In the know: North Norfolk

If you’re anything like us, there’ll be plenty of things that you won’t have time to wonder about while you’re walking the coast path. But that won’t make you any less curious. So here are a few details about areas of interest that you might appreciate reading up on before you set out or when you get home.

On these pages:

Local news

The local newspaper in this area is the North Norfolk News, part of the group that owns the Eastern Daily Press and a whole host of other titles across the county. It has a Facebook page and is on Twitter as @nthnorfolknews – and here’s a few of its latest news headlines:

Seahenge

A major archaeological controversy, this. In 1998 an incredible wooden Bronze Age monument emerged out of the sea near Holme thanks to the action of shifting sands. Given its age, its construction and its location archaeologists thought it was unique and vulnerable and should be recorded and moved to safety. Local people and pagans objected with some finding the professional arguments less than convincing and arguing digging up the timbers was tantamount to destruction. The archaeologists won and, just to really put the tin hat on things, Time Team (somewhat controversial in the archaeological community themselves) got involved. Read more here:

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The Saxon Shore Forts

The Saxon Shore Forts are, confusingly enough, Roman. They are a chain of fortifications built during the third century that stretch from Portchester on the south coast right round to Brancaster in north Norfolk (Branodunum). The county boasts a second, spectacular, ruined fort at Burgh Castle (Gariannorum). They have certain similarities in construction and historians are still undecided about their purpose – was it to combat piracy? See off Viking invaders? Or act as supply bases for the Roman navy? Whatever their purpose, they’re a fascinating topic that you can read plenty more about:

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Norfolk Dialect

Forget singing postmen – this is a deadly serious business and has been the downfall of many a television producer who hasn’t bothered to do his or her homework properly. Sounding nothing whatsoever like either Westcountry or rural Berkshire, the Norfolk accent and dialect is central to the county’s identity. Quite unlike any other regional accent, Norfolk is described as more than just a way of speaking – rather it’s an outlook, a sense of humour and a way of looking at life.

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The East Coast floods of 1953

One past event has had a huge influence in shaping the present-day North Norfolk coast – the East Coast flooding disaster of 1953. In the UK 307 people were killed and around 24,000 homes flooded after a storm surge from the North Sea sent millions of gallons of seawater inland to cover approximately 100,000 hectares of land. It affected an area from Yorkshire to the East End of London. According to the Met Office: “Fifteen died in King’s Lynn and another 65 between there and Hunstanton. At Wells-next-the-Sea, a 160-ton vessel was left high and dry on the quay.” For more information on this event see the links below:

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Norfolk’s heritage and narrow-gauge railways

Norfolk seems to have suffered heavily under Beeching. As a result the county is criss-crossed with disused railway lines – and increasingly full of people seeking to reinstate services and open the lines for pleasure and as tourist attractions. As a result there’s a wealth of interest for the rail enthusiast in the county and many train journeys can be combined with footpaths to make pleasant circular journeys.

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The Rector of Stiffkey

Harold Davidson, the eponymous clergyman in the early years of the 20th century, is remembered (whether fairly or not) as a man of the cloth with slightly too well-developed an interest in coming to the aid of fallen women. When his chickens came home to roost he ran away with the fair and was killed after being mauled by a performing lion. One of those tales that prove truth is often stranger than fiction:

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The lost village of Shipden

By Norfolk standards Cromer is a mere sprig of a town. The Domesday book records two villages by the name of Shipden – one of which seems to have gone on to develop into the resort we now know. The other sank under the sea, a drowned settlement thought to be about a quarter of a mile to the north-east of the modern-day lifeboat station, which is situated at the end of the pier. It was once marked by a prominent rock called Church Rock – until a ship ran aground on it towards the end of the nineteenth century and it was blown up. Also of note here are the splendidly-restored pier and the Hotel de Paris. This was originally the seaside residence of local dignitary Lord Suffield before being converted into a hotel in 1830. These days you’re more likely to encounter a visiting coach party than Harry Handelsman. But it’s still got one of the best situations and exteriors on the entire Norfolk coast.

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Poppyland

A cautionary tale, this. Poppyland is an evocative term for an area of the north Norfolk coast around the village of Overstrand, east of Cromer. It was coined by the Daily Telegraph’s Clement Scott who wrote poems and essays describing fields of waving corn studied with innumerable poppies. Scott first visited in 1883, waxing lyrical in print about local attractions like the church tower and nearby Mill House. He introduced it to his influential friends and caught the popular imagination through his writings to such an extent that the area became a thriving tourist resort, with the aid of a new railway link – and the rural Eden Scott had discovered and documented was arguably destroyed as a result.

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Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow - Thoreau