Archive for the ‘Norfolk and Suffolk’ Category
The following article originally appeared in Canoe Kayak UK magazine…
East is East
Sea kayaking in the East Anglian flatlands
I’ve been lucky enough to paddle rivers and coastlines all over Britain, and indeed all over the world. Yet I’d never sat in a kayak in Britain, east of London. In fact I’d never even been there, if you don’t include taking the M20 to Dover, en route to Alps trips. Why not? Well…it’s obvious, isn’t it? The east of Britain is flat. Flat, flat, flat. Flat does of course mean; no whitewater, no interesting coastlines, and people who marry their cousins. Look at any map, or indeed your guidebook bookshelf…all of Britain’s ‘good bits’ for paddlers are blatantly located north, south and west. Thus, I had no plans to head east, any time soon. I smugly prided myself on never having visited the eastern flatlands.
The problem with firmly ingrained prejudices such as these, is that (just occasionally) they can of course be totally wrong, meaning that your ignorance is causing you to miss out on something special. Plus, it’s somewhat ludicrous to pompously regard yourself as a voyaging explorer type, on a mission to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before…and yet be unwilling to give East Anglia a try. Perhaps it was time for a rethink. I was fairly sure about the lack of whitewater; simple geography dictates this. I did however decide to keep an open mind about the coastlines (and indeed the cousins thing). The final push came when Franco from Pesda Press asked for volunteers to help with a proposed new sea kayaking guidebook to South East England and the Channel Islands. I put my hand up and agreed to challenge my preconceptions by going where no man has gone before…to investigate the shores of Norfolk and Suffolk. Okay, I realised that these places aren’t necessarily a barren alien wilderness, and that paddlers already lived and paddled there…but the point was, that if the sea kayaking was any good, then they were keeping it very quiet.
Several extended trips later, I’m delighted to admit that my prejudices about the quality of the sea kayaking in East Anglia were totally wrong, and I should also concede that I never met anyone who had married their cousin (and would admit to it). My friends and I were delighted to find that there are plenty of enjoyable sea kayaking adventures to had, and there are in fact some quite remarkable and beautiful coastal environments to explore, the like of which you will not see elsewhere in Britain.
Anyway, introduced hereafter are some of our findings.
The Wash is a 600 square kilometre estuary, which hadn’t previously scored high on our paddling wish lists. We soon happily reconsidered this. These shifting sand flats are home to about 3000 common seals, which are in turn vastly outnumbered by the wading birds, of which there are about a third of a million. At high tide (i.e. when you’d want to be paddling), these waders are squeezed together at the fringes of the Wash. Regardless of whether or not bird watching is your thing, seeing and hearing tens of thousands of feathery things pecking or flying at once makes for an unforgettable spectacle.
Of course, the Wash deserves respect. Legend has it that wild horses have been outrun by the incoming tide, and the converse scenario could rapidly strand you a long way from solid ground…
Norfolk’s Barrier Coast
The North Norfolk Heritage Coast is something very special. Visiting Norfolk’s quiet north shore allowed us to explore Europe’s finest example of a ‘barrier coast’, a landform more commonly encountered in places like Australia. Startlingly wide beaches, backed by high dunes, front an extensive inner band of salt marshes and creeks. A highlight is Scolt Head Island, an uninhabited six kilometre long barrier island. Natural England calls this landscape, ‘a last true wilderness in lowland Britain’. Everything is on a BIG scale, and the biggest feature of all is the Norfolk sky. We felt very small indeed.
The towns and villages along this coast are located some kilometres inland, connected to the actual coast by winding creeks and inlets. The pretty harbour of Wells-Next-The-Sea is for instance nowhere near the sea! An exception is the resort of Hunstanton at the western end of this coast, instantly recognisable by its two-tone cliffs. However, the sea retreats a long way from ‘Sunny Hunny’ at low tide. Paddling trips require a bit of forethought and head-scratching about how and when is best to launch and land, given these factors. Good luck with that, but trust us…this coast is worth the hassle.
Blakeney Point is a spit containing 82.5 million cubic feet of shingle. It terminates in a succession of smaller finger-like spits, creating a natural sheltered harbour which is home to large colonies of common and grey seals. Launch around high tide from quays at Morston or Blakeney to paddle out and visit the seals, which you will find basking on the ends of the spit in huge numbers. Keep a respectful distance whilst watching and appreciating the seals; any close approach or sudden movement will probably disturb them into entering the water en masse. Also find time to land and visit the Old Lifeboat House, the unmistakeable blue corrugated building on the spit.
Whilst this is an idyllic spot, unfortunately we found that some things are very rotten in the state of Denmark. The seals are visited at extremely close quarters by numerous chugging diesel boats carrying thousands of tourists daily. The seals seem inured to this constant harassment, whilst the boat owners (lacking irony) claim that kayakers disturb the seals. We received some misinformed and unwelcome ‘advice’, expect the same. Consider paddling on a rare occasion when there are no tours underway. Above all, be careful not to disturb the peace of the Blakeney seals any more than is already happening.
The Switzerland of East Anglia
We enjoyed paddling the coast between the resorts of Sheringham and Mundesley. Seals are a constant companion hereabouts, and the shallow reef beneath means that surf is a regular feature. These shores were promoted by Victorians as, ‘The Switzerland of East Anglia’, a reference to the Cromer Ridge, East Anglia’s highest point (at a breath-sapping 92 metres). The Ridge meets the sea as over twenty kilometres of cliffs. You read that right; cliffs in the flatlands! Retreating several metres annually, these clay cliffs crumble and slip, forming mud slicks and tottering spires; the remains of walls and houses stick out from their tops. At least one WWII pillbox has travelled the full distance to the base of the cliffs, intact. At Happisburgh, the cliffs have yielded Britain’s earliest human traces, from 700,000 years ago.
The town of Cromer with its shapely pier is an attractive interlude. Cromer crab is allegedly the best in Britain; we sampled this in the seafront cafes, all in the name of guidebook research.
The Norfolk Broads consist of about 200 kilometres of waterways, linking shallow lakes known as ‘broads’. These are actually flooded pits from medieval peat digging. Looming overhead, windmills recall a time when the surrounding fens were drained by natural power. This didn’t strike us as obvious sea kayaking territory, until we realised that the vast majority of this network is tidal. Rivers like the reed-lined Waveney and the more wooded Bure provide swift trips seaward whilst the tide is falling, with the broads along their length offering idyllic interludes. Real care needs to be taken, as the water flows remarkably fast and getting out can be surprisingly awkward; landing facilities are clearly designed for much bigger craft. The Broads are of course a popular holiday destination; boat hire companies rent all manner of powered and unpowered craft to all manner of folk; all human life was there, but it wasn’t hard to find peace and solitude. We enjoyed paddling right down to the open sea at Great Yarmouth, where Britain’s oldest working rollercoaster scared the bejesus out of me…
If you kiss enough frogs, sooner or later you’ll find some which don’t turn into Princesses (or Princes, whatever floats your boat). Some frogs are just frogs, no matter how much rouge you put on them. Lowestoft Ness in Suffolk is Britain’s easternmost point, which sounded on paper like something enticing and even romantic. The reality was somewhat different. The Ness is an enduring embarrassment to the folk of Lowestoft. Britain’s tallest wind turbine overshadows this headland, which is crowded with a sewage works, a gasworks, a waste tip and a fish processing plant. Marking the actual point is the grandly named ‘Euroscope’, a nondescript plaque in the ground. Even if you were still determined to investigate all of this by kayak, the shattered coastal defences (looking not unlike medieval torture implements) make landing here impractical. You couldn’t make this stuff up.
Britain’s ‘Area 51’
Hidden in a remote corner of Suffolk is the sixteen kilometre shingle spit of Orford Ness, known locally as ‘The Island’. Paddlers can launch at Slaughden or Orford to paddle down the tidal River Ore which forms the western side of the spit, and then back north along the seaward side. Tide flows are strong and this is a long committing trip with few escape points. So, why make the effort? Orford Ness is an impressive geological and ecological feature; the spit has formed over the centuries into successive ridges of shingle, home to thousands of nesting gulls and terns (landing is best avoided). However, what struck us most about this obscure spot was the Cold War legacy; until recent times, Orford Ness was a hush-hush top-secret military site, Britain’s ‘Area 51’.
Enormous derelict concrete edifices rise from the shingle; these were the ‘Atomic Weapons Research Establishment’, which carried out such inadvisable activities as stress-testing atom bombs. The most iconic buildings are the ‘pagodas’ which have no side walls, in order to release explosive energy. The vast forest of masts is a similarly bizarre site; during the Cold War this was Cobra Mist, an experimental radar for detecting Soviet missiles. It cost about a gadzillion dollars, but never worked due to signal jamming from Russian trawlers in the North Sea. Cobra Mist has been associated with UFO sightings; conspiracy theorists claim that this is what it was really about…
There is perhaps no stranger landscape in the entire UK, and kayaks offer one of the best ways to view it.
If you haven’t already paddled at any of these locations, or if you share any of my former prejudices about East Anglia, then you are strongly recommended to consider a sea kayaking trip which begins by driving east. Go on…try it just once, on the off chance that you are missing something. As the old adage goes, “You should try everything once except incest and folk-dancing.”* Prejudices and preconceptions are a bad thing, and should always be challenged. I for one have really had my eyes opened. So much so in fact, that my next trip east might even be to…Essex. Well, maybe.
*It would be too cheap a shot, to use that quote as the basis for an East Anglia joke.
SE England & Channel Islands, 50 great sea kayak voyages – this guidebook is being researched and written by a number of active paddlers, and will be published by Pesda Press in 2013. As the title implies, it will cover considerably more than just Norfolk and Suffolk.
Norfolk & Suffolk from Time Out Guides – the best general guidebook to the area we found, although it avoids clarifying whether the locals marry their cousins.
Tidal Havens of the Wash and Humber by Henry Irving – this booklet is the key to understanding the tides and inlets of North Norfolk.
East Coast Pilot by Colin Jarman and East Coast Rivers Cruising Companion by Janet Harber – between them, these two books offer plenty of well presented info about the coast, creeks and harbours in Suffolk and further south.
Complete Guide to the Broads by Bridget Lely, and Collins Norfolk Broads Waterways Guide –these will tell you all you need to paddle on the Broads, the latter book including excellent maps.
www.southwestseakayaking.co.uk – the author’s blog which (despite the title) includes many more notes and photos about East Anglia.
www.facebook.com/groups/308991639124522/ - local sea kayakers, proving that they do have the internet in East Anglia.
…and west is west, and never the twain shall meet’. Kipling.
This month’s issue of Canoe Kayak UK magazine includes a feature I wrote on sea kayaking in East Anglia. In the article I basically I try to summarise what we learned about the paddling possibilities of Norfolk and Suffolk through our research for Pesda Press’s upcoming ‘South East Sea Kayaking’ guidebook, whilst keeping the cousin-marrying jokes to a respectable minimum.
Hope it is of interest.
Above and below are some random images from our splendid research trips (i.e. holidays) out east…
This article was originally published in Canoe Kayak UK magazine…
Escape from Britain!
Eight great offshore adventures
Everyone who has tried sea kayaking knows that it takes you to special places. Locations which unlucky uninitiated folk (‘Muggles’) can’t hope to reach or perhaps won’t even be aware of. As master of your own little craft, a brave new world of exploration awaits you if you simply poke the bow of your kayak away from the beach and paddle off. Our British coast is a particularly wonderful place to explore by paddle power, with several lifetimes’ worth of private and secret spots awaiting discovery. Perhaps the most alluring are those which lie just offshore, within plain view but beyond touch. British sea kayakers are simply blessed in this respect; a galaxy of reefs, rocks and islands sit offshore, awaiting your visit. Dipping briefly into pretension and cheap psychology (and why not?)…approaching such inaccessible places satisfies a primal urge to escape humdrum everyday life and head out to explore what’s over the horizon or around the corner, perhaps the same urge which drove humans to the Poles and the Moon. Yet, these places are right there on hand, waiting for you at this very moment; remember that nowhere in Britain is more than 90 minutes’ drive from the seashore, and escaping from Britain is a simple matter of making a few paddles strokes from that shore!
This article suggests some great offshore paddling trips, all accessed from the mainland coast of Britain. Each is reachable by kayak in a daytrip, although naturally some are more serious undertakings than others. Popular areas such as Anglesey and Scotland’s Hebridean Islands have been ignored as they are already well publicised. These offshore paddles are simply a selection of the author’s personal favourites. There isn’t quite enough information in this article to plan and complete each paddle, and this is entirely deliberate. Hopefully there is just enough information here to encourage you to head to a map, or the internet, and start formulating your own ‘escape plan’. There are of course many more similarly amazing offshore places to be discovered…don’t let this article deter you from seeking them out, but do share whatever you find with us!
Before venturing forth to escape Britain and leave our shores behind, you should ensure that you are appropriately experienced and equipped for offshore padding, and that you have taken proper consideration of the weather and tidal conditions on the day. But you already knew that, right? If you want to learn more about such things, the ‘sea kayaking’ chapter of the ‘BCU Handbook’ published by Pesda Press is as good a starting point as any. Another important consideration is the impact that your offshore escape will have on the local flora and fauna; seek up to date advice about nesting seasons, landing restrictions and suchlike.
* Accessible –locations reachable by a short paddle offshore, with relatively sheltered waters to cross. However, appropriate equipment should still be carried, and weather and tide will always need careful consideration. Plenty of opportunities to land.
** Challenging – Destinations achievable by intermediate sea kayakers who have planned and prepared carefully to handle exposed waters and tidal conditions. Limited opportunities to land and stretch legs.
*** Aspirational – Offshore adventures requiring good fitness due to the mileage involved, and precise planning to take account of tides, shipping and weather conditions. For experienced and confident sea kayakers only. Landing is difficult or impossible.
Escape to…chalk sea stacks
Old Harry Rocks *
Location: Studland Bay, Dorset
Launch point: Knoll Beach, Studland Bay (SZ O34836)
Distance offshore/ from launch point: 100m/ 3km
Old Harry Rocks are easily reached from any of the car parks in sandy Studland Bay. Escape from the nudists and the anchored yachts and follow the dazzling white cliffs south around the bay until you reach this spectacular chain of chalk stacks. The walkers high above the nearby cliffs will peer down in envy at your ability to explore this inaccessible place. Caves and tunnels honeycomb the stacks, take time to check them all out. It is always possible to land, explore on foot and perhaps enjoy a picnic. Note that there is a tide race at the seaward end of the stacks; stay well clear unless you are confident in moving water. One more (occasional hazard) is the wake of Seacat ferries departing Poole; shortly after one has chugged past, a series of steep waves will surge into the stacks and this is not a good time to be inside the tunnels! Incidentally, the name ‘Old Harry’ is a euphemism for the Devil; Harry had a ‘wife’ close by, but this stack collapsed into the sea in 1896. Having come this far, you’ll probably be tempted to explore the equally impressive stacks located nearby beneath the cliffs stretching south of Old Harry.
Escape to…a Cornish castle
St Michael’s Mount *
Location: Mount’s Bay, South Cornwall
Launch point: Marazion (SW 515308)
Distance offshore/ from launch point: 800m/ 800m
With its church and castle reaching skywards atop a 90m conical rock, the island of St Michael’s Mount is the most recognisable landmark in Cornwall. The island has been a religious site since the fifth century, when local fishermen experienced a vision of St Michael (after too much beer?). Various fortifications have also sprung up, latterly a decorative Victorian castle. The island is actually accessible on foot from Marazion by a tidal causeway which is covered for two hours either side of high tide. Paddle around the island and explore the far side at your leisure, then time your landing in the harbour as the causeway is cut off. This will allow you to stretch your legs and enjoy the gardens and castle in relative peace and quiet without the presence of kayak-less tourists. The castle belongs to the National Trust (brace yourself for the entrance fee) and is filled with an eclectic mix of stately rooms and eccentric artefacts, including mummified cats and samurai armour.
Flat Holm Island**
Location: Severn Estuary, South Wales
Launch point: Swanbridge (ST 167674)
Distance offshore/ from launch point: 4.5km/ 6km
Cardiff might not sound like the likeliest destination for an offshore escape, but it just so happens that the city limits encompass a small offshore island, Flat Holm. The paddle to Flat Holm from outside the Captain’s Wife Pub at Swanbridge isn’t long, but crosses some very strong tidal flows; this is a trip requiring solid planning and settled weather. Flat Holm is recognised by its flat profile and tall lighthouse and is not to be confused with the steep-sided island further away, unsurprisingly named Steep Holm. A paddle around the island will reveal numerous concrete fortifications overlooking the tidal rapids; these relics date from the Victorian era. The landing beach on the north side of the isle gets quite small at high tide, so approach with care and carry your kayaks high above the tide line. The island’s residents include the wardens who greet you, and (less welcomingly) 4000 pairs of shrieking, aggressive black-backed gulls. Wear a brimmed hat as the gulls have a tendency of using you for dive-bombing target practice! It is possible to stay in the farmhouse on the island with prior arrangement (see www.flatholmisland.com); one surprising bonus of this is the great night-time view of Cardiff proper, across the water.
Escape to…a rock lighthouse
South Bishop Rock ***
Location: St David’s Peninsula, Pembrokeshire, South West Wales
Launch point: Whitesands Bay (SM 733271)
Distance offshore/ from launch point: 6.5km/ 9.5km
South Bishop Rock, topped by its squat lighthouse, can be spied from St David’s Head, the most westerly point of the Welsh mainland. This sheer-sided rock is the most distant of the Bishops and Clerks, an isolated chain of rocky islets inhabited only by seals, puffins, razorbills and guillemots. The seas surrounding the rocks throng with porpoises, instantly recognisable by the way in which their dorsal fin distinctively ‘rolls’ along the sea’s surface. The tidal flows here on the outer rim of Pembrokeshire are severe; the famous ‘Bitches’ tidal rapid is nearby and there is plenty of rough water. This trip is only for those confident to use the flows to time their paddle precisely to both make it to the South Bishop (the next stop is probably Ireland!), and to return safely. It is only possible to land and drag kayaks ashore in the calmest of conditions. From the small landing platform, a precarious set of steps lead up through a gulley in the rock to the summit. If you are lucky enough to experience such conditions, you’ll get to sit below the lighthouse and enjoy one of the finest lunch spot views in Britain, and you’ll almost certainly have it to yourself…
Escape to…a secret archipelago
The Islands of Fleet *
Location: Fleet Bay, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland
Launch point: Mossyards (NX 551519)
Distance offshore/ from launch point: 500m/ 2.5km
Hidden away in a quiet corner of south-west Scotland and barely glimpsed from the A75 are the three tiny Islands of Fleet; Murray’s Isles, Ardwall Isle and Barlocco Isle. The three low-lying isles are real gems in an area already blessed with lovely coastlines. They are located on the fringes of shallow Fleet Bay, the estuary of a river called the Water of Fleet. Approach the isles quietly and sensitively; the islands have significant populations of nesting seabirds whom you really don’t want to scare away from their eggs if you paddle too close. Seals will follow you to investigate as you paddle in and around the seaweed-strewn reefs which fringe each isle. This is a magical place for pottering about or simply drifting. Landing is possible in various places, but again be careful that your wandering won’t disturb the avian inhabitants. Time your paddle from the car park near the campsite at Mossyards around high tide. At low tide, the Fleet estuary dries out and it becomes possible to walk to and between some of the isles. Speaking hypothetically, if you were to launch late in the day from Mossyards, an hour or two before low tide…then you’d probably return to find that the launch beach was now a mile or two wide, and you’d probably end up having to head a mile or two further down the coast to land and have to walk back to the car in the dark. This is all hypothetical, however…
Escape to…a seabird city
Bass Rock **
Location: Firth of Forth, East Lothian, Scotland
Launch point: North Berwick (ST 168674)
Distance offshore/ from launch point: 2km/ 4.5km
The Bass is a hefty plug of volcanic rock, rising incongruously from the Firth of Forth. Its impressively soaring cliffs (and some cavernous tunnels) would draw kayakers anyway, but they are not what you’ll remember best. Anyone lucky enough to find good weather to paddle out beyond the reefs and waves of North Berwick to visit Bass Rock, will most distinctly remember the smell. Gannets are Britain’s largest seabird, and 150,000 of them make quite a stench. Gannets are always a breathtaking sight, but here at Bass Rock you are witnessing nothing less than a gannet city. These huge birds occupy every spare inch of space on the rock, and the noise and clamour of their constant activity has to be experienced to be believed. They almost blot out the skies above as they wheel in dense circles, trying to spot fish below. Spying prey, they plummet seaward en masse, folding back their wings to enter the water in sleek dart-shapes. Go see, be astonished. Do stay alert, however…this is an exposed spot with tidal flows and large ships passing through to take into account.
Escape to…a barrier island
Scolt Head Island *
Location: North Norfolk
Launch point: Brancaster Staithe (TF 793445) or Burnham Overy Staithe (TF 845444)
Distance offshore/ from launch point: 500m/ 2km
Scolt Head Island is the gem of the North Norfolk Heritage Coast, a vast and unspoiled expanse of sandy shore hidden from sight behind Norfolk’s rather upmarket resort towns (dubbed ‘Chelsea-on-Sea’). The paddle across to the island is a short one, only being practical around high tide. This is Britain’s finest example of a ‘barrier’ island, a landform more common in exotic locations such as Australia. A line of high sand dunes protects the expansive salt marshes behind from the sea’s full force. The island stretches six kilometres long, with little going on…you’ve just successfully escaped the holidaying crowds of north Norfolk using your kayak as a getaway vehicle! The solitude is however seriously disturbed by the tens of thousands of geese who roost in autumn and winter, and by the shrieking terns which nest at the western end (avoid landing here). A paddle right around the island is possible with careful timing to ensure that there is deep enough water in the maze of channels on the landward side. At the western tip of Scolt Head Island, look out for the shipwreck which becomes visible as the tide falls. This genuinely wild island is a National Nature Reserve, treat with respect and leave no trace of your visit.
Escape to…rusting wartime ruins
Redsands Fort ***
Location: Thames Estuary, Kent
Launch point: Warden’s Point, Sheerness (TQ 980748)
Distance offshore/ from launch point: 9km/ 15 km
Who says that offshore adventures must always involve rocks or islands? This very different escape leads paddlers to some haunting manmade relics. The long paddle down the Thames Estuary to Redsands Fort is best planned to ride the ebb tide out from Sheerness, and the flood tide back. This remarkable Fort consists of seven interconnected rusty towers rearing on stilts above the water, one of several similar ‘Maunsell Forts’ (named after their designer) erected during WWII to shoot down German bombers approaching London up the Thames. The Guardian newspaper described them as “some of Britain’s most surreal and hauntingly beautiful architectural relics”. Paddlers who have visited them tend to be less articulate, muttering descriptions like “Something out of ‘War of the Worlds’” and “Those walking things from ‘Star Wars’”. All agree that visiting the forts is an indefinably special experience. Plan your route carefully and pay close attention to buoys…Redsands Fort is just south of the main shipping channel into London and straying into the path of a container ship would ruin your day. Landing at the forts isn’t really practical, so be prepared to spend a fair while out on the water.
My photos and writing appear in two publications this month…
* I contributed photos to an article on identifying sea birds in Ocean Paddler magazine.
* I contributed an article and photos outlining eight great offshore paddles to Canoe Kayak UK magazine.
I hope these contributions are of interest…
Pictured below is St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall and Scolt Head Island in Norfolk…both feature in the CKUK article.
In 1998, Norfolk man John Lorimer discovered a seven metre long oval of 55 oak posts in the tidal mud at Holme-next-the-Sea, encircling an inverted oak trunk. This Bronze Age ritual site had been uncovered beneath an eroding ancient peat layer.
Excavations began, before the site eroded away. The press showed an uncharacteristic interest in Prehistoric archaeology and (inaccurately) dubbed the site ‘Seahenge’. An international media circus descended on this National Nature Reserve, damaging the ecology and disrupting local activity. Some slightly unhinged New Age types also arrived and attempted to halt the excavation.
After the dust finally settled, studies of the oak remnants revealed that Seahenge was constructed on marshland behind sand dunes in 2049 BC, using exactly fifty axes. Seahenge is now displayed in Kings Lynn Museum. A second, larger monument was subsequently discovered close by, but kept secret! More ‘Seahenges’ from this ritual landscape will surface as the peat erodes, but if any are currently known of, be assured that no one local will tell you…
For more information, archaeologist Francis Pryor’s book is recommended…
Images of Great Yarmouth. Well, why not.
Seen on a quiet Norfolk beach.
These photos are of the Roman fort of Gariannonum, built overlooking the tidal lake of Breydon Water in Norfolk. Built in the third century, it originally guarded a much more extensive estuary.
Gariannonum is one of the enormous ‘Saxon Shore Forts’. In cAD 395, an Imperial register ‘Notitia Dignitatum’ described the ‘Saxon Shore Forts’, under the command of the ‘Count of the Saxon Shore’. Remains of all eleven forts survive, located beside river mouths and natural harbours from Brancaster in Norfolk to Portchester in Hampshire. Strikingly similar to castles built 900 years later, they are among the largest and best preserved Roman constructions in Britain.
Their given title seems to suggest that they were built to guard against Saxon hordes from across the Channel, as the Roman Empire began to crumble. However, their construction actually predated any such attacks. Archaeologists have hotly debated what exactly their function was…
As well as having a very nice pier, Cromer in Norfolk is also famous for the locally caught crab, claimed to be the best in the UK.
It’s a little known fact that one of my sisters is actually a published expert on this topic.
Cromer’s pleasure pier was built in 1901, with a lifeboat station added on the end. It was breached in 1940, lest the Nazis invaded via it. It was then apparently realised that the lifeboat station couldn’t be reached, so it was bridged again! The current huge RNLI shed was built in 1998.
Cromer was originally a mile inland from the Norfolk coast, until erosion provided it with a seafront during the eighteenth century and it became a resort.
Paddling the tidal River Waveney in the Norfolk Broads, you see all sorts of things. But mainly, you see reeds.
The Old Lifeboat House on the shingle spit of Blakeney Point in Norfolk. It belongs to University College London. It was opened as a lifeboat station in 1898, but sold off to the University in 1910, after shifting shingle made its location less than ideal.
Kayakers can land here and explore the surrounding shingles, salt marshes and dunes by path. The information displays and general ambience add up to a somewhat more welcoming experience than that to be found out at the end of Blakeney Point.