When I wrote my recent blogs about the old mill, Aldeburgh, the Martello tower and the grave threat to the Alde estuary from the sea erosion to the narrow shingle spit between them, I did not realise that I was not up to date, even though I had walked that spit over New Year.
Since then, according to a very local newspaper, Coastal Scene for 8 Jan, strong winds and waves have hit the hard defences, marked by my blue line of previous posts this year, sending water over them which then scoured away the shingle behind the bank close to Aldeburgh Yacht Club at Slaughden. They lie and lay respectively between the mill and Martello towers; Slaughden, a small fishing village, has already been destroyed by the sea. Emergency repair work done this last week is in advance of £400,000 worth 0f planned sea defence work due to start in February.
The thin blue line marks the top of the ‘hard’ defences looking north back towards Aldeburgh from near the Martello tower in December 2011. On the right are very visible and varying ‘hard’ defences in concrete, natural rock and iron and timber designed to mitigate the force of the sea on the shingle spit. The Alde estuary is just out of shot to the left; the Yacht Club is on the left in the middle distance and Slaughden was between it and the buildings in the distance which include the old windmill. This length is the ‘weak link’ which has been found wanting in early January 2016 and where major new works are about to begin.
The paper calls this length one of the weak links along Suffolk’s coastline, echoing what I had written earlier about the danger of a breach here and the consequences for the Alde estuary. But what a co-incidence that this should have happened and been reported while I was writing about and illustrating this same fragile length of shore and its thin blue line, with painting in mind may be but nevertheless very much aware of the erosion threat. And as I say in my Preface, this whole issue of land-sea relationships is increasingly at the core of what I think I should be working on artistically – and cannot avoid being involved in archaeologically.
Orford Ness lighthouse from the west in
June 2014, looking out to the North Sea
which is eroding its base from the east
Different site but same story: the same issue of Coastal Scene records how recent weeks have seen the erosion of the already narrow strip of land between the sea and Orford Ness lighthouse, a few miles south of Aldeburgh Martello tower but standing – at the moment anyway – on the same spit of shingle. The lighthouse is seen as ‘one fierce storm away from’ destruction: it is soundly built and in good order itself but the sea will undermine its base unless further emergency defences are put in place around it now.