Happisburgh's 'relentless' erosion captured in stunning photo essay

An aerial photo of Happisburgh, showing the lighthouse and part of the shoreline affected by coastal erosion.

An aerial photo of Happisburgh, showing the lighthouse and part of the shoreline affected by coastal erosion. - Credit: Alan D Horn

The crumbling coastline at the north Norfolk village of Happisburgh has been captured in a photo essay. 

Alan Horn, who lives in Bedfordshire and visits north Norfolk every year, said he wanted to highlight the issue of coastal erosion, which he said represented a "genuinely catastrophic scenario" for the community there. 

Alan Horn has captured the erosion of the cliffs at Happisburgh in a photo documentary. 

Alan Horn has captured the erosion of the cliffs at Happisburgh in a photo documentary. - Credit: Alan D Horn

Mr Horn, who walks the North Norfolk Coastal Path every second year, said: "What is obvious is that every year, large chunks of the coastline collapse into the sea – in fact two stretches have eroded by over 50 metres in the last three years. The erosion is relentless.

"Around 30 homes have disappeared in the last 10 years and as many are at risk over the next ten.

The cliff edge at Happisburgh, showing the effects of coastal erosion.

The cliff edge at Happisburgh, showing the effects of coastal erosion. - Credit: Alan D Horn

"Whilst coastal erosion is a natural process it is accelerating due to the increasing sea levels and greater storm surges that are affecting the whole world."


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Some of Mr Horn's images show wooden sea defences that were built 60 years ago but are now falling away, houses on the brink and parts of the cliffs which have recently collapsed. 

A home awaiting demolition at Happisburgh, one of the effects of coastal erosion.

A home awaiting demolition at Happisburgh, one of the effects of coastal erosion. - Credit: Alan D Horn

They will be featured in an exhibition at the Anteros Arts Foundation in Fye Bridge Street, Norwich, from January 4-15 next year. 

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Mr Horn said there had been a great deal of talk about the need for communities to adapt to erosion and move away from the areas at most risk.

Crumbling sea defences at Happisburgh, once put in place to slow the rate of coastal erosion.

Crumbling sea defences at Happisburgh, once put in place to slow the rate of coastal erosion. - Credit: Alan D Horn

"However, this is where the discussion breaks down as a clear policy backed by clear funding intentions on adaption does not exist," he said.

"Global warming will increase the regularity of severe storms like those experienced in 1996, 2007 and 2013 and they will undoubtedly accelerate the erosion beyond current estimates.

Beach Road in Happisburgh, showing the effects of coastal erosion.

Beach Road in Happisburgh, showing the effects of coastal erosion. - Credit: Alan D Horn

"The estimated rate of erosion for Happisburgh from the position in 2019 is a further 97m in up to 20 years and up to 150m in up to 50 years.

"This is in addition to the dramatic loss of cliff face of over 200m in the last 20 years and represents a genuinely catastrophic scenario for the community as little is being done to protect its future."

Crumbling sea defences at Happisburgh, once put in place to slow the rate of coastal erosion.

Crumbling sea defences at Happisburgh, once put in place to slow the rate of coastal erosion. - Credit: Alan D Horn

Mr Horn's other "photographic documentaries" have sought to capture the effects of our changing world. His subjects have included unprecedented storms in South America's Atacama Desert and Italy's dying mountain villages.  

Happisburgh, showing the effects of coastal erosion.

Happisburgh, showing the effects of coastal erosion. - Credit: Alan D Horn

Crumbling sea defences at Happisburgh, once put in place to slow the rate of coastal erosion.

Crumbling sea defences at Happisburgh, once put in place to slow the rate of coastal erosion. - Credit: Alan D Horn

The crumbling cliffs at Happisburgh, showing the effects of coastal erosion.

The crumbling cliffs at Happisburgh, showing the effects of coastal erosion. - Credit: Alan D Horn

Crumbling sea defences at Happisburgh, once put in place to slow the rate of coastal erosion.

Crumbling sea defences at Happisburgh, once put in place to slow the rate of coastal erosion. - Credit: Alan D Horn


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