Town mayor takes over as Coastwatch station manager

Richard Leeds, left, has taken over as station manager of the Cromer National Coastwatch Institution (NCI) station...

Richard Leeds, left, has taken over as station manager of the Cromer National Coastwatch Institution (NCI) station from Linda Lawrence (pictured). - Credit: Supplied by Linda Lawrence

The "eyes and ears" of part of the north Norfolk coast now has a new head. 

Richard Leeds has been elected station manager of the Cromer National Coastwatch Institution (NCI), taking over from Linda Lawrence. 

Mr Leeds, who is also Cromer's mayor, said he was delighted with the new role.  He said: "I was at sea myself for 20-odd years - I love the sea and this is a nice little step. We're very lucky that the Coastguard look on our service as a great asset, especially on our beaches in north Norfolk. Slowly the stations are expanding."

Richard Leeds pictured in front of Cromer Lifeboat Station, pictured in his former role as the station's operations...

Richard Leeds pictured in front of Cromer Lifeboat Station, pictured in his former role as the station's operations manager in 2016. - Credit: Nick Butcher

Mr Leeds was a longtime volunteer at Cromer's RNLI and first visited the NCI's lookout on the cliffs at East Runton in 2018. He joined the NCI as a watchkeeper in October 2019 and quickly achieved certified status. 

Mrs Lawrence, who had led the station since 2018, said: "I have enjoyed every minute of being there. I was previously station manager at Caister, so I have just decided six years as a station manager, it is time for someone else to continue to take the NCI Cromer forward."

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Mrs Lawrence said there were only four watchkeepers when the previous manager left and the lookout unit needed replacing. They were able to get a new unit with up-to-date technology in 2019 thanks to donations from Sheringham Shoal wind farm, Victory Housing Trust and Sir James Dyson, who was born and grew up in Cromer and is the station's honorary patron.

Mrs Lawrence also started a recruitment campaign and the station now has 30 members.

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NCI watchkeepers provide the eyes and ears along the coast carrying out visual surveillance, particularly observing people's activities and monitoring radio channels, conducting a listening watch in poor visibility.

Linda Lawrence from the National Coastwatch Institution at the newly renamed Cromer Coastwatch. Phot

Linda Lawrence, pictured in front of the National Coastwatch Institution station in 2018. Photo: NCI - Credit: NCI

They work closely withe RNLI, Coastguard and other search and rescue agencies. The reason for having the stations is that while  technology has massively improved safety as sea, a computer cannot spot a distress flare, an overturned boat, a yachtsman, swimmer or water sports enthusiast in difficulty.

Mr Leeds said the station was always looking for volunteers to train as watchkeepers. The training course normally took about three months - based on one session a week - and no maritime experience was necessary. 

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