This note continues my posts of 10 January, 2016.
I visited Aldeburgh yesterday for the first time in 3 months so was able to check up on the work scheduled during the summer on the sea defences. My ‘blue line’ along the top of the vertical concrete barrier part of the defence is an integral element of them. I noted, incidentally, in the small print on a public notice, that it is fact a ‘warning line’ alerting people to the existence of the vertical drop on its seaward side. This photograph, taken yesterday, makes everything clear.
Except that there no longer is a vertical drop from the top of the vertical sea wall marked by the blue line. The view is south from near Aldeburgh Yacht Club towards the Martello tower (see previous blogs) and in the left foreground and southwards towards the nearest groyne are the new boulders, forming a ‘toe’ to use the technical term, recently dumped along the front of the sea wall’s stepped base to absorb some of the force of the sea before it hits the wall. You can’t see the steps because they have been covered by pebbles whose source I do not know. I guess they have either been dragged off the beach and up to the wall top in order to create a trench in which to dump the boulders or, more probably, after the stones have been dumped, have been tipped into position from lorries to give added protection to the wall.
The tides have nevertheless been at work recently, as is illustrated by this next photograph:
This, still looking south towards the Martello tower, is taken from about 100m behind – north of – the previous view. It shows the northern end of the new ‘toe’ of boulders, centre right; and, to the left, at least two groynes, and perhaps four, which I have not seen before: their tops are emerging from the sandy beach which underlies the pebble beach so characteristic of Aldeburgh and indeed of miles of coast to both north and south.
The line of ‘lamp-posts in the sea’ are, I suppose but don’t actually know, warning posts for inshore boats about the existence of the groynes : the posts seem almost like minimalist Anthony Gormley figures as they enlarge and shrink with the ebbing and making of the tides.
This view also nicely encapsulates the four-fold nature of the sea-defences along this most-vulnerable stretch of that coast: beach pebbles themselves, naturally (the great majority) or artificially deposited; the concrete sea-wall (with blue line!); the iron and timber groynes at fairly close intervals (c 20m); and carboniferous limestone boulders dumped between them and then northwards in a long ‘toe’ (though not by any means the full length of the concrete sea-wall to Aldeburgh).
This next view is from just south of the ‘nearest groyne’ of the first photograph above, looking due north towards Aldeburgh:
The detail of that ‘nearest groyne’ is clearly visible, with shuttered wooden slabs like railway sleepers held by vertical, flanged iron posts; it looks as if similar structures further along the beach have been dismantled or, more probably, smashed up by the sea. Now, the new ‘toe’ of boulders stretches almost halfway to Aldeburgh but not past the Yacht Club on the left. There you can see the full width of the defences: about 10m of pebbled trackway from the blue line across to the rear scarp down to the boats whose masts project against the white of buildings.
Last winter there was a real danger of a breach in the defences here, not by the sea smashing through from the front but by erosion of the rear. This was caused by the force of the sea and the wind carrying spray from waves hitting the wall and depositing it on the rear scarp where its run-off cut into and weakened the embanked material. The new works this summer are a rapid response to this event.
In the far distance the white roof marks the town’s old windmill, itself with a military history echoing that of the Martello tower behind the camera; the blue line points straight at it on a bearing of 0 degrees. The photograph might suggest the line runs down the centre of the defences, but the tide was low at the time and sometimes the line is lapped by the sea. That sea has already removed Slaughden, a fishing village on the blue line beyond the Club but before the old windmill. It is difficult not to think that, despite this four-fold defence, one day this line will be broken and the River Alde (on the left beyond the Club) will once again flow into the North Sea – and, of course, vice versa. Were I to be still alive, I would then live in Snape-on-Sea.
But what on earth has all this to do with Art? – only that I once painted ‘The Blue line’: