Friday, 31 January 2014

Morston Bridge update

Since my update on Tuesday, a couple of things have happened in relation to the Morston bridges...

Yesterday we had confirmation that the bridges are not and can not be insured and hence this is also the situation for the temporary structure. This leaves us with many worries over funding. Building two large bridges in such a dynamic environment is costly and National Trust finances were already stretched before the loss of the bridge on the 5th of December. We will be formally writing to seek donations to the bridge project, which needs to include a temporary structure being in place by the 1st of April.

We have received the methodology from the contractor we intend to use. Following on from this we are arranging a meeting with members of the bridge stakeholder steering group, people with a commercial interest or representatives of user-groups that have an interest in the access or working area associated with the replacement of the two large bridges.

The meeting will consider methods that will be used to replace the bridges, the sequence of the works, access needed to the work areas, impact to moorings and other users, timescales and temporary bridge structure.

We will be sending invites out on Monday, but in the meantime if you think this is you please do contact us.

- Victoria Egan, Countryside Manager

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Freshes flap open

Today the Environment Agency were successful in their operation to open the tidal flap of the south sluice at Blakeney Freshes. There is now an increased flow of water out of the Freshes system which will enable quicker evacuation should further inundation incur, which is possible over the next few days due to very big tides (9.6 metres at 19:45 on Saturday and 18:30 on Sunday). We are really pleased with this outcome although there is a note of caution that saltwater could flow through the flap and associated structure at high tide. This is currently being monitored.
The south sluice viewed from above

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Latest updates

Blakeney Freshmarsh
Last Friday we issued a statement about our ongoing response to the tidal surge event of the 5th December 2013. If you haven’t seen it, please see below.

Today we are pleased that the Environment Agency have diggers on site at the Blakeney end of the Freshes sea wall. We have been pressing the Environment Agency to clear bank material that has collapsed in the area of the two tidal sluices that drain the Freshes, enabling them to evacuate water quickly should the Freshes become inundated again. We are also pleased that the Agency are investigating the southern sluice to establish whether the flow through this could be increased. We have also asked the Agency to manipulate the amount of water going through the Cley sluice to aid flushing of the marshes to reduce the salinity levels within the system. This means that some of the flow that would usually go straight through the main sluice under Cley Road is being diverted through the Freshes.

You may also notice that the affected footpaths are formally closed and chestnut paling has been erected by the Environment Agency to highlight that the areas are not safe to walk on.

We are undertaking weekly salinity measurements to help us understand the ongoing impact and we are pleased that the flushing is working and the salt content of the ditch network is reducing.

The Environment Agency are hosting a public drop-in session on Thursday 13th February from 2.30 to 7pm in Blakeney Scout Hut. This is a good opportunity for you to feed in your views and concerns. We are in regular contact with the Environment Agency and Natural Engand and will continue to provide updates

Morston Bridges
One of the issues that arose as a result of the tidal surge was that a 20-metre long bridge at Morston Quay was swept away. The bridge is one of four that enable access to the landing stages, pontoons and marsh north of the lower quay.

We do have a project to replace this bridge known as Bridge 2 and a second sizeable bridge to the north, known as Bridge 4. We have issued a letter of intent to a contractor and are waiting for the final consents to come back from the various organisations e.g. Natural England, North Norfolk District Council planning and Marine Management Organisation. We will then fully appoint the contractor with works due to start on site at the end of February and a 12-15 week construction window.

We have asked the contractor to prioritise Bridge 2 and in the next few days we will be receiving the schedule of works that we can share with you next week.

We are aware of concern locally about the missing bridge and we have been exploring various options for a temporary structure. We met with the original bridge stakeholder group and the feedback was that a temporary structure needed to be in place at the latest by the 1st of April. We need to ensure any temporary option is safe for all users and is able to cope with the conditions and the environment it would sit in. We cannot guarantee the condition of the remaining piles and safety for the public, which is why we are looking at alternatives.

The National Trust has suffered a significant amount of damage across the coast and we have challenges with funding. We have met with a loss adjustor and are waiting for the report of whether there could be an insurance claim associated with the bridges that we hope to receive by the end of the week.

We would like to reassure all those with an interest that we are exploring a range of options and that we should hopefully be able to provide a further update later this week or early next week.

- Victoria Egan (Countryside Manager)

National Trust statement: ongoing response to tidal surge event in December 2013
In December 2013 much of the east coast of the UK was subject to severe flooding following extremely high tidal surges. The North Norfolk Coast was among the many areas affected by these surges.

In North Norfolk, the National Trust cares for large areas of coastline, including Blakeney Point, Blakeney Fresh Marsh, Brancaster Beach and land adjacent to Brancaster West Marsh. All of these areas were severely flooded in December and work began immediately to plan a response that meets both local economic, environmental and ecological needs.

Flooding of freshwater marshes has presented the most complex issues after the sea defences were breached in several places, resulting in saltwater flooding.

Further high tides are predicted in the coming weeks and we are pleased that the Environment Agency has this week responded to requests to investigate the sluices that drain the Blakeney site with a view to getting them both working again. This will be vital in ensuring seawater drains from the freshwater marshes more efficiently, mitigating the impact for wildlife and future use of the marsh.

The National Trust is very clear in its position that in planning for the long-term future of these marshes, doing nothing is not an option. Blakeney and Brancaster marshes need the chance to respond to potential changes in conditions and we want to see options that outline what interventions are needed to allow these habitats to adapt and flourish.

We have called for a full and thorough appraisal of options and would like to see a plan that works in harmony with natural processes to deliver a sustainable solution in social, ecological and financial terms that ensures public benefits are fully recognised.

There are a number of organisations involved in planning the next steps for future of the North Norfolk coast and it is vital that we all, along with the local community and landowners, are able to work in partnership throughout this complex decision making process.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Post-flooding update

Here is an update on what is going on across the Norfolk Coast National Trust property following the tidal surge event on the 5th of December:

Brancaster Activity Centre – the team have moved to the volunteer block at Burnham and will be working with Deepdale Backpackers to host schools whilst the centre is being repaired.

Brancaster Beach – debris cleared with support of village and further dates arranged with RSPB and local community.

Brancaster toilets – repairs have started and they should be open for Easter.

Burnham Windmill – minor damage has been repaired.

Morston/Stiffkey – we have started the process of reuniting boats with owners, and some lots have been claimed. Contact us for more information.

Morston Bridge – we are exploring options to replace the missing bridge with a temporary structure. The project to replace the permanent bridges has been given the go-ahead and we are waiting on final consents to come through before we fully appoint the contractor. We are hoping works will start on-site in February, with both bridges installed by the end of May.

Blakeney Point Lifeboat House – repairs started last week by Draper and Nichols who undertook the renovation project last winter, which means they are up and running and know the building well. So far the damaged ramp has been removed and floors lifted.

Sea defences – we are in regular contact with the Environment Agency and Natural England. We hope to give a further update next week – so keep an eye on the blog. 

Horsey Windpump – the sails and cap of the windpump sustained damage in the gusts of the 5th of December, and have been damaged further during more recent high winds. We were planning to remove the sails this year but have had to do this sooner than planned.

General – although a lot of debris has been cleared thanks to volunteer help, there is still some debris to clear in various places along the coast.

Please also read: National Trust statement: ongoing response to tidal surge event in December 2014

Also, follow this link to read Richard Porter's article on the surge.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Access to Blakeney Point restricted

Due to the helicopter crash on Tuesday the 7th of January, Norfolk Police confirmed that a USAF helicopter, from RAF Lakenheath, crashed at the north end of East Bank on the Norfolk Wildlife Trust's Cley Marshes nature reserve, adjacent to Blakeney National Nature Reserve. A 400m cordon remains around the crash site which lies to the west of East Bank in marshland between the A149 and the coastline.

Access to Beach Road and East Bank are restricted and there is no coastline access to the crash site. It is not currently possible to access Blakeney Point on foot from Cley beach car park. We anticipate all these restrictions will continue to be in place until at least Monday 13 January. Along with the local community, we have been shocked and saddened by the loss of lives and our thoughts are with the families, friends and colleagues of those affected.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Storm uncovers Second World War mine

Boxing Day goes with a bang
There is never a dull moment on Blakeney Point. On Boxing Day a visitor found what he thought was a Second World War mine on the high tide line three miles along the Point. After marking it, he informed the coastguard who in turn called us. It was located just after dark with assistance from a member of the Cley coastguard team. We fenced it off and informed the police who in turn called the bomb disposal team.

The bomb disposal team arrived the next day and were taken to the scene. They identified it to be an anti-personnel Second World War mine, which required detonation on site. The bomb disposal officer kindly filmed the explosion on my camera to serve as a warning never to touch any kind of potential ordnance. Mines come in all shapes and sizes and are not standard, therefore if ever you see anything suspicious, take an exact location (look for obvious landmarks), avoid touching it at all times and inform us, the police or the coastguard.

Still of the explosion

A calmer moment on Blakeney Point

We are still very busy across the Norfolk Coast following the tidal surge. We are very grateful for all of the support we were given from other National Trust properties, regional office staff, volunteers and former members of the Blakeney team. Just before Christmas, a dozen volunteers plus staff had a productive day putting the boardwalk back in place where possible and worked out how much had be lost (approximately 60 metres).
 Boardwalk repairs (Alex Green)

The seals have had an incredibly successful breeding season despite the storm. Our latest count, conducted this week, took the total up to 1561 pups. This is well over 300 more than last year's total already, and we expect a few more in the next couple of weeks.
Happy seal pup (Graham Lubbock)

- Graham and Ajay (Coastal Rangers)