As Keith Dunn looks out across the North Sea he looks wistfully at the crumbling cliffs creeping ever closer to his home.
When he and wife Maureen, 77, moved to Tunstall 48 years ago there were four acres of field between their home and the sea. Now there is just 30 feet.
He lives close to some of the fastest eroding cliffs in the whole of Europe and he is worried.
Every time there is a storm, metres of cliff can tumble into the murky, raging waters.
“Never in all the world did I ever think the road would disappear but now it has gone,” he said.
“There used to be a breakwater here which protected the coast and kept the sand which ensured we had a lovely beach.
“About 20 years it broke up and we pleaded for the Government to rebuild it but it said it was too expensive. That has left this area unprotected.”
Keith, 82, tries not to think about how long he might have before they are forced to move.
His son has had to build a log cabin after the road to his home collapsed, leaving no access.
The cliff edge has now also reached the back garden of his daughter’s home and she is also now in the process of building her own log cabin.
A series of storms and the ‘Beast from the East’ caused huge damage along the East Yorkshire coast with Spurn Point almost becoming an island and large numbers of sea creatures washed up on beaches.
With winter fast approaching Keith and other residents in Tunstall and the likes of Skipsea, Ulrome and Hollym will be bracing themselves once more.
“I keep my eye on what is happening but there is nothing I can do about it,” Keith said. “I am very worried and think about it daily. If we move we will lose about £30,000.
More disappears with each wave
“I have seen four houses just disappear over the cliffs in my time here. When the storms hit the ground wobbles and it feels like jelly. The cliffs are very soft.
“It is dramatic here during storms and you don’t know how much will disappear with each huge wave.”
Watch: The crumbling cliffs falling into the sea
At Tunstall, what used to be the main road leading to the Sand-Le-Mere holiday park was sliced in two courtesy of a major cliff collapse earlier this year.
The section of Seaside Lane overlooking the North Sea was closed for safety reasons eight years ago by East Riding Council as a result of creeping coastal erosion while the holiday park created a new entrance further inland.
Recent historical records suggest the soft boulder clay cliffs between Skipsea and Spurn Point are eroding at an average rate of between 1.5 and 2.5 metres a year.
However, in some cases up to 20 metres of cliff have been known to disappear overnight.
The policy now appears to be managed decline of some coastal areas and focusing on protecting populated areas such as Withernsea and Hornsea.
‘Who knows how long we have left’
Former machine driver Keith certainly feels residents in villages like his have been abandoned.
“We have been offered no help and I can’t see any forthcoming,” he said. “It has obviously affected the community as people have had to move
“Who knows how long we have left. We don’t want to leave, I love it here. I am a cripple and too old to move now and I worry about my wife.”
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Under East Riding Council’s coastal change fund, the authority continues to offer support in relocating people most at risk. This includes help with demolition costs.
But despite lengthy lobbying, government funding has yet to be secured to ease the strain on the council’s own finances.
“As no funds have yet been identified to continue the offer of support beyond the limited remaining coastal change budget, the council continues to call on the government for a dedicated source of coastal change adaptation funding,” a spokesman told Hull Live earlier this year.
Caravans being moved
Just this week, an application has been submitted to East Riding Council by Far Grange Holiday Park at Skipsea.
The park is seeking planning permission to relocate 128 static caravan pitches due to the coastal erosion.
In a design and access statement, the applicant says: “The erosion rate is currently measured at approximately 2.5 metres a year.
“Clearly the rate of erosion is unpredictable and any measurement of a rate of erosion to predict the future can only be an estimate.
“The level of erosion is now up to the road adjacent to the front row of caravans. A recent storm in September 2018 confirmed the unpredictability of the rate of erosion.”
Meanwhile, Yorkshire Water has recently been granted permission to build a new water treatment plant at Withernsea.
When the current facility between the town and Hollym was last upgraded in 1991 it was 168 metres from the cliff edge. Today it’s less than 40 metres.
Yorkshire Water proposals to construct the new £30m wastewater treatment works for Withernsea were given unanimous approval at an East Riding Council planning committee last month.
The new plant, comprising of two open treatment cells, is now to be relocated two kilometres inland to another site on land south of Happy Landings, Patrington Road, Hollym.
A so-called ‘hold-the-line’ policy covers towns like Withernsea, Hornsea and Bridlington, giving them purpose-built protection from erosion.
The same policy also applies to the gas terminal complex at Easington and the seaside village of Mappleton, although the latter has not been immune to cliff collapses in recent years.
However, other parts of the coast are now being left to the whims of Mother Nature and the likes of Keith can only watch on and hold their breath.
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