Cliffhanger: Film about erosion at Happisburgh, Norfolk

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Here’s a link to the film we watched in the lesson.

This is a great case study for coastal erosion. The film illustrates how the Norfolk coastline is retreating as waves erode the base of the cliffs. Mass movement process of slumping and flowing are acting on the soft rocks. The situation is made worse because the hard sea defences are no longer being maintained by the Council. Watch the BBC clip below:

People are being affected in a number of ways. In 2005 homeowners could neither insure, nor sell their property and no compensation was available when buildings were lost. Some people could be left destitute as their homes and businesses disappeared, along with memories and community heritage. Happisburgh is important to archeologists as the oldest known site of human occupation in the UK; flint tools dating from 800,000 BP have been discovered. People are campaigning for the Government to re-build the sea defences, but their efforts seem to be in vain.


Photograph © Andrew Dunn, 04 November 2006 licensed under Creative Commons

There are several questions to think about. Is erosion more rapid in Happisburgh because of the defences built by other communities further along the coast. Happisburgh has many listed buildings and a church. Shouldn’t these be protected? How much land will be lost before the Government does act? Or is it just too expensive in the long term to maintain hard defences along this stretch of coastline? Is a policy of managed retreat sustainable? The film is certainly one sided – the Coastal Concern Action Group website is here

The latest news is that the Government have offered some compensation to peoiple who have lost their property. Is this enough?

We will lean more about sea defences and coastal management later in the course. 


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