The village of Happisburgh, on the east coast of the UK, is falling into the sea. Year-on-year the waves take meters more of the crumbly Norfolk cliffs; residents of the village have been watching this happen for decades. Those that grew up in the surrounding area are used to watching the changing of the landscape.
But now the sea is washing away people’s homes, roads, and will eventually take the village pub, the local church built in the 15th century, and the lighthouse if it continues at the current rate. The church, once a mile from the beach, is now a 150-yard walk from the edge.The Norfolk cliffs have been eroding for the last 5,000 years, so the coastline has always had an ephemeral feel.
Happisburgh is situated in a soft enclave between Walcott and Cart Gap, two other clifftop communities that have felt the benefit of funding from the government for concrete sea walls. But rising sea levels are accelerating erosion at Happisburgh, and future sea level rise and storm frequency due to climate change are likely to have profound impacts on the town.
The summer of 2018 was the last on the cliff edge for Happisburgh’s static caravan site, which has now been forced to move inland. A particularly bad winter of storms saw the metal and aluminium holiday homes there inch further and further to the edge of the cliff; rows of dwellings have periodically fallen into the sea for years. These caravans have now been moved next to the village school. Another caravan nearby had been standing for 13 years, but in December 2013, after a huge tidal surge, the foundations were ripped from beneath it and it suddenly slipped down the cliff.
Jesus: Hey, Dad? God: Yes, Son? Jesus: Western civilization followed me home. Can I keep it? God: Certainly not! And put it down this minute--you don't know where it's been! Tom Robbins in Another Roadside Attraction