King Canute of Southwold

GREAT grandfather Peter Boggis has taken on the ultimate DIY challenge - building his own earthwork with 50,000 tons of soil to protect his seaside home from the advancing North Sea.

GREAT grandfather Peter Boggis has taken on the ultimate DIY challenge – building his own earthwork with thousands of tons of clay to protect his seaside home from the advancing North Sea.

The retired engineer is using the clay to shore up a 30 foot tall cliff which is gradually being washed away at an average rate of 18 feet a year.

He is now halfway through his massive task, having taken delivery of 24,000 tonnes of earth in 1,200 lorry-loads over the last three months.

Mr Boggis, 72, has dumped the material on the beach at the base of the cliff which is now less than 100 metres from his home at Easton Bavents near Southwold.

He has hired a bulldozer and driver to pile up the banks of earth and stop the erosion which would otherwise lead to his two bedroom house falling into the sea.

Father-of-five Mr Boggis is refusing to reveal the cost of his giant project which has the blessing of the Environment Agency.

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But the task is believed to have cost him more than £50,000 so far and he is likely to end up spending twice as much.

"People think I am a loony arranging for all this work – but it is the price I have to pay to protect my home and an area of the countryside that I love," he said.

"Someone has got to act. The government believes it is not feasible to protect these homes – but I have proved that it is."

Mr Boggis wants to save Easton Bavents because his family has lived in the area since 1904 when his grandfather became a tenant farmer before buying the clifftop land in 1925.

In the last 60 years the sea has advanced more than 200 metres by washing away the sand cliffs and 14 clifftop homes have disappeared from the village since the 1960s.

The Environment Agency began doing some limited sea defence work at the base of the Easton Bavents cliff last year by installing large pyramid-shaped stone blocks. However, the work was halted, allegedly due to lack of funds, after only 40 of the blocks were put into place.

So far his work has been effective and has led to the sandy beach increasing in height by 1.5 metres and the high water mark retreating 25 metres.

The determined divorcee said: "It is fair to say that the cost of buying the clay would have been around £10 a ton and the cost of transporting what we have used so far would have been a notional £50,000."

He said his efforts had been likened to those of King Canute who tried to hold back the tide in the 11th century.

But he added: "I accept that you cannot win against the sea. You can only feed it."

An Environment Agency spokesman said: "Mr Boggis has taken it upon himself to protect his own property. From a coast protection point of view it does not give us concerns."

Agency spokesman Richard Woollard said Mr Boggis and his family had 'riparian rights' as they owned the land on the clifftop and were entitled to protect it from damage caused by flooding and erosion.

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