The beautiful but rugged coastline of North Wales is subject to some serious battering by winds and waves throughout the year and although we love to live and holiday here, of course we prefer it to be on our terms and so demand protection from the elements too. We also need to make a living and as this whole area is designated as an outstanding area of natural beauty, capitalising on those natural assets by way of tourism is the way things are set to go forward. Great lengths of piled up rocks are already in place reinforcing the defences of the sea wall from Rhos on Sea to Penrhyn Bay, but now work has begun to improve the defences of Colwyn Bay.
Colwyn Bay was one of the North Wales holiday resorts popularised by the Victorians. It was accessible to them by way of the railway line between the ferry port of Holyhead on the Isle of Anglesey, and London, that was built to facilitate the transport of mail between the two places and onwards to Ireland by sea. It remained popular as a holiday destination for several decades following, my own parents spent their honeymoon here in 1946, but began to go into decline during the late ’80s, in common with many other British seaside resorts.
In 2010 a ‘masterplan’ was revealed to regenerate the area which includes plans for a new sandy beach to be constructed to improve sea defences and to allow people access to the shore throughout all tidal states: currently you can only walk on the shore at low tides.
As reported at the time by The Weekly Post, this build-a-beach project is not going to come cheap.
“Conwy County Council’s cabinet voted to pledge £667,000 to secure a grant of £2m from the Welsh Government to improve the town’s sea defences. The authority had already secured an additional £1m of funding from the Welsh Government for the Colwyn Bay Waterfront coastal defence scheme by offering up £333,000 of supported borrowing from this year’s capital programme. By agreeing to pay the £667,000 from next year’s (2013) budget the council…will see beach sand material imported onto Colwyn Bay seashore which is now mostly pebbled. This will result in 50m of sand to help protect the promenade.”
Work began on building the new beach on 21st March and the major project of engineering is proving to be quite fascinating. To begin with two lengths of steel pipeline were constructed on an unobstructed stretch of Pensarn beach, one a kilometre long, the other about 400m long. The two sections were then floated out at high tide, lined up and welded together. The pipeline was then connected to the steel dry-line which is pumping the sand onto the beach. A rubber floater line was also connected to the sea end of the steel pipeline, and this section of pipe will connect to the dredging vessel.
The dredging ship, the Barent Zanen, sailed here from Rotterdam and prepared to dredge sand from the seabed of a site 20 nautical miles north of Colwyn Bay, located within Liverpool Bay. The ship is taking the sand from the sea bed approximately 20 miles north of Colwyn Bay, and then sailing in and anchoring about a kilometre offshore. Around 10,000 tons of material is brought in each trip and it is estimated that the beach will be topped up at a rate of 25-30,000 tons a day.
The sand and sea-water mix is blasted onto the beach during periods of low tide and attracts a huge amount of interest from a large number of gulls that arrive to take advantage of seafood, freshly delivered from the seabed. As far as I am aware, no mention has been made of any potential damage the dredging may be doing to the flora and fauna of the seabed in the dredging site, but I can’t help wondering.
Following each delivery of sand, which is deposited in one large pile, it is distributed by mechanical diggers and bulldozers. The work often attracts groups of interested onlookers, and no doubt at least some of the big boys watching would love to be having a go.
The operation will take place 24 hours a day, seven days a week and should last for a period of up to four weeks, depending on the weather, which thus far has been pretty wild. Many local people are wondering how long the beach sand will stay put and how much it’s going to cost them…..?