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Norfolk and Suffolk’s rich heritage is at risk from coastal erosion and flooding. Do you think we should be worried?

PUBLISHED: 07:30 17 March 2014

The sun sets by the Berney Arms windmill on the Norfolk Broads.
Photo: Denise Bradley
Copy: caption only
For: EDP Standalone/Sunday back page
©Archant Photographic 2008
01603 772434

The sun sets by the Berney Arms windmill on the Norfolk Broads. Photo: Denise Bradley Copy: caption only For: EDP Standalone/Sunday back page ©Archant Photographic 2008 01603 772434

©Archant Photographic 2008

December’s tidal surge and winter storms have taken their toll on the region’s coast, leaving heritage sites in danger.

The cliffs circling Norfolk and Suffolk have long been victim to the damaging effects of coastal erosion.

Houses and roads have been swallowed up by the crashing waves and after December’s tidal surge, at an alarming rate.

But it is not just homes that are in danger as an English Heritage report identifies where some of the region’s rich history lies exposed.

It includes the 19th-century Berney Arms windmill, on the Norfolk Broads, which is in danger of flooding from the surrounding marshes and the 18th-century Landguard Fort in Felixstowe, which is also at risk.

Peter Murphy, climate change officer for English Heritage, said a number of sites in Norfolk and Suffolk would eventually be lost.

He said: “We are losing part of our history. Quite a lot of it is inevitable, but we can make records of things before they go.”

While buildings of historical importance in towns and cities are often protected by flood defences, remote areas of the coast are often left unprotected. In line with the government’s Shoreline Management Plan, which outlines a policy of “managed realignment”, these places will eventually be left to the advancing sea.

Mr Murphy said: “I am afraid some places will go. Estimates say that in about 20 to 50 years Happisburgh Church could be gone.

“People should go out and enjoy it while they can.”

The English Heritage report said: “The eastern coast of Norfolk and the Suffolk coasts are particularly susceptible to erosion and to storm surges.

“Storm surges along this part of the coast can reach heights of two metres in extreme circumstances and surges of circa one metre in height occur several times each year.”

But while some of the region’s treasures are in danger of being lost, coastal erosion has also exposed far earlier evidence of history.

In May last year, archaeologists stumbled across a series of muddy hollows in Happisburgh which were exposed after the cliff was washed away.

After examination, it was revealed these hollows were semi-fossilised footprints left by a family group nearly one million years ago.

And in Holme-next-the-Sea, the remains of 55 oak posts placed in a circle by pre-historic man emerged at low tides in 1988, after storms swept away the peat dune covering it.

The stumps are now on display in King’s Lynn.

Are you worried about losing parts of the region’s heritage? Email our letters editor at EDPletters@archant.co.uk including your full name and contact details.

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