The British east coast is the fastest eroding coastline in Europe. Landslides and rising sea levels eat away at the soft foundations on which life here has been built. I expected to find storms, rough seas, ruined houses falling into the waves. A sense of urgency from the people living on the edge of a landscape, where entire towns have been lost to the North Sea. Instead, the land felt still, the waters were calm, and time moved slowly.
Every time I return, however, something has changed. Cracks creep through roads that once led to villages, flowers grow in places where homes used to be. Traces of what has gone remind us of what is to come. The morning sun reveals what progress the sea has made in the night. Sure and steady. I know that, before long, this place will come to nothing, yet it seems impossible to imagine. I went there often to watch it change, and make pictures before it does.
Families have lived on the cliffs for generations, never expecting the sea to finally reach their door. Others just moved there, fixing up a place that they knew would soon disappear. It was worth it, they’d say, to see the sunrise and hear the birds and the waves. If only for a few more years. There is something hypnotic about this place – rhythms seem to stand outside of human time. We’re as temporary as the cliffs. The thought unsettles me yet I can understand why, despite all precariousness, people would want to make a home here, between the land and sky, and watch as the sea edges closer.