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‘You don’t expect to go out for a quick dive and find a forest’ - Norfolk diver discovers prehistoric forest off the coast of Cley next the Sea

Diver Dawn Watson by one of the 10,000 year old trees found off the coast of Norfolk. Picture: Rob Spray/Geoff Robinson Photography

Diver Dawn Watson by one of the 10,000 year old trees found off the coast of Norfolk. Picture: Rob Spray/Geoff Robinson Photography

ROB SPRAY/GEOFF ROBINSON PHOTOGRAPHY.

Thousands of years ago it would have been a forest stretching for thousands of acres: a canopy of leaves and sea of green travelling as far as Europe.

Diver Dawn Watson by one of the 10,000 year old trees found off the coast of Norfolk. Picture: Rob Spray/Geoff Robinson Photography Diver Dawn Watson by one of the 10,000 year old trees found off the coast of Norfolk. Picture: Rob Spray/Geoff Robinson Photography

Now, a Norfolk diver has discovered what remains of a prehistoric forest dating back 10,000 years – just 300 metres off the north Norfolk coast.

Amateur diver Dawn Watson, 45, found the ancient oak trees while diving in the North Sea off Cley next the Sea – and described the discovery as “amazing”.

Experts believe that the lost forest, which was just eight metres under the sea, could have been hidden since the ice age – and could have been part of an enormous forest stretching as far as the continent.

The amateur diver said she was “absolutely thrilled” to have stumbled on the trees, which now form a natural reef on the sea bed and teem with vibrantly coloured fish and plants.

Diver Dawn Watson by one of the 10,000 year old trees found off the coast of Norfolk. Picture: Rob Spray/Geoff Robinson Photography Diver Dawn Watson by one of the 10,000 year old trees found off the coast of Norfolk. Picture: Rob Spray/Geoff Robinson Photography

She said: “The sea was quite rough by the shore, so I decided to dive slightly further out and after swimming over 300 metres of sand I found a long blackened ridge.

“When I looked more closely I realised it was wood and when I swam further along I started finding whole tree trunks with branches on top, which looked like they had been felled.”

It is believed the woodland was drowned when the ice caps melted and the sea level rose – and it was only last winter’s stormy weather that has revealed it.

Mrs Watson, who has been diving in the North Sea for around 16 years, added: “It was amazing to find and to think the trees had been lying there completely undiscovered for thousands of years. You certainly don’t expect to go out for a quick dive and find a forest.”

Rob Spray, Mrs Watson’s partner, has started surveying the forest with her. He said: “At one time it would have been a full-blown Tolkien-style forest, stretching for hundreds of miles.

“It would have grown and grown and in those days there would have been no one to fell it, so the forest would have been massive.

“It would have looked like a scene from The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings, which is something we don’t get in this country anymore. Geologists are very excited about it. It was a really miraculous find.”

Now, the couple, who run the Marine Conversation Society’s survey project Seasearch in East Anglia, hope that radio carbon dating can pinpoint exactly how long the forest has been there.

“We plan to do more dives so we can map the forest and get an idea of its size and scale,” Mr Spray said. “It is extremely exciting as it may be hiding lots of undiscovered fossils of mammoths and sea creatures.”

Last year an ancient forest was exposed along the Welsh coastline after storms washed away peat and exposed gnarled tree trunks on the shore.

Do you know someone who has made an unusual discovery? Let us know by emailing lauren.cope@archant.co.uk

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