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, as well as hundreds of acres of farmland. In the long term, even the villages of Bawdsey and Alderton were potentially at risk. Previously, the Government 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


  • The tonnes and tonnes of boulders have cut off access to the beach – many people also think the hard rock looks very out of place in Suffolk
  • The project was extremely expensive – £2.4m for about 1 km (1000 yards) of defences
  • Some people in the villages where they were built objected to the new houses  
  • Erosion “downstream” – to the south – has accelerated hugely now that the supply of new beach material coming down the coast has been stopped. A new bay has developed that looks like it might creep around behind the defences, leaving the Martello on a peninsular.

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 your changing coast.


You can find out more about Touching the Tide (TtT) by taking a look at or downloading our information leaflet. And do explore our website too: watch the TtT film; see if you fancy one of our events or check out the latest TtT news.