Alde and Ore: Group reflects on damage caused by flood

Storm surge damage at Shingle Street. Photo by Catherine Lindsay-Davies.

Storm surge damage at Shingle Street. Photo by Catherine Lindsay-Davies. - Credit: Catherine Lindsay-Davies

Although the surge tide that hit the east coast last week was similar in magnitude to the one experienced in 1953, the Alde and Ore Estuary escaped the same number of breaches and level of devastation.

The damage could have been far worse had the surge coincided with a high spring tide, according to a local group formed to help shape the flood defence strategy along the stretch of water.

But for a number of small breaches, and several areas that overtopped throughout the estuary, the river walls stood up well to the surge.

Alde and Ore Estuary Partnership (AOEP) member, Jane Marson has been coordinating the breach repairs at Iken and - together with the Internal Drainage Board - is organising machinery to make emergency repairs to avoid further damage.

Sir Edward Greenwell, chairman of the Estuary Partnership, said: “This nearly catastrophic flood comes just as we have been told by central government that we, local people, must carry most of the burden for maintaining flood defences in future. “This time we have been lucky. The high tide did not exactly coincide with the North Sea surge. Nonetheless the damage and the cost of putting it right will be considerable.

“The Partnership has plans to make all flood defences in the estuary capable of surviving surges like this intact. We are just embarking on efforts to raise the money to achieve that, estimated at £5-7m. This is, therefore, a timely reminder of the urgency of our task.”

Initial reports suggest that the sea wall breached at Shingle Street and overtopped for 120 metres to the north and 30m to the south of the breach.

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About 75 acres of Oxley Marsh flooded after the river bank overtopped. There was also some overtopping at Boyton and Butley, and at Butley Mill, where recent work on the wall held up.

Chillesford, which is grass ridged in places, also overtopped but held well. There was limited overtopping at Orford, and the Gedgrave section survived well.

About 300 acres were under water between Stanney and Yarn Hill, and there was overtopping at Snape Maltings and in the village of Snape itself, where some roads remain impassable.

The AOEP says a four-metre partial breach at Ham Creek, which caused 100 acres of flooding, will need repairing but that the Environment Agency (EA) is unlikely to maintain defences and local landowners intend to initially commission maintenance themselves.

The Hazlewood Marshes site owned by Suffolk Wildlife Trust (SWT) suffered three large breaches and about 300 acres of flooding.

There was a two-metre width of overtopping at Aldeburgh wall, and discussions are already taking place with the EA about urgent remedial work.

Although about four metres of shingle has appeared on the beach at Orford Ness, there was “substantial erosion” south of the Martello tower at Aldeburgh. Meanwhile, the RSPB’s Havergate Island breached and flooded.