Mapping the tide at Dunwich Beach

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This project has been funded by the Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB and Suffolk Secrets

Dunwich, a place where the fragility of the shoreline and the forces of nature become visibly apparent. The Suffolk Coast is subject to constant change as erosion gradually reshapes the coastline. The current beach is over a mile further inland than it was in Roman times. The people of the town have always lived with erosion and in the thirteenth century a series of storms washed away a third of the prosperous town. The current sea level rise in this part of the country is around 4mm a year and there’s a growing focus on working with this natural process rather than the traditional approach of keeping the sea out.

We set up studio at high tide in a sheltered spot under fenced defences of the sandstone cliffs around high tide and immediately planted our first line of markers along the strandline.

Today our studio contained reading material including the excellent Essential Guide to the Strandline; a basket of strandline finds; materials for making strandline flags and feltmaking materials to make pebble markers for the tidal mapping. Our studio architecture was beach finds secured with found rope.

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The tide was mapped each hour with the coloured willow markers helped by the growing beach community  exploring  the studio. Between each mapping we learnt feltmaking techniques to cover the pebble markers, chatted about the beach and investigated our finds by drawing them on the flags.

Other people sat on the sidelines striking up conversations about the projected tidal drop on that day compared to other points of the coastlines. Some were interested in the influx of small moon jellyfish that the unaccustomed hot weather had given rise to.

How do we reflect on this day. Is it important how many people joined our studio community and helped with the mapping or is it the people on the periphery who’s experience we should be considering.

We spent a day on the beach, we changed the space temporarily and we created a temporary community. The changes we made highlighted and played with questions on our mind about this stretch of coastline and perhaps opened them up for conversation with a wider audience.

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