What is Touching the Tide?

by Bill Jenman, Touching the Tide Project Manager. If someone asks what we’re about, I always talk about East Lane, Bawdsey.

This part of the coast was eroding rapidly, threatening two houses and the historic Martello Tower. Previously, the Government simply paid for coast defences, but by 2009 there was much less public money around so the new rock armour was partly paid for by innovative “enabling developments.” Twenty-six new houses were built in areas where they wouldn’t previously have been permitted, with the profits going to fund the new defences.

  • The money from the “enabling developments” allowed government and other funds to be “levered in” to pay for the work
  • Rock armour is an extremely effective coastal defence which will protect the houses and tower for a very long time

But…

  • The tonnes and tonnes of Norwegian boulders have cut off access to the beach – many people also think the granite looks very out of place in Suffolk
  • The project was extremely expensive – £2.4m for about 1 km (1000 yards) of defences
  • The new houses were controversial in the villages where they were built
  • Erosion “downstream” – to the south – has accelerated hugely now that the supply of new beach material coming down the coast has been stopped. Farmland is being lost to save the houses and tower.

But there again…

  • The eroding cliffs just south of the defences are revealing an amazing cross section through an Ice Age landscape, with the remains of ice wedges and flint tools appearing out of the cliffs – the south beach is now a brilliant place to see how the landscape has changed over thousands of years, from inland tundra to coastal cliff

So what do you think? 

Different people (original residents, owners of the new homes, beach visitors, archaeologists) will all have a different viewpoint.

If you now understand this complexity, but still have your own view, Touching the Tide has done its job. Next time coastal change comes up, in the pub or in a formal consultation, please take part in the debate and help to shape the future of our changing coast.