The Geography Department






Happisburgh  27 March 2007


North Norfolk and Happisburgh Index




Upon arrival on site the first thing is to check the state of the tide, not having my 2007 tables yet, and then look over the northern beach. The first item of notice was the recent tearing down of a section of revetment.

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Details of the bottom of the old beach ramp, now reinforced by rip-rap, and the new revetment failure, where, curiously  there are some boulders placed.

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Continued battering of the cliff in front of the car park, and the debris at the cliff's  foot, continues to give this aspect a view of utter desolation.

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The destruction of the revetments continues, and, at this time of half-tide, wave action was  remarkably violent.

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Down on the beach there is a detail of the crumpled revetment seen earlier and, right, the remains of the heavy concrete beach access; only some vertical sections remain.

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The rear uprights of the revetments now lean backwards, to the shore; they no longer serve any purpose. New rip-rap, laid in the last two months, seems inadequate.

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Earlier, meagre quantities of rip-rap have been overwhelmed (centre), leaving the waves a free run up to the clay basement - which has resisted remarkably well!

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The stout resistance of the old scaffolding-like poles is over. The sea has cut in behind this useful deposit, and will now 'straighten the line' with rapid retreat of this promontory.

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There is now clear separation between cliff and the rusting steel, but, it should be noted, it is still in place, not dispersed, despite the assault it has suffered, and resisted!

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Around the corner, to the south, I first encountered the Volvo dumper trucks, each with several boulders to be added to protecting the southern flank of the built-up area.



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The rip-rap offers more substantial resistance than that in front of the houses, but is by no means a massive defence.

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On the left is an old access ramp for the trucks, now lost to erosion, whilst the centre photo shows the high-level route to the defences from the rock stockpile at Cart Gap. The right-hand photo indicates just how far the sands have been stripped from the clay.

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The clay layer now occupies a considerable area of beach, not just lining the base of the cliffs proper. The rock trucks use this elevated basement as a routeway when the tide is  coming in; I presume high tide stops operations altogether. The left-hand shot is of tidal pools at about 1.5 metres above the beach proper, whilst the right-hand shot shows chewed-up clay being covered by the rising tide.

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The lorries plying their trade along the beach, on their last day of this campaign at least.

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The trucks access their rock store via a badly-chewed ramp. I simply love the sand patterns they made when turning to go north along the beach.







A the end of the cliff walk is the flank of the Cart Gap permanent defences ... still eroding and  soon to cost serious money to restore. A stitch in time ...?

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The cliff top.

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The cliff-top has become fretted from recent falls of the sand layers. The clay basement and the truck tracks (centre).

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The old access ramp from the cliff-top (right), and indicators of just how far the cliff has retreated since leaving the clay basement behind ... and the path on the cliff top cut so deeply by cliff retreat.

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The protective crescent of rip-rap looks quite impressive from above and, if there are no further defences laid down, it will be interesting to see its  effects on this bay, compared with areas further south as yet unprotected.

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Back to the houses, this time from the cliff-top - showing the two rows of old and new rip-rap.

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Since my last visit on November 1, less land has been lost than I might have feared.

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The beach has become a complete muddle, with lines of rip-rap, steel poles and the steady fall of dislodged masonry from the cliff top.

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Views from the remains of the promontory, and from the track beside the semi-detached houses.


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The caravans and sheds between the car park and the cliff have been given notice to quit; the last habitation of a whole row of dwellings.

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The new rip-rap defences  are failing to protect the sandy parts of the cliff, which erode leaving a clay step. The old well, and there have been so many, is exposed and is a good, if temporary, marker of retreat.

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The base for the rip-rap operation was the car park at Cart Gap, where i discovered  just a few stones left. Upon asking if another load was coming in, I was told 'that was it'. The 6x6 trucks were, in fact, ferrying out the last few stones and one was being prepared for the low-loader  to take them away.

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Happisburgh church with an apron of daffodils -on a sunny spring day.


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There is a lot to lose, and money won't buy it back when its gone.

Norfolk Happisburgh Beach Road coast erosion gullying defences neglect revetments rip rap dumpers groynes beaches lighthouse sea walls lifeboat station church daffodils


North Norfolk and Happisburgh Index