Wednesday 7 December 2016

'It could go in half an hour's time' - couple forced to abandon dream home as 75 foot cliff crumbles

Fintan Lambe

Published 17/02/2016 | 10:59

The house perches precariously on the edge of the precipice
The house perches precariously on the edge of the precipice
Roddy Hickson
Roddy and Maureen Hickson

'That sound you hear is our maple floor being lifted up plank by plank.'

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Last Tuesday afternoon was a tough day for local couple Roddy and Maureen Hickson, as the fixtures and fittings were removed from their beloved home, and they abandoned it to the mercies of Mother Nature.

Roddy Hickson
Roddy Hickson

The last two winter storms have eaten away huge chunks of the already battered north Wexford coastline, and after Storm Imogen, the seaward end of the retired couple's home at Donaghmore, Ballygarrett, was left sitting precariously over the edge of a 75 foot high, sodden bank of sand and clay.

Roddy (72), and Maureen (68), are familiar to many locals and tourists as they ran one of the most popular restaurants in Wexford, Papa Rhodes in Ballycanew, for 18 years, until they retired two years ago.

As the rain continued to fall on Tuesday, they cleared out the last of their possessions, and said goodbye to the home that stood on the site for the last 38 years.

Roddy said that two other houses on their road are also in imminent danger of being lost, including a holiday home he built for his children, and a holiday home belonging to another family.

Roddy and Maureen Hickson
Roddy and Maureen Hickson

'It could go in half an hour's time or in 24 hours. It's a sorry situation,' he said. 'We're homeless at the moment, and we're staying with my son in his apartment in Dublin.'

Their possessions have been put into storage while they work out what to do next.

When the house at Donaghmore was built, there was around a quarter of an acre of land between it and the coastline. Winter storms in recent years have eaten away huge chunks of the softer areas of coastline around Wexford, and have already claimed several properties.

'Three weeks ago we were sitting here with friends, having dinner,' he said. 'If you had said then we wouldn't have a home in three weeks' time we wouldn't have believed you.'

'It's hard to believe it has come to this.' he continued. 'Twenty-eight inches of rain fell in the 31 days of January. The waves in the storm on January 25 and 26 threw stones up on our deck, but Imogen was the straw that broke the camel's back, and it took the whole bank away. There's nothing much we can do about it now. We've cried a lot, and now we're just trying to manage it as best we can.'

They have owned the house for 38 years, and lived in it as their home for the past 20 years. Their insurance company FBD has visited the site with engineers, drones and cameras, and negotiations are ongoing.

They left the house just before Imogen hit, as there were serious concerns the house wouldn't survive the storm. They began moving out their possessions early last week.

Both Roddy and Maureen have pleaded with members of the public to stay away from the site. 'It's very precarious as it is,' said Roddy. 'The storms have taken out so much ground underneath us, and it is still ongoing. The ground is like jelly. The sea level is about ten feet higher than normal because it's being pushed up by the Atlantic storms.'

'It's extremely dangerous,' added Maureen, emphasising the appeal to people to stay away from the area.

Wexford People

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