RECENT freezing temperatures and gusty winds have taken an obvious toll on Suffolk’s vulnerable coastline.

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The shingle beach at Bawdsey, near Woodbridge, is believed to have dropped by several feet in recent weeks.

It prompted a visit from the Environment Agency (EA), which found that beach levels had dropped significantly and that repairs were required.

The sea has been a perennial threat to the shoreline at East Lane - with the coastal footpath being diverted inland several years ago and an emergency protection scheme launched following rapid erosion.

Work to protect the cliffs, Martello Tower and two homes in East Lane was initiated by the East Lane Trust and finished in 2009 - but the more exposed spots further north have been retreating of late.

In 2005, the Bawdsey shore was the subject of an installation by artist Bettina Furnée, who planted 38 flags in five lines one metre apart along the eroding cliffs. The resulting time-lapse video documented the steady erosion of 17 metres of shoreline.

Karen Thomas, a senior coastal advisor for the EA, said beach levels usually dropped as a result of northerly and easterly winds, which tended to move shingle southwards along the coast. She added: “We are therefore undertaking minor repairs to the wall to ensure it continues to protect people and their property in Bawdsey from the threat of tidal flooding.

“As a result of our work it is necessary to close the public footpath on top of the seawall while our machinery makes the repairs. A footpath diversion will be in place and signposted.”

The district council’s coastal protection chief, Andy Smith, welcomed the work. He said: “The EA helped make the pioneering district council and community partnership for new coastal defences at Bawdsey a reality that has successfully protected East Lane and a far wider area, and this latest work will help maintain the defences north of that scheme.”

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