Flood flashback: The 1996 floods at Salthouse.

Reporter Richard Batson with his phonebox Reporter Richard Batson with his phonebox "office" during the 1996 sea surge and flood at Salthouse.

Thursday, December 5, 2013
1:14 PM

North Norfolk News editor Richard Batson was on call when flooding threatened homes in Salthouse in 1996. Here he recalls the drama of reporting on the wild weather.

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Salthouse suffered a sea surge back in 1996, when the sea smashed over and through the slender shingle bank that protects the village and marshes.

The water crept across the scrapes, dykes and grazing land on the wildlife haven, before covering the road and lapping against the wall of properties, including the garden wall of the Dun Cow pub.

Snow also fell blocking the roads inland too, leaving me marooned in the village while reporting the flooding drama.

The early brick-sized mobile phone was not working, so I commandeered the red phone box on the village green as a temporary office to phone reports into head office.

Damage to the village was minimal, compared to the 1953 devastation when many lives and properties were lost, but it was a wild and worrying day for the residents watching the sea heading towards them.

It was a narrow escape and the road was blocked for several days until the waters dropped.

I had to seek refuge in the village and was given a bed - or rather couch - for the night by the then parish council chairman, the late Ivan Large. Our photographer managed to get marooned at the Pheasant Hotel further up the road.

Improvements to the shingle bank and marsh drainage since then have been designed to make the marshes more resilient as a sponge to soak up and sea breaches.

They were tested again in 2007 but today may the biggest challenge facing the defences, and villagers at Salthouse, since the 1953 disaster.

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