Spurn is a long, narrow finger of sand stretching out into the Humber Estuary from the rapidly eroding Holderness coastline. Spurn is a unique, and beautiful. place, a concoction of beach, mudflats, salt marsh, sand dunes, grasslands and lagoons. Spurn was formed from sediment washed down the coast as the clay cliffs of the Holderness coastline were washed away.
Spurn is dynamic, always changing and always interesting, but no-one could have foreseen the changes that occurred on December 5th and 6th 2013 when a tidal surge swamped the peninsula, and the nearby village of Kilnsea. Thousands of pounds worth of damage was done to properties and caravans along the coast, and along the Humber shoreline. A three-quarter mile breach was carved by the pounding waves at the narrowest part of the peninsular, cutting off properties at the Point, and forcing the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust to close its nature reserve.
A tidal surge is a build up of water associated with high winds and a low pressure system. The wind causes the water to pile up higher than the ordinary sea level. On December 5th, one such low pressure system was sat in the North Sea waiting to wreak havoc to coastal settlements and land along the River Humber.
Evacuation notices were given well in advance, giving residents time to prepare, but caravan owners at Sandy Beaches Caravan Park, Kilnsea could do little to stop the pounding waves washing up huge concrete blocks and smashing several caravans.
The Crown and Anchor pub and the Riverside Hotel were both swamped by two feet of water washing over from the Humber, and the Spurn Road was completely submerged. Although there was no loss of human life, several rare Highland Black Sheep were drowned when they were trapped by the rising floodwaters.
The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust Information Centre in the former Blue Bell pub was slightly damaged, but the car park outside the Centre was under about three feet of water at the height of the surge. Tons of rocks, boulders and concrete were washed into the car park as the waves destroyed the feeble cliffs. There was more rubble than you would expect to find on Kilnsea Beach as this was the remains of buildings that made up the Godwin Battery, a World War I army site, now occupied by Sandy Beaches.
Although the superficial damage can easily be repaired, it is the long-term ecological issues that will take time to correct. The Spurn nature reserve is the home to tens of thousands of birds and many rare plants. It is also a very important stopover for countless thousands of bird migrants. With the lagoons now swamped with millions of gallons of seawater, the nature of these lagoons will change dramatically. Many acres of salt marsh have been buried under several feet of sand.
The whole area has taken on a completely new appearance.
With sea defences now all but destroyed, the area is now fully exposed to the ravages of the North Sea and it is doubtful that this unique part of the British coastline has many years left before the sea is victorious and Kilnsea becomes one more village lost under the relentless waves of the North Sea.
- High tide changes at nature reserve hit by floods (yorkshirepost.co.uk)
- Communities count cost of biggest tidal surge in 60 years (yorkshirepost.co.uk)
- Yorkshire coastal towns inundated by worst tidal surge for 60 years after 87mph gales (yorkshirepost.co.uk)
- Damage assessed amid flood clean up (bbc.co.uk)
- Freakish sea surge follows in wake of storms (yorkshirepost.co.uk)
- East coast surge: homes fall into sea, waves rip at pier, wildlife struggles (theguardian.com)