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‘Little time left’ - house at risk of being swept away by sea to be demolished

PUBLISHED: 20:13 10 December 2019 | UPDATED: 15:39 12 December 2019

Juliet Blaxland's home at Easton Bavents near Southwold is set to be demolished after several metres of erosion in recent months. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Juliet Blaxland's home at Easton Bavents near Southwold is set to be demolished after several metres of erosion in recent months. Picture: Neil Didsbury

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A Suffolk couple have been told to leave their home immediately amid fears their house could be swallowed up by the sea due to recent accelerating coastal erosion.

Juliet Blaxland's home at Easton Bavents near Southwold is set to be demolished after several metres of erosion in recent months. Picture: Neil DidsburyJuliet Blaxland's home at Easton Bavents near Southwold is set to be demolished after several metres of erosion in recent months. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Juliet Blaxland moved to her cliff-top home in Easton Bavents, near Southwold, more than 12 years ago with her husband Giles - and has since seen three holiday homes demolished due to the increasing coastal erosion in the area.

Now her home, which she rents from Easton Farm and is less than 10m from the edge, is next to be demolished.

Mrs Blaxland, who works as an author and illustrator, was notified by the farm on Wednesday, December 4 about the impending demolition - and despite having nowhere to go, she is packing her life away to move as soon as possible.

"We knew all along that it would eventually be demolished, but normally you get a couple of months notice or something," said the 54-year-old, who has written a book called The Easternmost House, which tells the tale of living with the constant risk of coastal erosion.

The coastline at Easton Bavents near Southwold has seen several metres of erosion in recent months. Picture: Neil DidsburyThe coastline at Easton Bavents near Southwold has seen several metres of erosion in recent months. Picture: Neil Didsbury

"It's caught us all by surprise, as we could have reasonably expected to have another year here. But ever since we moved in we were always aware of how little time we had left."

In the last few weeks the coast has seen accelerated erosion with "a loss of 3.5m in one night last week", say Coastal Partnership East, who are responsible for the area.

But Easton Bavents is no stranger to danger, as it used to be England's easternmost parish.

The North Sea claimed its church in 1666 and recent times have seen more land and property follow.

An aerial shot of Easton Bavents in 2002. Picture: MIKE PAGE www.mike-page.co.ukAn aerial shot of Easton Bavents in 2002. Picture: MIKE PAGE www.mike-page.co.uk

In 2011, a holiday home that had been in a family for four generations was demolished before the ground it stood on disappeared.

Now, the cottage where Mrs Blaxland and her husband live is the last in their lane - but for the writer, the problem is much greater.

"Demolition is incredibly sad. It's an end of an era for the old house which has almost become a landmark in the town because of all the memories people have of it," she said.

"It affects many people in Southwold because some people remember their father being a cowman here or they remember walking home from school to the lights of the cottage."

Easton Bavents in 2010. Picture: MIKE PAGE www.mike-page.co.ukEaston Bavents in 2010. Picture: MIKE PAGE www.mike-page.co.uk

Mrs Blaxland said she has met at least three people who were born in the cottage and that there is a huge emotional attachment to it.

But what scares her more than having to leave her home so soon is the loss of the landscape she loves.

According to the writer, a coastal engineer recorded that the cliff has been eroding 3m on average each year since the end of the war.

When she started to observe it more closely in 2015, she says it has increased to a 5m average every year.

Easton Bavents in 2012. Picture: MIKE PAGE www.mike-page.co.ukEaston Bavents in 2012. Picture: MIKE PAGE www.mike-page.co.uk

"In the last two weeks we've lost what would normally be two years of land," she said.

"The engineer we met this morning said we've lost nine metres in just four months."

Earlier this year Karen Thomas - head of Coastal Partnership East, which is responsible for managing the Suffolk coastline - said the county "has some of Europe's fastest eroding coastline".

"When we have big storms it takes time to recover," Ms Thomas said.

The coastline at Easton Bavents near Southwold has seen several metres of erosion in recent months. Picture: Neil DidsburyThe coastline at Easton Bavents near Southwold has seen several metres of erosion in recent months. Picture: Neil Didsbury

"Big storm events are a problem and more frequent storm events mean there is less time for beaches to recover."

A Coastal Partnership East spokesman said: "Since the 2018 Beast from the East storms we have seen significant lowering of beaches across Norfolk and Suffolk coasts.

"There has been an ongoing erosion issue at Easton Bavents which is a naturally eroding coastal area with no hard defences.

"In the last few weeks we have seen accelerated erosion with a loss of 3.5m in one night last week.

Time to go. Juliet Blaxland's home at Easton Bavents near Southwold is set to be demolished after several metres of erosion in recent months. Picture: Neil DidsburyTime to go. Juliet Blaxland's home at Easton Bavents near Southwold is set to be demolished after several metres of erosion in recent months. Picture: Neil Didsbury

"During November weather events and high astronomical tides have caused unexpected and rapid erosion at Easton Bavents.

"The situation is now critical and people living in cliff top properties are at risk.

"Peoples health and safety are paramount.

"The last three terraced properties remaining in the cliff-top zone are now less than 10m from the edge and we are working closely with the property owner to provide up to date information for them and their tenants."


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