24 pill boxes in one day - Great Yarmouth man completes Norfolk First World War trail

History enthusiast Alan Hancock, who completed a WW1 pillbox trail along along the north Norfolk coa

History enthusiast Alan Hancock, who completed a WW1 pillbox trail along along the north Norfolk coast, is presented with a certificate by district councillor Becky Palmer. The pair are pictured in front of a First World War pillbox at Aylmerton, near Cromer. Picture: Karen Bethell - Credit: Archant

For decades they have dotted our landscape, distant reminders of a time when the Norfolk coastline stood on the front line of a global conflict.

History enthusiast Alan Hancock with a First World War pillbox at Aylmerton, near Cromer. Picture: K

History enthusiast Alan Hancock with a First World War pillbox at Aylmerton, near Cromer. Picture: Karen Bethell - Credit: Archant

A century on from the First World War, a 40-mile commemorative trail was launched linking the pill boxes built at that time, along the north of our region.

Now, the route has been completed for the first time. Alan Hancock, from Great Yarmouth, set himself the challenge of completing the entire trail in a single day, taking along his partner, Angela Beck, to help track the pillboxes down.

'Because of the experiences of my grandparents, I have always been interested in the Second World War, but I didn't realise that there was still anything left standing from the First World War, so it was something that really appealed to me,' Mr Hancock said.

'Considering they are all the best part of 100 years old, I was surprised to find how well preserved the pillboxes were, although some were harder to find than others because they were covered with ivy and overgrowth.'

First World War pillbox at Bradfield. Photo: Antony Kelly

First World War pillbox at Bradfield. Photo: Antony Kelly - Credit: Archant

He set off on his quest after picking up a leaflet mapping 14 of Norfolk's 24 surviving First World War pillboxes.

The trail leaflet is part of a four-year programme of commemorative events organised by North Norfolk Council, with the help of North Norfolk WW1 Network – which is made up of representatives from local history societies and museums, parish and town councils and organisations including the Royal British Legion.

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Other events have included concerts and exhibitions, with the council setting up a First World War website and commissioning a steel poppy sculpture which has been installed outside the authority's Cromer offices,

The trail leaflet includes photographs and advice on tracking down the concrete pillboxes, which were built in pairs along the coast to provide some form of defence, should the Germans have landed here.

District councillor Becky Palmer, who is cabinet member for leisure and culture, said Mr Hancock was the first person to complete the trail.

'We are really trying to bring home the importance of commemorating World War One and it was a way of encouraging people to look at the history on their doorsteps and find out what is happening in their local area,' she added.

Setting off from Stiffkey, Mr Hancock, who works as a supermarket delivery driver, spent six hours completing the trail, by car. His challenge ended at Sea Palling's roadside pillbox, which boasts graffiti written in 1918 by the Royal Engineers who built it.

'I would certainly recommend people do the trail, even if it is just for the lovely drive along the coast,' Mr Hancock said.

To download a copy of the pillbox trail, and to find out more about North Norfolk District Council First World War events, see www.northnorfolk.org/ww1