The East coast floods which devastated much of the East coast of England, from Yorkshire down to Canvey Island in Essex took place on the last day of Janurary in 1953, destroying homes and killing around 300 people.
On the radio today they spoke of the small village of Sea Palling in Norfolk and that invoked a strong memory for me. In the years following WWII Britain was recovering and people had started to go on holiday by the sea again. The land mines and other beach defences were more or less removed and we were allowed on the beaches once more.
We had a caravan and one of my father’s favourite places was Norfolk, so we spent several of our holidays there. We often went to stay in a small caravan park close to Waxham, near Sea Palling, which was basically a field owned by a local farmer. There was water at the farm and fresh milk straight from the cow but no other facilities. To us children it was heaven.
Between us and the sea were a twin row of massive sand dunes, which we had to trudge across with the hot sand almost burning our feet. Along the coast from the farm there was the small coastal village of Sea Palling and many summer visitors went there since it had easy access to the beach. Whereas at the farm you had to climb about thirty feet of loose sand studded with clumps of Marram grass and then you went down into a deep dip between the two rows of dunes, where out of the wind, the sand was even hotter underfoot to then struggle up over the remaining dune to run and slide down to the beach.
|Marram grass on sand dunes|
In Dovercourt, just north of Clacton, the police went around the town with loud hailers to warn people of the storm surge heading their way. Because of this many people were prepared for the flood and survived, but some older people, still in WWII mode and not quite sure what the police were saying, went into their cellars believing it was an air raid warning. A work colleague of mine who had been a naval diver in 1953 told me of the grisly job he and his colleagues had to do, to recover their bodies. So it was sixty years ago today and there are many who still remember, even if we were not directly affected. We went back to Norfolk for many years after, not always to Sea Palling, but we saw the feeble results of the rebuilding of the dunes. A concrete sea wall was built soon after, which was probably designed to be the right height to prevent another flood exactly like that one, but it only needed to be a few centimetres higher to overtop that and the dune behind it is nothing like the old Dutch built ones. It is now a single low dune, pathetic in size when compared to the one those old Dutch engineers built.
|The beach near Waxham close to Sea Palling twenty or so years ago. The sea wall is almost buried.|