Frampton Marsh to Little Walsingham / Blakeney to Happisburgh / Sea Palling to Burgh Castle

Sea Palling

Sea PallingThere are holiday flats and beach chalets at Eccles on Sea but the sea claimed the old village and its church in 1895 and remains of it still lie on the beach.

A narrow lane leads to the sands at Cart Gap.

We went down a lane at Sea Palling to a concrete ramp that leads over the high dunes to a sandy beach. Tacky amusements and a carpark for 1000 cars complete the depressing scene.


Since much of the land between Happisburgh and Winterton on Sea is below sea level, all that prevents the sea from flooding into the Broads is a single sea wall capped by dunes and stabilized by plants such as marram grass, which has long, binding roots. In areas the dunes are being fenced off, marram grass is being replanted, and rows of trees are being planted in the sand as temporary stabilisers.

offshore 'reefs'In order to safeguard the structural stability of the wall, a massive coastal defence programme was launched in 1994, involving the construction of a series of offshore 'reefs'. It is hoped that these long term measures will ensure that the foreshore levels of sand and shingle are retained and, as a result, they will continue to act as a protective barrier between the sea and the existing wall.

sea defences

In East Anglia, 60% or more of the coast is protected in some way; and some 80% of Norfolk alone is protected. There must be side effects. Left to nature, eroded sediment will be carried along the coast to form natural sea defences elsewhere. Without this, other parts of the coastline will therefore erode faster. Eventually, either the problem is pushed into someone else's territory, or we end up with a concrete coastline.


thatched barnThe village's farmhouse, known as Waxham Hall, has an encircling wall with corner turrets and a splendid 15th century gatehouse. Unfortunately it has been left to decay and the gate is boarded up with corrugated iron.

The 176ft barn is the longest thatched barn in Norfolk but it was devastated by the 1997 gales. The straw had to be replaced but almost all of the roof timbers were good enough to keep.


All Saints' ChurchThe former smuggling village of Horsey is only just above sea level and has fought a constant battle with it. The Saxon All Saints' Church, hidden beneath trees, has a thatched roof, and its round tower is one of 119 such towers in Norfolk.

Horsey Windpum

Horsey Windpump was built in 1912 to drain surplus water from agricultural land and has since been acquired and restored by the National Trust. The gallery at the top of the windpump offers views towards the sea, and inland across a wild, watery landscape.

Brackish Horsey Mere is part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest and is a breeding ground for geese, osprey, marsh harriers and many species of wildfowl and waders. There are a lot of small boats on the water as well.

West Somerton

sarcophagusThis is a quiet village almost 2 miles from the sea. In 1820, the village was the birthplace of Robert Hales, the 'Norfolk Giant’, who grew to 7ft 8in and weighed more than 32 stone. His remains are buried in a very large sarcophagus in the churchyard of St Mary the Virgin with its round Norman tower.

wind turbines

The church itself is dwarfed by an avenue of tall wind turbines that lie just outside the official Broads National Park. It is quite a bizarre sight.

At Winterton on Sea, north of the beach there are high, grassy sands of Winterton Dunes National Nature Reserve, where rare natterjack toads may be seen along with many species of birds. Signs warn that adders are common in the area so I didn't stay for long!


sandy beach

We reached the really grim resorts of Hemsby, Newport and California. The road to the coast leads past ghastly holiday camps and amusement arcades to a wide, sandy beach scattered with stones and litter and backed by a valley running between high sand dunes.

HemsbyAs a teenager I spent a jolly week in one of these places, but when I found it, it had decayed into a ‘rent your own chalet’ nightmare. (The camp opposite still looked better!) We were compelled to take a few pictures and retreated as quickly as possible.


CaisterCaister was once a thriving port, built around AD 125 to handle trade between Norfolk and the Rhineland. Very little is left of the Roman Town, an excavated part of the old port that includes a defensive wall and the south gateway. Now it is a town of holiday camps and caravan parks.

Caister Castle

West of the town is the splendid ruin of Caister Castle, built in the 1430s by Sir John Fastolf, who led the English archers at Agincourt in 1415. It was destroyed by fire in the 16th century. There is a Motor Museum in the grounds and the only way to visit the castle is to pay £5 to go into the museum - we didn't bother as it looked like 'screaming kids-ville'.

Great Yarmouth

Britannia PierThis is East Anglia's biggest and brashest resort, with 4 miles of cockneyfied sea front, sandy beach and two piers. It was originally a small fishermen's settlement on a sandbank in the estuary of three rivers. It developed into a large port where herring drifters landed their catches and the curing houses smoked the famous Yarmouth bloaters.


Merchants from all over Europe came to the medieval Free Herring Fair, which lasted for 40 days. Before World War I over a thousand fishing boats plied from Yarmouth, but over fishing took its toll and the port turned to servicing North Sea oil and gas operations.

From the greyhound stadium in the north, a wide street conveys you pass the private hotels, tennis courts and bowling green to the Silver Slipper Amusements and the Britannia Pier. There are wide sands around the pier and we could imagine the average person's ability to walk a maximum of 200 yards from their car before plonking themselves and their paraphernalia down cheek by jowl with a neighbour.

Nelson's Monument

On past the Arnold Palmer crazy golf, Amazonia, the Sea Life Centre and Winter Gardens to the Wellington Pier and then the 'Pleasure Beach' with big Roller Coaster rides.

Suddenly the scenery changes to a vast industrial park; where buried amidst gas holders and pylons is the 144ft Nelson's Monument, a memorial to Norfolk's greatest hero. Amidst all of this is a dismal shopping centre where we had a lousy cup of coffee and a plastic cake.

quayAlong the South Quay are fine examples of merchants' houses. The grand 18th century mansion of John Andrews, the herring king, later became the Customs House and is now the Town Hall. The 13th century Tollhouse with its dungeons, was once a courthouse and prison, but is now a museum. The Elizabethan House is a lovely museum of 19th century home life.

Running inland from the quayside were the old, cramped alleys called the 'Rows', so narrow that a special horse drawn vehicle called a troll cart, was developed for moving goods in the town. In 1804 they were numbered, from Row 1 to Row 145.

TollhouseYarmouth was badly damaged by bombing during World War II, but parts of the Rows survived, and we took a tour of the Old Merchant's House and Row 111 Houses. All the buildings are warrens of rooms and spiral stairs. The Old Merchant's House has splendid plaster ceilings.

North West Tower

Sections of the medieval town walls also survive, and we followed the Heritage Walk, visiting the museum at the North West Tower and the ruins of Greyfriars Cloisters.

GorlestonQuieter than Yarmouth, the resort of Gorleston has smaller amusement arcades and tat, and a sandy beach. The narrow road spirals to the cliff top where there are some pretty gardens and a golf course. The mouth of the River Yar is a good place to watch ships and boats sailing in and out of Yarmouth.

Burgh Castle

To the west is Breydon Water whose main channel is busy with pleasure craft in the summer. The Breydon Water Nature Reserve is an area of mud flats. An incredibly straight road runs to the east passing ditches and windpumps.

Burgh Castle

We drove to Burgh Castle and parked by the church so we could walk down to the Roman fort overlooking Breydon Water. These impressive walls have projecting bastions and were built in the 3rd century to defend the coast from Saxon raiders. Three walls remain but the forth fell down the hillside.

Berney Arms WindmillThe view was lovely and we could see pleasure boats sailing towards Berney Arms Pub for lunch. The only way to reach the 7-floor windmill is by rail - a request stop - by water, or by a long footpath. It was built to grind a constituent of cement but was then used to pump water until 1951.

Norwich and the Broads

5th - 9th August 2001

Andrew is currently working in Norwich and has a flat in Reedham, so we took the opportunity to spend a long weekend touring the Broads. Although not strictly 'coast', the broads (lakes) are intricately connected with the rivers and sea.

WroxhamThe shallow waters of the Norfolk Broads resulted from medieval digging for peat and are now a delightful range of 40 shallow lakes which lie beside many miles of broadland rivers. The Norfolk wherries in full sail used to dominate the waterways carrying cargo, but now the broads are used for pleasure boating and holidaymaking.

Wroxham is known as the capital of the Broads, this village is dominated by shops belonging to Roy! Just to the north we visited Hoverton Hall Gardens and the Bure Valley Light Railway.

Reedham FerryReedham has long been an important river crossing and King Edmund had his headquarters here against the Danes. It is now a boating centre. The ferry is the last chain ferry left on the Broads, carrying light vehicles over the River Yare.

Cow Tower

Norwich is a very interesting and attractive city. The streets around the centre still follow their medieval course, surrounded by the remains of the ancient city walls that were once 20 ft high and over 2 miles long. Cow Tower got its name because cows used to shelter in it.

Elm StreetThere are some lovely old streets and buildings that are continually being restored. The Bridewell Museum was once a women's prison and it focuses on Norwich life and we couldn't resist a visit to the Colman's Mustard shop in the Royal Arcade.

We went to the castle, built on an artificial mound, which has a very interesting museum and then followed a guided walk around the town. There seems to be a church on every street, although not many are being used for their original purpose these days.

Norwich CathedralThe Cathedral has a distinctive spire that dominates the skyline and is as beautiful inside as out. We were lucky enough to be there when the organ was being played, which added to the ambiance. It is surrounded by a large peaceful Close with two magnificent gateways leading back to the city. At the lower end is The River Wensum, over which Pull's Ferry operated until 1940. In the summer boat trips can be taken in and around the city.

Henry Moore at the UniversityWe decided to become cultured and went to the University to visit the Sainsbury Art Collection. There were some very interesting exhibits. The building alone has won several awards.

There is certainly an awful lot to see around this city.

Fritton Lake country park

Fritton Lake was formed from medieval peat cutting and is now a country park. We joined a mass of people enjoying 'family fun' and watched a dragon boat race. The fully licenced restaurant looked promising from the sign but was pretty basic.

The wine list was displayed on the wall



Centre of the mazeWe paid a visit to the impressive Victorian mock Tudor mansion at Somerleyton, with 12 acres of beautiful gardens. There is a particularly fine maze and we spent an awful long time trying to reach the middle. Afterwards, we found a map of it in the gift shop but that would have spoilt the fun.


Bears in car doorLike Hopton on Sea, a mile to the north, Corton is a village of holiday camps with a beach of sand and shingle. Pleasurewood Hills is an American-style theme park with more than 50 rides and a variety of side shows.

We crossed the county boundary into Suffolk.