Buoy, oh buoy - where on earth did that come from?

The mystery object washed up on a Norfolk beach, which dwarves a coastguard truck.

An enormous ship's fender has washed up at Thornham, near Hunstanton, on the Norfolk coast.

You might think whoever lost it may have noticed something missing by now, bearing in mind its collossal bulk. But HM Coastguard said so far, no-one had reported losing it.

Winds on the coast have been blowing from the north for some days, but currents around the edge of The Wash make it difficult to predict precisely where the item has come from.

'The current situation is it is on the beach near to Thornham,' a coastguard spokesman said. 'Our intention is to locate the owner of the item so they can be involved in its removal.'

Giant 40ft rubber structures - called Yokahama fenders - are used to prevent large vessels from colliding with dock structures and to keep hulls apart during ship to ship transfers of fuel between giant supertankers. Removing the fender, which is believed to have been on the beach since Saturday, could prove difficult.

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It is on the foreshore, for a start - where it is almost impossible to drive a vehicle large enough to carry it without sinking into the sand.

Locals may wonder whether the fender will become as much of a tourist attraction as the 60ft sperm whale which washed up on the shore in 2004, blocking the mouth of Thornham Harbour channel.

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Geoff Needham, from Hunstanton RNLI, said: 'I'd have thought that must be an expensive piece of equipment. Perhaps some enterprising fisherman could tow it out to sea so they could get it back.

'It's a big old object but they pulled that whale away that was in the harbour channel and that was around the same size, it ended up on the Dutch coast somewhere.'

Hunstanton-based boatman William Searle, who went to inspect the object on his amphibious pleasure craft Wash Monster, said: 'I'm not going to try and move it. It's so big they won't be able to get it on the shore unless they cut it up.

'There's no eyelet on it so we can't tow it out on the water.'

Eric Plane, managing director of Seething-based Fendercare Marine, which supplies large fenders, said: 'Since becoming aware of the fender on Thornham beach, we immediately carried out an investigation and can confirm that the fender does not belong to us.

'We are currently assisting with investigations to help establish the owner of the fender, so that it can be safely removed.'

? If you know anyone who's missing a 40ft Yokahama fender, e-mail chris.bishop@archant.co.uk.

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