Pensioner spends 14 years moving stones to fight cliff erosion

February 7, 2011 | by | 1 Comment

A pensioner has spent 14 years and almost 9,000 hours of his retirement moving stones across a beach to prevent the erosion of sea cliffs.

Pensioner spends 14 years moving stones to fight cliff erosion

Dedicated Michael Kennedy, 73, began piling up rocks at his local beach in Old Hunstanton, Norfolk, as a way to keep fit.

But when he realised his work was preventing the erosion of the limestone and chalk cliffs he began lugging rocks for two hours every day.

Over the past 14 years he has put in a staggering 8,736 hours and shifted hundreds of thousands of stones weighing over 200 tonnes.

But divorcee Michael now fears he may have to end his campaign – because the beach has run out of rocks.

He said: ”It’s baffling, for 14 years this has never happened. I don’t know what’s going on.

”Usually every year the stones just come in with the sea, but this year we haven’t had any.

”I won’t give up, I’m going to carry on for as long as I can. I hope to still be doing it when I’m 100, but perhaps I’ll just do it four days then instead of six.

”I can’t stop now, it’s like a drug to me. It’s a real labour of love because I come down here whatever the weather, in spring, summer, autumn and winter.

”It keeps me fit and it’s not hard work, I love it.

”I used to walk everyday but that wasn’t enough so I started building up the sea defences. I’ve never had a bad back in my life.

”The bigger rocks go at the bottom and the smaller ones at the top because when the high tide comes the smaller ones wash away.”

Divorced father-of-two Michael moved to Hunstanton 15 years ago after retiring as a mechanical engineer on the London Underground.

He likes to spend two hours at the beach from 12 noon until 2pm so he can return home in time to watch Countdown on Channel 4.

For the past 14 years he has spent two hours a day, six days a week, at the beach and during every session he moves around 20kg of rock.

He shifts boulders and stones to form colour-coded piles at the foot of the cliffs and is now near to completing his fifth and largest pile.

Michael allows himself a break on Saturday when the Chelsea ”fanatic” watches football and other sports.

He also collects and bins rubbish on the beach and prides himself on having created a stone-free sandy beach for holidaymakers to enjoy.

Local people have dubbed Michael ”Fred Flintstone” because of his unusual hobby.

Hunstanton town mayor, Cllr Peter Mallam, said Michael had become ”quite a local legend” and holidaymakers seek him out.

He said: ”I have met him and seen what he’s doing, it’s fascinating.

”Everyone knows of the chap who collects the stones, he’s quite a local legend.

”He’s done a sterling effort. People seek him out and ask to see what he’s done.”

Hunstanton is famous for its red and white striped cliffs and the lower reddish limestone, known as ‘red chalk’, was formed in Lower Cretaceous era.

This is topped by a white chalk layer from the Upper Cretaceous era, and the soft stone at the base of the cliff is the most vulnerable to erosion.

Records show that Hunstanton’s famous cliffs have retreated more than 30m in little over a century at a rate of around 0.3m every year.

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  1. Doug Wootton says:

    my wife and i met mr kennedy this year on holiday in hunstanton. he is a very nice bloke. what he does keeps him fit and inspires curiousity in people. when talking to him i do not know if the people are having a laugh at him or he is laughing at us lot. carry on mick you are doing a great job.  you are a star mate.

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