After the terrible storm last Thursday – which brought to the country the worst tidal surge since 1953 – we have enjoyed quiet and increasingly warm weather. Up here in the extreme north east we’ve been lucky. Warnings in place, we boys still went out for a run on the beach as the winds gathered their forces around mid-morning; it was bright and clear, the tide was still out and the sand swept low as we charged headlong into it, delighted to be out at all as an outing certainly wasn’t expected, the forecast being so dramatic. As if on cue, once we were back, everything deteriorated quickly and, by tea-time, when these pictures were taken, the sea was out to get at us and all down the eastern side of the country coastal folk were hanging on for grim death waiting for the high tide to power their way.
As we looked out over the harbour, by the lifeboat station where our heroic crew were keeping watch, the North Sea was crashing over a non-existent harbour wall. We watched in horror as one by one the boatmen’s huts – such folly to have left them unstored against the winter – broke free of their footings, electrical cables springing dangerously free from the wall and into the watery air. Like cardboard boxes they swayed hither and yon at the whim of the waves. A steady stream of witnesses, cameras in hand, gingerly ventured down the steep harbour approach, safe in the knowledge there was no possibility of Neptune capturing them there.
From the Farnes, from where the Longstone light shone bright, the National Trust wardens had already tweeted that all the baby seals had been swept into the sea from the smaller islands usually safe from rising tides. Looking towards Bamburgh, all we could see were massive rollers pressed right up against the dunes: all land, all sand lost to the tempest. But there was no rain, no rain at all.
As quickly as the storm had risen, it was gone. The following morning, cleaving to normality, we innocently made our way through the dunes towards our little path to the beach. It was gone! All that lay before us was a twenty-foot drop, which I would have embraced athletically had not Kemo Sabe anticipated the possibility of a problem and held me fast on the lead. And that was just the beginning of it: twenty foot of beach had been lost, marin grass was strewn like hay, feet deep all along, and access was completely denied. People in the village had not seen a storm like it. ‘Twas a rough day. But no one was flooded, the lifeboat crew did not have to set out, the harbour walls withstood the force of the sea and, for some strange reason, in the pictures that we took, the sun appeared to shine, even though it was dark and growing ever darker.