Travel / The Things I've Seen: Withernsea Pier Towers

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The Independent Online
THE BUS from Hull stopped at the faded resort. I walked along the sea-front and came to a giant gateway leading nowhere except the North Sea. It had battlements and leaded windows and looked like the entrance to a medieval castle - except that it was built entirely from yellow bricks.

The Pier Towers are all that remains of the 19th-century pier at Withernsea. Built in 1875, it was demolished after a coal barge collided with it. Now the Pier Towers stand alone above an unstable beach. The winter tides had taken away tons of sand and shingle, leaving only mud. People were standing on the seafront, watching forlornly as engineers attempted to build new sea defences. Caterpillar excavators and Hitachi dumpers were piling hundreds of massive boulders along the shore.

'The seas have got bigger and bigger,' said a bystander grimly. 'Sometimes you see waves coming right over the Pier Towers, and you have to stand away there across the road, by the amusement arcade.'

The coastguard lookout hut used to be on top of the Pier Towers. Now a new one is being built 40 yards farther back . . . just in case.

The tide was coming in. The nearby school emptied and hordes of children appeared from all directions and swarmed over the boulders, dodging waves. The real sea began to smash against the pretend turrets.

Eventually, the children went home for tea. A woman stood looking over the railing at the murky waves. She was worried about the Pier Towers being washed away. 'We've been told that if these go we can't have any more,' she said sadly.

The Pier Towers, Withernsea, are at O/S Grid Reference TA 344279.

(Photographs omitted)