time, an unelected, council representative could bang on your door and demand that you leave your home without any recourse or appeal is, quite frankly, terrifying. If you couple that with the fact that the only information you receive is either word of mouth or via news reports, most of which is contradictory or conflicting, then you have the perfect maelstrom for mental stress.
Even when we did contact, via telephone, various parts of the council during February and into March, nobody at the council offices either knew what was happening or were allowed to tell us. When, finally, the much-needed rocks arrived, bringing with them some hope, they then sat in the car park and there was still no clarification on when the work would start. During all of this, the weasel word packed information kept coming out from Great Yarmouth Borough Council, you know the sort, always containing could, should, may and possibly and there was another series of high-tides due and all the village could do was hope that the wind direction would be favourable, to avoid further damage.
Personally and it is not easy to say, all of this stress has had a detrimental effect on my health, to the point that a combination of insomnia and panic each time someone walked up to our house in a High Viz vest (please do not take this the wrong way, Hemsby Lifeboat and the Fire Brigade have all been brilliant – you will note note no mention of council as, to date, we have not met any member of the council staff) have made me visit my doctor to seek help.
In the recent meeting, called by the Hemsby Independent Lifeboat crew and Save Hemsby Coastline held at the LA Lounge to discuss what could be done to prevent further coastal erosion, one of the families that had lost their home, bravely stood up to speak and made the comment that resonated with everyone in the room.
“We may have lost everything, but when we were removing our belongings with just a couple of hours’ notice, there were so many people who came and helped us,” she says, “Stood here, I feel broke, but a millionaire.”
And for us this is what makes Hemsby special, this is what makes it worth fighting for, not just the income that it brings to the area and Norfolk as a whole, which is considerable, but the spirit and the people. From our neighbours all pulling together to warn people away from the dangerous parts of the road affected by the coastal erosion while we were waiting for the council and police to bring signage, to the room full of people showing support and recently to those dedicated to running the Save Hemsby Coastline charity for the past 10 years, that we have met and look forward to helping further.
Simon & Genny Measures