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Savouring - and saving - a popular holiday beach

Lorn and Zuri on Hemsby Beach

Seaside publican Lorna Bevan-Thompson is gearing up for summer serving holidaymakers – and campaigning to shore up the beach they come to enjoy.

Hemsby became the centre of worldwide media attention three winters ago when a surging North Sea swallowed seven chalet bungalows on low cliffs unprotected by sea defences.

But when summer comes, determined residents and traders at the busy resort village welcome the tourists who continue to flock to its campsites, drawn by the coastal cocktail of sandy beaches, slot machines, bars and bingo.

And the holiday fun will be laced with reminders of Lorna's Save Hemsby Coastline campaign which is about to relaunch its pleas for sea defence protection for people's homes, jobs and businesses.

In December 2013 a TV crew filming a documentary about the campaign found themselves amid breaking news, when a fundraising event turned into a rescue mission.

Guests at Lorna's Lacon Arms pub dashed to the nearby shoreline to form a human chain removing possessions from homes before they tumbled over the edge.

“It was covered worldwide afterwards, with the village full of camera crews and it raised awareness for our campaign,” said Mrs Bevan-Thompson.

Now she and her fellow campaign trustees are set to renew their efforts. There will be fresh lobbying of Environment Secretary – and local MP – Brandon Lewis, and a bid for success in a two-year battle to get official charity status for the campaign.

Lorna said: “It should be down to the government to do something, but it is an uphill battle because our beach is privately-owned.”

There will also be a fun day on July 31 to raise funds and awareness – but the search is on for someone to organise it, through a paid position.

"Save Hemsby Coastline is not all about doom and gloom. It is about making people aware of the hidden dangers of coastal erosion, and hopefully inspiring them to help raise funds for our campaign.

“We love it here and we want to protect and we need people to know the bigger picture in the hope of getting some action. You never know who is out there and what connections they have,” said 51-year-old mother-of-three Mrs Bevan-Thompson.

She came to the village aged 12, in 1977 when her family uprooted from running a Jewish deli in London to seek a better life in the country, running a restaurant and bakery.

But the family business has grown to employ 50 people across a range of outlets including amusements, a bar, rock shop, chippy and play area, plus - for past seven years – her busy family pub which is also a function venue.
Tourism is vital to Hemsby where it provides 70pc of the village income.

Holidaymakers are aware of the coastal campaign – through collection tins, and sales of wristbands and key rings – but keep coming back because they enjoy the village, its shoreline, big skies and its welcome, said Mrs Bevan-Thompson.

“Hemsby is a home for a very vibrant village and also 'home from home' for so many of our regular visitors,” she added.

If you can help Save Hemsby Coastline by becoming their fun day event organiser contact Lorna Bevan-Thompson on 01493 733281 or email her. 

Lorna's story features in a short film called Turning the Tide on the Great Yarmouth tourism website in the Behind the Scenes films in the media centre menu or can be seen on Youtube.

The films are part of an expanded marketing campaign run by the Greater Yarmouth Tourism and Business Improvement District, a locally-financed drive using a £2.4m pot draw from local levy payers to raise the profile of the area as a destination, and encourage more visitors to stay longer, spend more and return.

The search is on for other people in the tourism industry, who also have a story to tell or another dimension to their lives that would make compelling viewing, to feature in future mini movies.

Other “stars” have included a zoo founder, circus ringmaster, hotelier, potter and museum owner, all with fascinating “back stories.”