The software I use presents the walks in reverse date order, i.e., most recent first. To present the walks in chronological order I have reversed the dates to present the walks in the order in which they were walked. For the actual date of the individual walks see the section Stages of the Walk
Early events seemed promising when we were on time for the train in Norwich and managed to catch the bus in North Walsham to arrive in Mundesley just after 11.00am. After a short walk down to the beach where we had finished on our last outing, we had a quick lunch in the local cafe, filled the water bottles and were soon on the beach heading for our first destination and a night's camping at Walnut Farm, just below Waxham.
Coastal erosion is a continuing problem for the whole of this east coast section from Lincolnshire, through Norfolk and Suffolk and on in to Essex and Kent. The clay and soil cliffs on this particular stretch are no match for the enormous and ferocious seas that can find landfall here and whole streets of houses, churches, shops and other business ventures have all toppled off the cliffs and in to the embrace of the sea over the years. It is not a new problem!
Similar events have happened at least twice since then in January 1978 and again in January 1983, with the latter striking hard in Scotland. While the consequences were not as drastic as the 1953 event, considerable damage was caused and continues to be caused by flooding. As well as the damage to people and buildings, thousands of acres of arable land were damaged and polluted by the salt-laden sea and livestock were lost. The 1983 event also saw the first deployment of the Thames Barrier to protect London.
Followiing the 1953 disaster, more attention was given to protecting vulnerable coastlines and that attention has been more focussed recently as we come to terms with rising sea levels, atmospheric temperature variations and oscillations of atmospheric pressure as a consequence of global warming. It is no surprise, therefore, to find sea defences are still the dominant feature of the beaches in Mundesley and elsewhere on this coastline in various shapes and forms including the ubiquitous groynes, revetments, concrete sea walls and enormous granite rocks.
However, the current level of protection is still inadequate and the sea continues to present a threat and to make serious inroads landward along this stretch of coast. While local authorities have a statutory duty to plan, manage and maintain the defence infrastructure, it is central government that provides the main money for capital expenditure. More recently there has been an expectation that other parties, i.e., business will contribute. As the local communities are finding out, the criteria to access funding is very difficult to meet for small local communities where there may not be a business presence, as opposed to, for example, the City of London where millions were spent on the Thames Barrier.
The gas plant is protected by a low-level concrete apron backed by an inclined concrete face with a wave wall at the top. In need of constant maintenance, it is considered by Shell, one of the main operators of the plant, as inadequate. During a sea surge in 2013, almost ten metres of cliff was lost just in front of the Shell terminal. Shell now want want to build a temporary 400m-long wall, reaching six metres above sea level, in front of its terminal, near the cliff base, while they go through the process of planning for a more permanent defence. The problem is that such defences often have negative consequences for people downdrift of the defences, in this case the villagers of Bacton, Walcot and Happisburgh.
The skies were clear and blue, albeit there was a slightly snell wind blowing that served to keep us cool. At this point, we are still walking on the Norfolk Coast Path, which terminates in the coastal village of Sea Palling. Just over sixty-two miles in length, the path was opened in 1986. Apart from ourselves and the odd fisherman or dog walker the beaches were generally empty except immediately in front of the small seaside villages that dot the coast.
In the distance we could the striking west tower of the 15th century St Mary's church in Happisburgh (pronounced Hazebro). As well as the tower, the church contains a 15th century octagonal baptisimal font. The font panels has angels holding musical instruments alternating with symbols of the Evangelists; an eagle for St John, a lion for St Mark, an ox for St Luke, and a man for St Matthew. There has been a church on the site since the 11C, but it was almost completely rebuilt in the 15C.
The second lighthouse (Low Light), which was slightly smaller was demolished in 1883 before it could be lost due to coastal erosion. As a pair,the lights served as 'range lights' to assist ships to go around the enormous Haisborough sandbank. In 1987, the lighthouse was declared redundant and surplus to requirements by Trinity House. A 'Friends' of the lighthouse group was established locally to save the lighthouse and following the passage of necessary legislation through the Houses of Parliament responsibility for the high light was eventually passed to THE HAPPISBURGH LIGHTHOUSE TRUST, established as a local lighthouse authority to become the only independently run operational lighthouse in Great Britain.
As we walked we were taken by a series of poles just off the beach, obviously marking some kind of feature that, with the high tide, were initially submerged. As we walked we could see where the tide had retreated, that it was a series of nine offshore breakwaters, constructed by the Environment Agency to protect the coast around Sea Palling. The purpose of the breakwaters is to prevent storm waves from reaching the beach and, to allow a wider beach to develop behind the breakwaters.
In the later Spring months and early summer, care is needed walking the dunes as they can also be home to adders, the only venemous snake in the British Isles. In the dunes and on the clifftop, numerous species of butterfly and moth are to be found.
Brograve is a chicken farm, but when we walked through it the farm was deserted and all the large barn-like structures were empty and open to the elements. With recent concerns regarding avian flu, birds are having to be kept indoors. If free range birds are indoors over a certain period of time they lose their 'free range' label, which consequently reduces their value to the retailer. The company were, I suspect, taking advantage of the situation to complete one of the regular and routine deep cleans that are required where birds are farmed intensively and waiting for the ban to be lifted before re-stocking. Had there been people around we would not have been given access to the farm and would have needed to go the long way round to our campsite.
We continued up the lane to step on to a road where we were able to immediately access the Walnut Farm 'dog walk' path that led us directly in to the campsite. We checked in, set up, cooked tea and then headed off to use the very good toilet and shower facilities that are on site. We were carrying various packets of flavoured, cooked rice that with a packet of corn wraps or chappatis makes an excellent and quick (two and a half minutes) meal.
It had been a long day from when we had set off from Norwich and before too long we were settled down for the night to dream of all the walks we had in front of us.