Street art floods Swanage to protect from winter storms

Once grey and drab, the concrete flood defence barrier along Swanage’s seafront in Dorset, has been brightened up, making it easier to spot for those with a visual impairment.

The temporary blocks have in the past been a bit of an eyesore and not that easy to distinguish from the pavement, but thanks to the Environment Agency they have been transformed into an art trail aptly called Flooding Swanage with Art.

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Art on flood defence

The blocks are now very visible and less of a trip hazard

Following Storm Babet in the lower High Street

Not all the blocks could be installed before Storm Babet in October 2023 flooded the lower High Street leaving debris across the road

Temporary solution

The concrete blocks are a temporary solution to prevent flooding along the lower High Street, The Square and by The Mowlem slipway. They are installed every year but this autumn is 2023, Storm Babet swept in before they were all in place, allowing the sea to overtop onto the roads.

The plan by the Environment Agency and Dorset Council, in conjunction with Swanage Town Council is to invest in a permanent barrier to prevent flooding so it’s always in place when needed.

But what it will look like needs the buy-in of the people in Swanage. The concept behind the art trail is partly to grab everyone’s attention prior to the public consultation expected in spring/summer 2024.

Art on flood defence

Going down a storm – the new colourful art work by The Mowlem slipway

Art on flood defence

A seagull saunters along unaware of the crocodile below!

Art on flood defence

Sara Parker from Dorset Coast Forum has led on the project achieving a great result in just eight weeks

“Swanage should be extremely proud”

Sara Parker from the consultants Dorset Coast Forum is leading on the community engagement of the flood and coastal erosion risk management project. She said:

“The art trail idea is a positive way of responding to the needs of the visually impaired but it’s also raising awareness of the permanent flood protection solution for Swanage.

“Hopefully this will result in more people being interested and engaged in the designs for the flood defence when they are made available in 2024.

“Just while we’ve been installing the painted panels, we’ve had lots of people stopping to ask questions. They’re very complimentary about the art work and keen to know more about the issues behind the project.

“Swanage should be extremely proud to have had a disability audit completed and then respond by making the blocks more visible. It’s been a massive effort from all the artists, the school pupils and youth groups who’ve helped with the designs, the local sponsors and the team from Swanage Town Council who’ve done a great job installing the panels over three days in the wind and rain!”

Art on flood defence

Stephen Diffey (left) and Tim Lambert (right) from Swanage Town Council put the last panel in place

Art on flood barrier

It took the Swanage Town Council team, which included Mark Watson, three days to install all the panels, often battling against the wind and rain

Art on flood defence

The local sponsors include The East Bar, Swanage and Purbeck Rotary, Shoreside shop, The Ship Inn, and Chococo

Meet the artists

Sara put out a plea on social media for any willing artists who wanted to volunteer for the project and those who responded included Gina Marshall, Andy Knill, Lynne Dinmore, Sophie Jenkins, Jessamy Kelly and Tom Phillips. Their artwork is now prominently displayed along the seafront and will be able to be viewed throughout the winter.

A chance to meet the artists and hear all about the project will be at 3.30 pm on Friday 3rd November at The Square in Swanage, when the new art trail Flooding Swanage with Art will be officially opened by the town mayor Tina Foster. Everyone is welcome to come along.

As a permanent flood protection solution isn’t expected to be in place in Swanage until autumn 2025 at the earliest, it’s hoped that there will be a second chance to view the panels in 2023/4.

Tom Phillips with flood defence artwork

Artist Tom Phillips working in his studio

Art on flood defence

Tom’s finished artwork on display in The Square

Art on flood defence

A warning never to bother with an umbrella on Swanage seafront!

Further information

Art on flood defence

A seagull drops in for a look

Art on flood defence

This dog is more interested in posing for a picture than studying the artwork!

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