Walking in Water

Walking in Water
Credit: Louise Gardner, Walking in Water

Local scientist undertakes a 15-day, 180-mile walk from Cambridge to Norwich... on land that may soon be underwater

West Norfolk resident Dr Charlie Gardner will be walking 180 miles from Cambridge to Norwich… almost entirely on land that is threatened by sea level rise.

The walk, which will last 15 days (24th September–8th October), will take him from Cambridge through the Fens to King’s Lynn, round the coast to Great Yarmouth, and then through the Norfolk Broads to Norwich.

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Map of East Anglia, with areas in red expected to be under the annual flood level by 2050 (Climatecentral.org). Much of this land is at or below sea level already, and will be increasingly difficult to defend. The Walking in Water route is shown in black, with circles marking the approximate start and end points of each day.

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The height of the oceans is increasing as a result of climate change, which is largely caused by burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas.

Sea levels are expected to rise significantly over the coming decades and could rise by one metre or more before the end of the century, which would risk inundating vast inland areas like the Fens and the Broads, and accelerate erosion on Europe’s fastest-retreating coastline around Happisburgh. Within the region, this would leave tens of thousands of people at risk of losing their homes.

However, while the threat to coastal communities from sea level rise seems obvious, few people are aware that the flood risk stretches into the heart of low-lying inland cities such as Cambridge and Norwich.

In other words, the landscapes of eastern England that we’re so familiar with could be completely transformed, within the lifetimes of people already born, unless serious and urgent action is taken on climate change.

Dr Gardner hopes that his walk will help raise awareness of this critical threat amongst people living in vulnerable areas, and encourage them to take action themselves to help save their homes and other much loved places.

He has created a website, walkinginwater.com, which contains a number of resources to help concerned residents take action themselves, such as by talking about the threat with their friends and family, reducing their own carbon footprints, transforming their workplaces, and campaigning for urgent government action.

“Our homes and many of the places we love are threatened by climate change,” said Dr Gardner, “yet the government is ignoring the urgent warnings of the global scientific community. We know what needs to be done to keep us safe, we need to stop burning fossil fuels, yet the government is still allowing new oil and gas exploration in the North Sea, opening new coal mines, and holding us back from moving on to a better, safer ways of doing things.”

“I feel like we’ve been abandoned by the people who are in charge of keeping us safe, but there is lots we can all do in our own lives to turn the situation around. That starts by recognising the threat and talking about it, so I hope my walk will help start a few conversations.”

The Ashwicken resident, who is an Associate Senior Lecturer at the University of Kent and influential climate activist, will be joined on the walk by a number of local residents and campaigners, as well as several current councillors on Norfolk County Council. 

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