Wells

Floods old and new

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Doggerland- a lost habitat

On the night of 31st January 1953, 42 people perished along the Lincolnshire coastline caused by a huge storm surge, deep low pressure, and a high spring tide, causing the sea to break through the defenses and flood an area 2 miles inland. The seawater wiped out homes, live stock, and wild animals on that terrible night. Wendy's family were caught up in it, and were lucky to escape with their lives.
To try and prevent it causing so much damage when it happens again, as it surely will, the sea defenses have been altered and the beach off Chapel St Leonards has been built up by several metres of sand dredged up from the North Sea.
60 years ago Chapel St Leonard’s beach had no oyster shells, hardly any razor shells and rarely any pieces of flint.
In the process of dredging they have found mammoth tusks assorted bones from animals long extinct, and flint tools from the Paleolithic era showing that Stone Age man must have lived and hunted on dry land that is now the North Sea. It seems that the area we call the Dogger Bank was once part of what is now called Doggerland, a huge land bridge stretching out from Eastern Britain and joining us to the Continent. As sea levels rose and flooded the land the only evidence left is the shallow area in the North Sea called the Dogger Bank.
Wendy and I believe that the dredging had disturbed middens (refuse heap), often used by Stone Age people for shells bones etc, the leftovers from his hunter-gatherer life style. These could be seen on the Chapel St Leonard’s beach where the dredgings had been deposited.
On 31st January 2013, when we visited, large amounts of oyster, razor shells and flints were found along the tide line including worked flints, leaving one to assume that a midden had been sucked up during dredging.
It is believed that the dredger used was the Brughell so further investigation is needed as to where the dredging around 2012 had taken place, as they are all supposed to be logged for future reference.

Wendy’s Recollections.
Up to the time that Wendy was 13 she, her brother and friends, who were caught in the floods, had the local St Leonards beach as their playground. With a keen interest in all things wildlife, she knew exactly what sort of shells could be found and what the lovely golden sand looked like.
It was therefore on good authority that, when we visited the beach she said that it had changed.
As we walked along the beach we came upon a 20m stretch that was inundated flints, oyster and other shells. These had not been on the beach in her childhood. As the picture shows the oyster shells were very large. We realised that the flints were not ordinary either.
Two seemed particularly interesting. One looked as if it was a sort of screwdriver, while the other a scraper. The Somerset Finds Officer positively identified the latter as having been knapped.
The beach too was several metres higher than she remembered it. In fact fishermen informed us that the beach had indeed changed making it more difficult for them to launch their boat. They said stuff had been dredged up from the North Sea to try to hold back the sea on future high tides.
Wendy and her husband John were present for a civic event in, Skegness, to remember the 42 people who had tragically died on the Lincolnshire coast in January 1953.

History seemed to be repeating itself?
If our theory is correct, and these artifacts came from Doggerland, it is rather strange that we found them at this time.
Remember we were thinking of the 42 souls that died, due to those floods.
The people that were in Doggerland at the time were the Mesolithic people. The rising sea level, finally inundated the area, around 6,500 BCE, with a massive tsunami originating from Norway.
We would suggest that these people were subject to this flood.
If these people had in fact produced this midden, as we think they might have, they must have had at least a semi permanent settlement on the coast at that time.
It is not unreasonable to assume that many of the flints in our possession were being processed.
We actually found an eroded piece of stone with a hole in it, rather like a piece of brick. We discarded it, rather looking for flints. Afterwards we realised it might well have been a bottom weight for a fishing net.
Just remember these artifacts were only to be found on a 20m length of the beach, running parallel to the shoreline.
It is interesting to think, that had anyone dived on to the Dogger Bank, these finds would have been long since buried, so needed the dredger!
As the shells were immediately coverered during the tsunami event it should be possible to carbon date them to confirm their age.
We felt these people probably suffered a similar fate as the 42 Lincolnshire people did.
We certainly felt it was an amazing coincidence; or was it?
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