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Visit Norfolk’s top 7 natural wonders: From the largest chalk reef in Europe to Blakeney Point

PUBLISHED: 15:53 03 November 2018 | UPDATED: 08:46 05 November 2018

Britain's Barrier Reef - chalk reef off the coast of Cromer and Sheringham

Britain's Barrier Reef - chalk reef off the coast of Cromer and Sheringham

Chris Taylor

Visit Norfolk is encouraging tourists to appreciate the county’s natural landscape at any time of year by identifiying our county’s seven natural wonders.

From Cromer Reef known as Britain’s Great Barrier Reef to the forests of The Brecks – Norfolk’s top seven natural wonders have been selected as sites and monuments untouched by man.

Visit Norfolk’s chief executive Pete Walters selected the seven natural wonders based on his personal knowledge and love of the natural beauty and geological history of the area.

And it is hoped that the identification of these stunning landscapes and natural features will further boost the number of visitors to the country – which currently stand at 43 million day trippers and 3.27 million staying visitors.

Visit Norfolk’s chief executive Pete Waters, said: “As well as having a fantastic tourist offering in terms of our stately homes and our visitor attractions, Norfolk actually has wonderful natural capital, formed over tens of millions of yearswhich is populated by wonderful wildlife. We have the largest seal colony in England at Blakeney Point and the longest chalk reef in the world, which is the reason we have such tasty crabs and lobsters.”

In the top seven is Cromer forest bed - part of the last land link to the continent otherwise known as dogger land - where 850,000 year old footprints were discovered as the earliest evidence of man out of the African continent.

Flint is a more unusual top seven choice. – found at Grimes Graves, it was created over 20 million years ago when the land was covered by water and was used in the building of round church towers across the county.

Mr Waters is throwing down the gauntlet with the belief that Visit Norfolk’s selection are simply the best.

And he argues that the River Wensum rather than the River Yare deserves a top seven place “Yarmouth should really be called Wensumsmouth! Who’s going to tell the good burghers of that wonderful seaside resort?”

““Nobody has said to me they can find better natural wonders. The only response I have got back about our selection is questioning why the Broads aren’t included but people don’t realise that the Broads are man made.”

“We would encourage people to put down their tablets and phones and explore Norfolk’s seven natural wonders at any time of year – although one of them involves putting on a wet suit!”

Visit Norfolk’s top 7 natural wonders

•Blakeney Point

Home to largest seal colony in the country, Blakeney Point is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It was created by a process called longshore drift where the prevailing wind and tides acting on Norfolk’s shore come from the north-east and impact directly on Cromer where the pressure is pushed west and south, over time. This moved sand and created spits across estuary mouths (in this case the River Glaven and also the Yare… hence Yare Mouth = Yarmouth).

•The Brecks

As one observer in the 1760s commented, the Brecks was‘sand and scattered gravel, a mere African desert’. Today, it includes the magnificent Thetford Forest, and huge areas of heathland, formed thousands of years ago by the felling and burning of forests for grazing land. Pingos – holes of water crated by the retreats of glaciers and a unique line of Scots pines called ‘Deal Rows.’

•Chalk Reef

Just off the coast of Cromer and Sheringham is the longest chalk reef in the world, dubbed ‘Britain’s Great Barrier Reef’.

At over 20 miles long, the 100-million year old reef is part of a chalk seam which stretches all the way to the white cliffs of Dover! The area is renowned for its crabs and lobsters which taste sweet as they feed off the reef

•River Wensum

The Wensum, which windsng through the city of Norwich and all the way up to Fakenham, that is by far the more important than the Yare.

The Wensum is the longest, biggest and most significant of 160 chalk rivers in the UK. It’s also the most protected river in Europe. The river once had fifteen mills which benefited from the gradual fall of land.

•Cromer Ridge

The highest point in all East Anglia is at Beacon Hill behind West Runton. This is the pinnacle of the Cromer Ridge, an almost 9-mile long stretch of upland caused in the last Ice Age by a terminal moraine – a glacier which left behind all the material it had dredged up in its path.

What’s also left behind is a natural adventure playground which includes Beeston Bump, a circular hill on the cliffs near Sheringham and the heathland ‘quiet lanes’ and the heights of the National Trust’s Sheringham Park.

•Flint

You can see flint everywhere particularly in the coastal cottages of north Norfolk and churches across the county. Before brick-making, it was a freely available building material, particularly when in the hands of skilled knappers.

Visit Grime’s Graves and you can see the earliest evidence of flint mining. Head down the 57-foot deep shaft and you’ll see where 4,500 years ago Neolithic people created one of Europe’s earliest industrial centres.

•Cromer Forest Bed

Created between half a million and two million years ago, the Cromer Forest Bed stretches from Weybourne all the way down to Kessingland in north Suffolk and is rich in fossils. Found here is the oldest and best preserved mammoth skeleton in the world, a 500,000 year old flint axe and 850,000 human footprints that are the earliest evidence of mankind found outside the Great Rift Valley in Africa.

This stretch of coast, which is called the Deep History Coast, was also the last piece of Britain still joined to the Continent, until as little as 7000 years ago when the link called Doggerland was finally inundated by the sea.

Click here for the Visit Norfolk website.

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