Living with the sea in Hemsby

When we purchased our property on The Marrams in Hemsby, we knew that we would have to make some changes to our lifestyle, owing to some things that were unique to the area. Some obvious, such as having a number of communal bins sited along the road to take your rubbish to, rather than having our own wheelie bins that we had previously, to the less obvious, such as not being on mains sewerage, nor being able to have a phone line or having the option of mains gas for heating. The only thing that still galls, is the persistence of our home being described as a ‘beach hut’. I think that this has been encouraged by certain parties to lessen the total number of properties that are counted as being under threat. All the while paying the same council tax as any other property of its size.

We accepted most of the compromises willingly, as it all added to the complete change to lifestyle and quality of life that we would gain from living on the coast, in a smaller, friendlier, village community, rather than the town where we lived previously.

However, recent events have now increased many-fold the changes that we have had to accept. This all came into focus when, while cleaning my car, a passer by stopped and said “do you live here?” to which I gave a slightly puzzled “yes”. He then made the strangest comment, “well done!” he said. In the conversation that followed about Hemsby’s Coastal Erosion problems, I started to think about how tenuous life here has become.

We had accepted that we would have to take our black plastic rubbish bags to the nearest communal bin area. However, after the recent storms, as part of the access road collapsed onto the beach owing to erosion, this was changed to having to take these to a single location at the very beginning of the road. So you adapt. Then, for reasons best known only to those involved, where previously we could pull in with a car and drop off our rubbish bags on our way out (so two birds one stone), they have now placed metal poles with chains between them, in front of the bins. This now means that we have to stop in the middle of the road, blocking access, while unloading rubbish and recycling.

Then, for a period, as post was not being delivered to our home, we had to drive into Hemsby village to the Post office and collect it, (within 18 days of their receipt otherwise it would be returned to sender), forcing us into a periodic visit to check for mail. Thankfully they are now delivering our mail again, but it did highlight how little has to change to the access road that we depend on, for major changes to occur. This was also true for deliveries using courier services, DPD, TNT, etc. as for a while they would not deliver here, so we had to nominate a nearby collection point, which tended to be the nearby villages of Ormesby or Winterton.

So, while talking about this to our passerby, it struck me that, should the now very thin and small bit of the dunes at the edge of The Marrams road, where it meets the replacement entrance road, erode any further or be damaged by a thoughtless minority of visitors, then the number of changes we would need to adapt to would be massive. This is what I mean by the tenuous nature that living here has become. Whilst our home is set well back from the road, everything else would have to change. So no post, no couriered deliveries, having to watch how much you purchase in weight and bulk as you would have to walk quite a way with shopping bags, no cesspit emptying, having to walk some distance each day with rubbish bags, as our cars would need to be parked away from the house and beyond where the rubbish bins are located – the list goes on! Virtually everything that happens in and around your home that you take for granted, for us and our neighbours, would now have to stop or be thought about and planned. Even if you do not own a car yourself, you know you can still order a taxi, if needed, to collect you and your shopping and drop you pretty close to your home, for us this would not be possible.

So, as I said, you learn to adapt and try to live the best you can with what little security the ‘mini rock berm’ offers and hope that the land owners, the government and the council, along with all the other myriad agencies that feel a need to be involved, finally find the funding to complete the coastal defences. And while waiting for this to happen, we often feel descended upon by some careless visitors, climbing onto, digging into and clambering on what is left of the dunes and people’s lives, causing massive amounts of damage to already fragile structures. When challenged about this, all you can expect to receive is a tirade of foul language and threats of violence, all while they are standing a few feet away from the completely ineffectual signs, warning them of the dangers of climbing on the dunes.

Simon & Genny Measures

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