Castles built on sand: Dramatic photos show how coastline has crumbled over 30 years to leave seafront homes on verge of plunging into the sea – as ex-soldier reveals plan drag his home 65ft inland to safety
- Lance Martin first pulled his home in Hemsby, Norfolk, back from the cliff in 2018
- Now his home has been earmarked for demolition by the council unless moved
- Dozens of homes in the village are at risk of falling into the sea due to erosion
Dramatic images have showcased the rapid coastal erosion that has sparked the destruction of seafront homes in a Norfolk village over the course of just 30 years.
People in picturesque Hemsby live in the shadow of the knowledge that every winter storm and every battering wave brings the sea closer to their properties.
Since 2017 alone some areas have seen nearly 40 metres of its sandy cliffs fall into the waters of the North Sea, with some homes containing decades of memories threatening to follow suit.
Faced with the heartbreaking choice of seeing their homes vanish beneath their feet, some residents have made the choice to leave while they can.
But former soldier Lance Martin, who moved to the beautiful Norfolk coast in 2017, has vowed to fight on and plans to drag his home a further 20 metres away from the edge this week.
In 1993 there were dozens of metres of land between homes and the beach in the south end of Hemsby
By 2015 sea defences had been put in place to try and slow the erosion of the cliffs, after metres of land disappeared
But now in 2023, more homes are at risk of falling into the sea as the waves batter the sandy cliffs
Mr Martin faces a race against time as the sea takes more and more land from the village of just over 3,000 people, while there are fears the beach itself could be closed to the public for decades as a result of the erosion.
READ MORE HERE: Terrified residents evacuated amid fears ‘storm surge’ caused by 50mph winds and high tides could send their cliff-edge homes toppling into the sea
Last week coastguard workers helped residents desperately flee their homes as a winter storm bought 50mph winds and a 3.7-metre high tide to their doors.
Coastguards revealed that the cliff erosion had created a new 10ft drop into the sea from the beach which means the local lifeboat can no longer be launched, while residents saw patio slabs outside their homes disappear into the sea.
Mr Martin was one of those evacuated, and since then several of his neighbouring homes have been demolished for public safety as their teeter on the edge of the sand cliffs.
The ex-Grenadier Guard lost four metres from his back garden over the weekend, which he had reinforced with rocks and fencing to slow the erosion. His home now lies just one metre from the cliff edge.
He now faces not just a threat from the sea, but also Great Yarmouth Borough Council, which has earmarked his one-bedroom, chalet bungalow home for demolition.
The retiree has vowed to drag his home away from the cliff edge and to safety, unwilling to give up on the dream home he has made for himself.
It will be the second time the 65-year-old has had to do this after he lost 40 metres of his back garden in the space of just five years.
Former soldier Lance Martin (pictured) is set to drag his home in Hemsby, Norfolk, back from the cliff edge
Mr Martin’s house is teetering precariously over the beach below after dozens of metres of land disappeared in recent years
The 65-year-old is planning on dragging his home 20 metres inland so he can have a few more years and avoid it being demolished by the council
He said: ‘The overwhelming feeling amongst the neighbours is one of despair. I keep a smile on my face.
‘I haven’t broken down yet. I crack on with it- there’s nobody to blame, you just have to accept it and move on.’
When he first moved into his £95k detached one-bed in 2017, which faced 40 metres of sand dunes before the beach and sea beyond.
He was told by an environmental impact study that he would have up to 40 years before the cliffs reached his house, but they now stand just one metre away from his backdoor.
He hasn’t been able to return to his home since Thursday evening, staying in a chalet nearby.
READ MORE HERE: Defiant former soldier who refuses to abandon his clifftop home plans to use machines to lift the entire property out of harm’s way as sea edges ever closer
He was forced to clear out his belongings in case he lost his house over the edge across the weekend.
The charity which owns the land, Watling Norwich Limited, have now offered him land on the opposite side of the road for free – he just has to drag his house into the gap.
Lance has been given until the end of the week to move his house back across the road by 20 metres, after dragging it 10 metres into his front garden in 2018.
Lance, who lives alone, said: ‘I’ve set up talks about dragging the house forward again.
‘In 2018 we reinforced the inside and rebuilt the floor joists east to west in case we had to do it again.
‘Once we clear the land in front of the house there are 20 metres to pull it forward, plus the 10 metres the house is standing on now.
‘I’ve been hedging my bets but in hindsight, I should have moved it again a while back.’
As Mr Martin continues his fight against the sea, the parish council is pleading for government help to keep the village alive.
Keith Kyriacou, 57, chairman of Hemsby Parish Council, said: ‘The beach is in a terrible state. It is in a bad way. We’re just so desperate for the Government to help us out here.
‘We’re losing our beach and our beach is our main income in the summer with the tourists and holidaymakers – 85% of our income is from tourists and we just want the Government to help us, but we don’t seem to be getting anywhere fast.’
Mr Kyriacou, who runs a leisure business and a car workshop, added: ‘The lifeboat crew down there are working so hard to protect everything. You can’t fault them.
‘But there’s not much we can do. We are fighting a losing battle at the moment.’
Members of the Hemsby Lifeboat crew inspect the eroded dunes at Hemsby after it was closed due to erosion
The beach has been closed off to the public because of the risk of the erosion, with fears it could be shut for decades
James Bensly, who runs the Hemsby Beach Cafe on the seafront, said that walkers who get onto the beach elsewhere were at risk of being trapped by the tide if they tried to exit where the sheer drop is.
The Conservative Norfolk county councillor, 44, added it was a big concern the town’s lucrative summer tourist trade could dry up – especially because he has closed the cafe for the winter due to the high price of electricity.
‘Tourism and agriculture is all we have out here,’ he said.
‘I want my little girl and I want her friends and their families to enjoy our coastal resorts.
‘I want them to be able to have the memories that I had of the beach. The beach is forever changing, it’s evolving and it’s a living thing.
‘But we have to try and protect it and live with it. We’re never going to stop coastal erosion.
‘But what we can do is slow down the rate of erosion at coastal resorts and give people who are living here opportunities to try and get out of this trap that they find themselves in through no fault of their own.’
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