When I returned to live in Newbiggin by the Sea in 1975, after a fifteen year absence, I had fond memories of the beach and the promenade that stretched across the bay from the Church Point promontory at the North end and Spital Point promontory to the South.
In 1976 we enjoyed one of the hottest summers in decades. Despite the weather, the beach was busy but not crowded, as I remembered it. It was then that I noticed that the beach was disappearing. At low tide, boulder clay was exposed across the centre of the bay.
It was not difficult to realise that a depleting and disappearing beach meant that it was only a matter of time before storms would cause damage without the natural protection of the beach. I campaigned to alert the authorities of the danger. The extensive local press coverage had little effect until
New Year’s day in 1979 when a major easterly storm caused damage to the properties that overlooked the bay and the Town centre was flooded.
The authorities were now under pressure. Consultants, Babtie, Shaw and Morton, from Glasgow, were commissioned to provide a solution. The solution was to protect the promenade with imported boulders. The solution did protect the properties, but the bay became inaccessible and almost unusable.
The Nadir of Newbiggin by the Sea
The environmental issues were compounded by the discharge of untreated sewage into the bay and further compounded by the deposition in the bay of colliery waste that was discharged into the sea from the Lynemouth and Ellington coal mines a mile to the North.
More sand was disappearing leaving a seabed of boulder clay.
The bay was barren.
The mussels and other marine crustaceans were contaminated.
Because of the boulders, the bay was almost inaccessible.
The only access was for the fishermen and the Lifeboat.
Newbiggin by the Sea was in steep economic and environmental decline. The decline was also reflected by the drop in population.
When things were at their worst in the 1980 s and 90’s the boulders that lay against the promenade became a breeding ground for rats and unsympathetic local comedians suggested calling the place Hamlyn by the Sea. The reputation of Newbiggin by the Sea was dire!