NCI RUNTON-EYES ALONG THE COAST
NCI Runton overlooks the famous Devils Throat, a notorious area of the North Sea feared and respected by ancient mariners.
East View from NCI Runton Lookout Station
Some of the hazards such as sandbanks, shipwrecks, and in our more modern times the addition of oil rigs and wind farms, can be a danger to shipping. This coastal area is still a very busy seaway, with marine traffic on passage from the large continental ports en route to various ports on the North Eastern seaboard of the United Kingdom. Many ships carry hazardous cargoes such as oil, chemical substances and LPG. These tankers are an everyday sighting from the National Coastwatch station. With some of the world's largest supertankers now discharging into smaller coastal tankers off Sole Bay in Suffolk, this has increased the number of vessels using our seaway.
NCI Runton commands a good view of the beach and cliffs between East Runton and Cromer. This very popular tourist location is particularly busy in the high season, hence there is always the potential for dangerous situations to develop. The sea and beach areas sometimes can have dangers that the public are not always aware of. The NCI lookout station is well placed to keep watch on the sea and beach areas, helping to keep our coastline safe. The Sheringham Shoal Wind Farm is also visable from the lookout when visability is good. At the nearest point the wind farm is 9.5 miles at 348 degrees from the lookout station and has 88 turbines generating green energy.
The new Lookout Station in May 2013, well under way to completion.
The Cromer area has had two Coastguard lookout Stations, the first in the top floor of a former hotel on the seafront, just east of the pier. This was used in the 1950s. The lookout was then moved to a former gun tower on the East Cliff. In the early nineties it was decided to close most of the lookout stations around our coast. Many were sold as holiday cottages or private houses. The lookout on the East Cliff was put up for sale, and is now a private residence. The Coastguard still has a presence in the area, but instead of the role of visual lookout it now has local units for the purpose of beach and cliff rescue. With the cessation of visual Coastguard lookouts throughout the UK, this left a gap in the safe keeping of our coastline.
In 1994 the National Coastwatch Institution (NCI) was set up to restore the visual watch element around the UK shoreline .This was brought about following two Cornish fishermen losing their lives near a recently closed lookout station. Two seafarers, Tony Starling Lark (Trinity House Pilot ) and Peter Rayment (a local cornish trawlerman ) looked at the possibility of re-opening some of the disused lookout stations that would then be manned by fully trained volunteers. This resulted in the first NCI station being opened at Bass Point in Cornwall later the same year. Gradually further stations have been re-opened around the UK coastline, providing that vital visual Eyes along the Coast surveillance.
With the two lookout stations at Cromer having been sold, it became clear that the only way a station could be re-opened was by creating a new lookout station. This being the case the search was on to find a suitable location for it in the Cromer area. With the National Coastwatch Institution having a few stations in the Norfolk area, a group of NCI volunteers set about the mammoth task of finding the location for a lookout. This was found at East Runton in North Norfolk. After obtaining the relevant planning permission for the Runton station, it was time for the station to be constructed. The building is now in place and the task of getting the station up and running is well under way.
NCI Lookout Station with Radar, Weather Station and Ramp Installed August 2013
NCI Runton will be manned by a highly trained team of volunteers from all walks of life. They are trained to meet the NCI and Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA) high standards. The volunteer watchkeeper remains vigilant at all times, observing the sea and coastline, using sophisticated equipment, such as radar, AIS and monitoring radio channels. However, there is still no substitute for eyes and ears. Accidents invariably happen and modern technology is a good nautical aid and helps improve safety, but this equipment cannot see flares, spot a swimmer in trouble or adults and children in danger, nor can it see pollution incidents. This is why our lookouts provide such a vital safety service along our coastline. Watchkeepers have been trained to act swiftly in an emergency, report to MCA and if required, co-operate with the search and rescue services.
NCI is a registered charity managed by a Board of Trustees with a constitution agreed by the Charities Commission. To date there are 49 stations on our coastline and hopefully Runton will be the 50th when it is fully commissioned.