Coastal erosion and the vanishing towns

Ordnance Survey Old Series – 1837 and Ordnance Survey – 2013

Coastal Erosion on the East Coast

Covehithe

is a hamlet and civil parish in the Waveney district of the English county of Suffolk.
It lies on the North Sea coast around 4 miles north of Southwold and 7 miles south of Lowestoft.

In the Domesday survey of 1086 the village is named as Nordhalla or Nordhals and is recorded as being a medium sized settlement with 13 households of freemen or smallholders.

In the Middle Ages Covehithe prospered as a small town and during the reign of Edward I was granted the right to hold a fair on the feast day of St Andrew. By the 17th Century however it had fallen victim, like nearby Dunwich, to coastal erosion and now modern Covehithe has a population of around 20.

Cliff edgeErosion caused the coastline at Covehithe to retreat more than 500 metres between the 1830s and 2001, according to contemporary Ordnance Survey maps. This can be seen most obviously on the sand cliffs above the beach where the road running from the church simply falls away down onto the beach.

The coastal cliffs at Covehithe are formed of glacial sands and other deposits, consequently they are loose and unconsolidated and erode at up to 4.5 metres a year. The main part of the settlement at Covehithe is around 250 metres from the current shoreline, but some say it’s possible that Covehithe could be lost to erosion by as early as 2040.

The Monty Python sketch ‘The First Man To Jump The Channel’ was partly filmed at Covehithe beach, although, of course, the Channel was narrower then…

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