Splash and grab on the beach

IT looks like a giant children's toy playground.Dumper trucks, diggers and JCBs everywhere, being skilfully manoeuvred, grabbing enormous boulders, scooping up tonnes of sand and shingle, with boats delivering even more rock.

Richard Cornwell

IT looks like a giant children's toy playground.

Dumper trucks, diggers and JCBs everywhere, being skilfully manoeuvred, grabbing enormous boulders, scooping up tonnes of sand and shingle, with boats delivering even more rock.

This is Felixstowe's main holiday beach - a European Blue Flag winning shore that is not normally a fenced off building site of frantic activity, and more used to being packed with people lazing in the sun or frolicking in the sea.

For the next five months though at every low tide work will be taking place to create £10 million worth of sea defences to protect the low-lying part of the resort for the next century.

Rising sea levels and deteriorating beach levels have made each winter over the past few years increasingly anxious.

Most Read

Gardens are now flooded more regularly, the prom damaged more frequently by spectacular waves, and hundreds of tonnes of shore have been washed away.

Ugly rocks have been placed in front of the prom to prevent it from collapsing, and the experts say one storm with all the wrong conditions - strong north-easterlies and a surge tide - could wreak havoc, flooding 1,600 homes, tourist attractions, businesses and the port.

Consultants say the answer is to build 21 granite fishtail groynes between the War Memorial and Landguard and to replenish the beaches by pumping ashore tens of thousands of tons of sand and shingle dredged from the Thames Estuary to give them a good start.

The new groynes should then help to build and retain the beach - providing a smooth shore.

The first of the massive breakwaters being built by Team Van Oord is rapidly taking shape.

Having removed the old crumbling groynes, the rocks are being buried deep in the beach. Creating the fishtail groynes though is not a quick or easy job - it's like a huge jigsaw, breaking and grading and trying to make each boulder fit.

Finish company Sillanapaa is bringing the rock from northern France, with special vessels coming almost ashore at high tide to tip their heavy load - which can be recovered by diggers at low water - and then pulling away.

A project spokesman said: “Rock deliveries will continue during every high tide on a 24/7 basis for about three months, depending on weather.

“A 180m section of beach opposite Manor Terrace has been cleared to accommodate a lagoon area where beach recharge material will be pumped ashore.

“Material will be pumped ashore on every low tide on a 24/7 basis, then loaded onto trucks and transported along the beach.”

The work is already attracting small crowds to watch.

Seafront amusements owner Stan Harris said: “It's very interesting - especially when the ship brings the rocks in. I think a lot of people will come down over the next few months.”

But some seafront residents are concerned. One said: “Every time they drop one of the rocks in place it shakes the whole house, and they are working day and night. We know it has to be done but it is quite worrying.”

Suffolk Coastal cabinet member Andy Smith said: “The importance of these works cannot be underestimated, as not only will countless homes now be safe again and Britain's biggest port will be protected, but for us it will also unlock the door to schemes that will help regenerate the resort and town of Felixstowe.”

Do you think rocks will protect the coast? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk