The Geography Department





Happisburgh  29 June 2006


North Norfolk and Happisburgh Index




My arrival at the car park, with the ticked machine again working, revealed no great changes at the cliff's edge; the skeletal revetments and wrecked slipway all looking similar to my last visit in the winter.

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The decision to close the tea shop was just a matter of time, although erosion has made no noticeable inroads since February; a sad and sad/angry sight.

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The cliff line still recedes, although the promontory created by the scaffolding-type poles still remains, against my predictions, with its loss still likely in the next big blow.










Views from the end of the concrete path show continued erosional cameos, and the buried rip rap that makes the saying 'Too little, too late' sound a massive understatement.

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On of the best indicators of retreat is the concrete overhang; here fronting views towards the north-east from the temporary promontory.

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The rip rap is now some distance from the cliffs it was to protect.

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At low water the fine sand of the cliffs can be seen to have produced a wide sandy beach to the south of Beach Road, but not of sufficient durability to halt the erosion of the cliffs in any way.

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The wide sands of low tide are constantly being remodelled and have now been made accessible by a narrow and steep cut down to the beach.

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On the left is a few rows of last year's, uncut, crop. On the right is the new beach approach, and the best beach in Happisburgh, uncluttered by revetments, is in the centre.

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The developing bay to the south of Beach Road featuring, left, cliff falls, and overview of the beach and cliffs, and on the right the cliff-top ecology.

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The lighthouse with its attendant pillbox; centre shows the cliffs towards Cart Gap and their differential erosion ... whilst on the right is a fresh deposit of sand, windblown from the cliff face. The air was thick with this sand and the cliff top was smothered in it for several tens of metres.

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The cliffs are made of a very fine sand in this area .. as evidenced by the fly-away deposits on the cliff-top. At the meeting of the new bay with the fixed defences at Cart Gap the outflanking of the sheet steel piling has been dramatic.

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The sea is now in a good position to attack the sea wall from behind .. as it has started so to do as seen on the left.

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From a viewpoint above the outflanked sea defences the beach and cliff features are put in their place with a couple of landscape markers - the lighthouse and the church.

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The return back along the beach gives every opportunity to study erosion features, and especially the cry0-peterbed crag and clays.

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Fallen blocks continued to reveal fresh cliff faces, including this very sharp strata boundary.

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Sand in cross-bedding mode, differentially winnowed by the wind - it is so fine - and a series of sand run-outs (centre).

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The beach still contains residual outliers of basal clays, eroded more slowly than the sandy crag above. A crevasse in the beach allows  a backwater to develop at mid tide.

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The rip rap at the corner of  the Beach Road outcrop is more in evidence than on the east-facing frontage. In the centre is the present terminus of Beach Road.

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The 'scaffolding' poles are slowly being pushed aside, and their removal will lead to rapid retreat here - but I said that last trip!


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Revetment damage and the present condition of the RNLI ramp.

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The concrete debris and sheet piling on the beach continues to be degraded.

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The archaeologists



Between views of the new beach access stairs is a shot of an archaeological dig on Happisburgh beach.

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The team is a joint-universities effort to investigate early man in the British Isles. Hand axes, worked flakes of flint, have been found at other sites, notably Pakefield, which has already been investigated, and now in the Happisburgh area. With further evidence emerging, and being shown to me, such as charcoal chunks, the boundaries in time of the earliest occupation of Britain have been pushed back to 700,000 years. The glacial deposits in Happisburgh cliffs are later than this site of  human occupation - so cliff retreat is opening up a whole new level that archaeologists can exploit.


AHOB   is a portal for information about the project, and has a report on Pakefield.


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Nigel Larkin is in the  centre of the middle photograph, spoke to me about the project, and urged any members of the public who found anything on the beach, or coming out of the cliffs resembling flint flakes, or indeed anything faintly 'archaeological' to let the team know.

Nigel Larkin:
Curator of Geology, The Natural History Department,
Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service,
Norwich Castle Study Centre, Shirehall,
Market Avenue, Norwich, Norfolk. NR1 3JQ.
Telephone 01603 493645 or 01362 860915, fax: 01603 493623





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click on the banner for AHOB




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Norfolk Happisburgh Beach Road coast erosion gullying defences neglect revetments rip rap groynes beaches lighthouse sea walls lifeboat station access leisure archaeology AHOB sand tea house


North Norfolk and Happisburgh Index