7 December 2014

Erosion

Detail from a visitor information board by Hornsea beach
It is estimated that since Roman times. the coast of Holderness in East Yorkshire has lost about two and half miles to erosion. So when you look out to sea from Hornsea or Aldbrough or Withernsea you might pause for a while to think of those lost acres of rich farming land. But more than that - out there where the North Sea waves churn in the wintertime there were villages, hamlets and even two very significant ports called Ravenser Odd and Ravenspurn - the latter being mentioned in three plays by William Shakespeare.

Each winter, ruthless waves come along in storms to chew at the land. The boulder clay of the coast offers only limited resistance but in a good winter only a metre or so of land is lost to the sea. In bad winters up to ten metres might go.

Some of the lost villages had parish churches and stone crosses. Graveyards and cockerels crowing from fenceposts. There were byways and lanes and humble cottages, farms and memories. People passed the time of day by their doors, hardly thinking that one day their settlements would disappear - lost forever, as if they had never been.

Auburn, Hartburn, Northorpe, Monkswell, Monkwike, Waxholme, Dimlington, Turmarr, Orwithfleete, Tharlesthorpe, Owthorne, Hoton, Sunthorpe and Old Kilnsea are just some of the lost places. These names are rooted in Yorkshire's Viking ancestry.
And when you walk along the beach at Hornsea you are never sure of the stories that the stones beneath your feet could tell. From more recent years you will see bricks that have been rounded by wave action - but once they belonged in the walls of barns or houses - all taken by the unforgiving sea.

Hornsea is protected by a concrete seawall that was first developed at great expense in the early years of the twentieth century. Later this was extended. I walked along to the end of this new sea defence to witness the way in which the waves are eating away at the South Cliff under a large holiday caravan park that gets smaller each winter. And this is what I saw...
Lumps of boulder clay gathering beach pebbles

15 comments:

  1. And, of course, those people occupying the present day villages know what will happen eventually. So, why do they build there? Hope beyond hope, I guess.

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    1. Houses and farms that are getting closer to the cliffs were often built a hundred or more years ago when erosion may have been in a slower phase.

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  2. Fascinating stuff. Do they know where the lost coastline is eventually settling? It must be going somewhere.

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    1. The boulder clay was left behind by the last Ice Age and ever since that time the coast has been receding. After thousands more years, if left unchecked, the sea will eventually reach The Yorkshire Wolds. Beverley will be a coastal town and the village where I was born will join the list of lost places.

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  3. Very interesting. And somewhere hidden away beneath the sea, under the cloak of history is the city of Atlantis....somewhere beyond the sea...

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    1. That's right Lee...and if we could go there then all of our dreams would come true and all would be well with the world.

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  4. Fascinating and horrifying and, I would guess, inevitable. It's only a matter of time until Sheffield-by-the-sea will join its underwater neighbors.

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    1. Dream on Grandpa! Sheffield is built on solid rock and is well above sea level. If the sea were ever to reach the city, astronauts would have to import billions more gallons of sea water from outer space. And places like New York, Florida and all of the world's coastal cities would go under first.

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  5. The same is happening on North Sea coast of Germany; take the island of Sylt, for instance. It loses a certain quantity of its substance year after year, as do all the other Friesian islands.
    Your post reminds me of the book I read earlier this year, "Vanishng England". One chapter was dedicated to the receding coastline. But the Sea also deposits sands and sediments along the coast on the west side of the British Isles. It is, after all, an active, living planet we're on.

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    1. Forgot to add the link to my review of "Vanishing England": http://librarianwithsecrets.blogspot.de/2014/04/read-in-2014-12-vanishing-england.html

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    2. I followed the link - thank you. Interesting. A lot of the material eroded from East Yorkshire is deposited on the Lincolnshire coast as I confirmed with my own eyes when walking near Cleethorpes recently.

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  6. So then it would seem to be a case of Newton's third law (paraphrased: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction) being true. Or, as Robert Browning once wrote, God's in His heaven; all's right with the world (except for the occasional tsunami).

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  7. Fascinating, intriguing and a little bit scary. This is part of the world I don't know well and intend to visit. My son and I have a plan for next year. Good post!

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    1. East Yorkshire is the best region on Earth...though I must admit that I might be slightly biased. Beverley. Burton Constable, Spurn Head, Flamborough Head, Thixendale, Hull's Old Town and The Deep. It will be a marvellous adventure for you Mike.

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  8. More on East Yorkshire coastal erosion at http://www.urbanrim.org.uk/coastal%20erosion.htm

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