10 ways to … celebrate our blue planet and see sea-life in Norfolk and Suffolk
PUBLISHED: 12:09 09 November 2017 | UPDATED: 15:12 09 November 2017
Fascinated by David Attenborough’s Blue Planet 2? Here are some seaside wonders around the coast of Norfolk and Suffolk.
1 Mermaids, skeletons and more
Eight-tentacled, colour-changing, ink-squirting cuttlefish; foot-high anemone; sea toads which decorate themselves with seaweed; mermaid’s glove sponge; catsharks, tiny transparent skeleton shrimps, more species of seaweed at a single site than anywhere else in the country - it all lives on the astonishing chalk reef - the longest in Europe - which is partly exposed at low tide along the north Norfolk coast.
Almost half the world’s grey seals live in the coastal waters of the UK and their fluffy white pups, born between October and January, are particularly adorable. See them off Blakeney Point and at Horsey Gap.
East Anglia’s eels spawn thousands of miles away in the Sargasso Sea. Their leaf-like offspring are carried across the Atlantic on the Gulf Stream current, drifting for up to three years before transforming into transparent glass eels. Arriving at a shore they grow into young elvers, and then mature silver eels, which can be spotted in the rivers, lakes and dykes of the Broads - before making their journey back to the mysterious Bermunda Triangle.
4 Sea Life, Great Yarmouth
See sharks, clownfish, seahorses, turtles, penguins, octopus, jellyfish and much more at the amazing aquarium on the seafront at Yarmouth.
5 Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary
Hunstanton also has sharks, clownfish, seahorses, turtles, penguins, octopus, jellyfish and more, plus seals, at its seafront aquarium.
6 Entire towns and villages lost at sea
Dunwich was once the capital of East Anglia, with an international port and population of several thousand. In the 13th and 14th century it was devastated by storms and sea surges, with hundreds of homes swept into the sea and, eventually, all eight churches overwhelmed by the waves.
The lost village of Shipden lies beneath the sea, just north of Cromer pier. A thousand years ago there were manor houses and two churches but by the 14th century the village was claimed by the sea, leaving just legends of bells being heard on stormy nights. But in 1888 a pleasure steamer ran struck one of the submerged church towers, and in the 20th century divers swam along a street, 40 feet beneath the sea.
Terns are seabirds which nest on beaches. Norfolk is home to the UK’s largest sandwich tern population with approximately 3,500 pairs, or around a quarter of the country’s total breeding population, nesting on the North Norfolk coast each year. The colony of little terns at Great Yarmouth is one of the most important in Europe and little terns also nest at sites along the Suffolk coast, including Simpson’s Saltings, near Woodbridge.
8 The flood
Lions, mammoth and people once roamed a lost land between East Anglia and Holland. The land, now submerged beneath the North Sea, is known as Doggerland, and was inundated by melting ice and rising seas after the last Ice Age. The final flood, which resulted in Britain becoming an island, is believed to have been caused by a huge tsunami around 6,200BC.
Our seabed is littered with shipwrecks dating back centuries. Some are now popular dive sites, many teem with wildlife. The Ipsolen was carrying ice from Norway to Kent when it was hit by a storm in 1897 and sunk. Wreckage occasionally reappears from beneath the sand of Sheringham beach. An official survey of undersea habitats, including wrecks, found rare mantis shrimps in eastern UK waters for the first time.
10 Treasure beneath muddy waters
Metre-long, pincered king ragworms lurk in the mud of our estuaries. Blue-legged, black and white-feathered, wading avocets are rare elsewhere, but nest on Suffolk’s only island at Havergate, near Aldeburgh, at Cley, Holme and Titchwell in Norfolk, and in winter a large roost can often be seen at Breydon Water, near Yarmouth. The Wash, the biggest bay in England, between Lincolnshire and Norfolk, harbours porpoises, sea slugs, shellfish...And the crown jewels of England, lost in marshland by King John 801 years ago, might lie nearby too.