Hemsby: The Norfolk village stuck in a 'soul-destroying' cycle of coastal erosion

  • Watch Rob Setchell's report on life in Hemsby, as the waves edge ever closer

Homeowners in a crumbling clifftop village say it is heartbreaking to see "history repeating itself", a decade on from the storm surge which devastated their community.

In 2013, homes were torn apart by the tide - possessions and properties lay ruined on the eroding dunes of the Marrams in Hemsby in Norfolk.

But 10 years on, residents are fighting the same losing battle. Several are now packing up their homes, expecting them to be demolished before they're swallowed by the sea.

When Carol Boyes retired to Hemsby with her late husband 20 years ago, she couldn't see the sea. There were two rows of bungalows in front of her.

Now, it's approaching her doorstep.

Carol Boyes, 78, has been packing up her memories before her home is demolished. Credit: ITV News Anglia

The road outside is collapsing, much of it lies smashed on the beach.

At 78, Carol will soon be homeless.

"I have seen all those bungalows go in," she said. "It was heartbreaking to see them go in because they all moved in just after I did and we knew them all down here.

"I don't know where I'm going to end up. This was going to be our forever home."

It's a devastating reality that fellow local resident Robin Adams can relate to.

He also had to scramble to save his possessions on the night the storm surge hit in 2013.

This was all that was left of Robin's holiday home after the 2013 storm surge. Credit: ITV News Anglia

His holiday home was swallowed by the sea, leaving only the skeleton of the property in its wake.

"The kitchen and bathroom floor had fallen away into the sea. You literally looked down and there was the North Sea," he said.

"It just lifted up the whole thing, slid down the sand dunes and it wasn't long before the sea just tore it up like paper."

Despite the resounding feeling of helplessness, villagers here are still refusing to give up.

Campaigners run the Save Hemsby Coastline group from the local pub, and the lifeboat group continue to work tirelessly to keep people connected to power and water - against the odds.

The local lifeboat crew have been working hard to support local residents. Credit: ITV News Anglia

"It absolutely crushed us here," pub landlady Lorna Bevan told ITV News Anglia, as she reflected on that fateful night 10 years ago.

"And it's still happening. This weekend there were people in the pub crying. You don't get used to it, it isn't nice and it eats away at your soul."

But the situation is now getting so critical that residents are calling for urgent help.

It had appeared that £20m permanent sea defences were on the way, but the project has now been scrapped due to spiralling costs.

Angry locals have accused the government and local authorities of "abandoning them", but Great Yarmouth Borough Council said it had been supporting residents left stranded by the rapid erosion.

Councillor Carl Smith, the council leader, said: ‘’The welfare of residents and safety of the public is our paramount responsibility.

"Our teams have been checking on people to see if they require assistance with shopping, medicines, pets etc.

"If anyone is vulnerable we will do all we can in terms of targeted interventions. And it is vital that people realise it is not safe to use the road, either on foot or by car."

  • For more on Hemsby, click below to listen to the latest episode of the What You Need To Know podcast - entitled 'The British homes on the edge of falling off a cliff'