Route details, maps, pubs, features, local history and folklore for a wide variety of walks focusing primarily on Norfolk and Suffolk

Saturday, 15 March 2014

The Aftermath of the 2013 Storm Surge - Cromer and Sheringham

Damaged Beach huts

A 6 mile beach walk to witness the damage caused by the 2013 Storm Surge at Cromer and Sheringham

Both Cromer and Sheringham bore the brunt of the storm surge on the night of December 5th 2013. Although repair work is well under way there are still the signs of what damage the sea can cause. There have also been many cliff falls along this length of coastline with the cliff faces providing a fascinating view sculptured by the weather and tides and offering multi coloured strata.

Cromer to Sheringham Beach Walk - Essential Information

Walk Statistics:

Start point
CromerView in OS Map | View in Google Map
End Point
SheringhamView in OS Map | View in Google Map
Total Walk distance
6 miles
Walk difficulty
Easy beach walk - mostly firm sand but areas of pebbles
Terrain
Mostly firm sand but areas of pebbles
Obstacles
The walk should only be done at appropriate tide conditions. Consult the Cromer tide times

Accommodation:

Cambridge House Bed and BreakfastView in OS Map | View in Google Map
Website
Description
Freindly family run sea front guest house next to the Red Lion in Cromer

Transport:

Norfolk Green - Bus Service
Service Number
Coasthopper - An excellent way to get around the North Norfolk Coast. This service provides a frequent and friendly means of transportation and some drivers provide local information and even poetry as you ride!
Timetable

Walk Data

Date of Walk
2014-02-14
Walk Time
13:30 to 15:30
Walkers
Griffmonster, Kat
Weather Conditions
Strong easterly wind with persistent drizzle and rain

Walk Notes

Even two months after the fateful night of the December storm surge, its destruction can still be witnessed. Smashed beach huts. Damaged pier. Damage to the walls along the esplanade. Repair work is being undertaken which has resulted in the closure of the western end of the Esplanade at Cromer. In this instance, with no access to the beach, it necessitated a diversion to the cliff tops with a little road walking through to East Runton where the next access to the beach can be found.

The main walk was done on a blustery Friday afternoon that had increasing amounts of persistent rain. A strong easterly wind resulted in getting soaked from behind with the front side remaining dry. Imagine that awful feeling of sitting down an a wet backside with water dribbling down the back of ones legs, yet bone dry on the front! By the time we had reached Sheringham the rain was becoming heavy and therefore we sought shelter in the Funky Mackerel cafe, a well recommended beach front facility.

By Sunday the weather had changed and this is when the photos were taken of the eastern prom and pier at Cromer.

One thing that pondered on my mind was just how much the cliffs had eroded over the years. Having regularly been taken on family holidays to this part of the world in the 1970's and frequently visiting the place ever since, I can recall the timber defences being constructed along the shore but the distance between these and the cliffs doesnt appear to have changed a great deal. It must have eroded significantly because each year there are more cliff falls and during the later 80's and 90's my parents static caravan had to be moved on several occasions because of the cliff becoming too close for comfort.

Whilst researching this particular post I did come across some interesting old photos of the area on Les Fishers Flickr photostream which are worth perusing. These show that not a huge amount has changed around these parts over the last century. One fascinating photo, entitled Coopers Cliff Cafe and Caravan site, East Runton, dating from 1948, depicts the coast from Woodhill looking towards Cromer. In this picture it is easy to see the terrace of cottages at Wyndham Park which shows a significant amount of land between the last house and the cliff. today there is just a small open space used for parking cars which gives an estimation of the amount of erosion that has occurred over the last 65 years.

Another fascinating item discovered whilst researching was that of the Sharmans Stone and Black Meg (see the features below). I think more investigation needs to be undertaken here which will no doubt happen on the next visit. The group of rocks that make up Black Meg is alleged to be the cargo of a ship which sank off the coast. I do know that my dad had related on many occasions that when he went snorkelling at low tide he would go and investigate an old wreck that lay off the coast of East Runton. I wonder whether this was that same old ship that divested its cargo to form this formation.

Looking at the OS map for 1838 also shows another stone off the coast of Sheringham which it denotes as Tailors Stone. I can find no information about this. Another piece of history which appears to have been long forgotten about.

Storm Damage

Back to the focus of this little walk and the damage sustained by the December 2013 Storm Surge. Going from Cromer to Sheringham, I have listed the damaged that is evident.

The beach huts on the eastern end of Cromer have taken a severe battering. Some lie upturned, some broken and some reduced to no more than matchwood. One remnant lies atop a pile of debris with a defiant 'We are rebuilding' painted upon it. Further along the prom are the listed Art Deco block and the adjacent chalet blocks all of which suffered damage although repair work here is ongoing and expected to be complete by Easter

The pier took a battering and although it has reopened there is repair work being undertaken to replace the timbers and repair the metal structure. This work is expected to be complete by Easter. Repairs to the cafe and box office have yet to be agreed.

Diggers and machinery litter the beach looking like big boys sandcastle building toys although these are in the serious business of refurbishing the sea defences with new steel piles being driven into the chalk bedrock along the face of the seawall.

The prom parapet wall has been ripped away in several sections with temporary metal fencing put in its place. The grassed embankment beside the walkway just west of the pier has some large gouges taken from it which are currently undergoing repair. The little fair on the prom has suffered damage and Starvin Marvins burger kiosk has gone. The last report I heard was on that night in December was when someone tweeted seeing it heading out to sea in the direction of Overstrand.

Forty chalets on the west prom were lost and these will not be replaced in the near future. This area is currently cordoned off preventing access to the beach beyond.

The cliffs throughout the distance from Cromer to Sheringham have suffered multiple falls with a large area of chalk being exposed at East Runton. The beach appears to be covered with a lot more pebbles and cliff debris than previous visits where sand was the predominant aspect of the beach. The fence that bordered the cliff top path between East and West Runton is now partly hanging in mid air with other parts of it in the rubble at the bottom of the cliff. A 'Danger Cliff Edge' sign lies half way down the cliff. There is a large outcrop of clay exposed at Beeston and falls in front of Beeston Bump that have blocked access behind the old timber sea defences. Access to Sheringham prom now has to be undertaken by climbing across the groynes to the first steps onto the prom, the slope to the beach being cordoned off on account of the metal railing being taken by the sea.

Many areas of the Sheringham prom metal safety rails have been either bent or ripped from their fixings by the sea. It is amazing to think of the force that needed to be exerted for this to happen. Further along the prom up towards the Lifeboat station, there is a section cordoned off whilst repairs are undertaken to the damages sea defences.

Defiant 'We are rebuilding'
Defiant 'We are rebuilding'

Directions

Beach walk between Cromer and Sheringham

Due to temporary works to repair the damaged prom, access to the beach is now prevented with a diversiion to the cliff top west of Cromer. This necesitates a walk along the coast road to Esat Runton where acces can be gained via East Runton Gap. The beach is only accessible at the right state of tide and caution should be followed when walking along this section. Refer to local tide tables. Access to Sheringham now involves climbing over the steep steps at the head of the groynes in front of Beeston Bump and then proceeding up the first concrete steps to the prom.

A good bus service links the two ends of this walk with services provided by Norfolk Greens Coasthopper, as well as Sanders and Konnectbus. All these pick up from opposite Sheringham Station and link back to Cromer bus station.

Damage to the prom wall
Damage to the prom wall

Pubs

Red Lion, Cromer View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Image of pub
Address
Brook Street, Cromer
Website

The hotel is situated on the cliff top above the fisherman’s beach with views across the sea and the towns Victorian Pier. The Red Lion dates from the 18th century and is one of the oldest pubs in Cromer. The current building dates from 1887 and replaced the original building extending the site with the acquisition of several fisherman's cottages on which the Assembly Rooms were built.

Accommodation, local food including Norfolk Sausages, Venison, Cromer Crab, Morston Mussels and a good ever changing range of local Norfolk ales makes this pub well worth a visit.

Review

Good food, good beer and good service. Always a good selection of Norfolk ales available and on this occasion we delighted in Winters Cloudburst, a very drinkable pint with hints of berry fruitiness and Green Jacks' Old Cock, a rich and rewarding nutty pint that was very popular, the barrel was emptied within an evening!

Bent and twisted metal fences at Sheringham
Bent and twisted metal fences at Sheringham

Features

Cromer Sea DefencesView in OS Map | View in Google Map

The concrete seawalls and structures that protect the town of Cromer have been built in various phases over the years, the earliest dating back to the 1830's. These have been maintained and repaired to provide adequate defence from the many storms that have battered this coast. Following the Storm of December 2013, works are being undertaken to both repair the damage and offer protection for 50 years of predicted sea level rise. This work will include refacing of existing walls; repairing timber groynes; improving parapet walls.

The total coast of this work is expected to be around 8 million pounds and is funded by the Environment Agency and the Regional Flood and Coastal Committee, with the day to day management being undertaken by North Norfolk Distsrcit Council.

References

West Runton to Sheringham Cliff defencesView in OS Map | View in Google Map

The defences along the coastline between West Runton and Sheringham and mere skeletons of their former structure, with repairs having stopped many years ago. These defences were constructed in 1969 and 1976 and consist of sloping timber revetment with a lattice of horizontal planks built on steel or concrete foundations which remain below beach level and attached to timber groynes. The revetments were a cheaper alternative to a solid seawall.

The revetments are designed to reduce the force of the wave without directly reflecting the energy and thus provide protection for the cliffs behind. Additionally, sediment, shingle and pebbles are thrown over the revetments by incoming waves. This becomes trapped in the area behind the structure resulting in increased depth of the beach directly in front of the cliff. The beach in front of the revetment can become eroded revealing the steel piles that form the foundations. This then becomes nothing more than a sort of seawall which takes a battering from reflection of the waves. Further erosion can undermine the entire structure resulting in collapse of the revetment.

The current policy along this section of coastline is one of 'managed retreat', whereby the defences are no longer maintained resulting in the coastline naturally evolving from the effects of weather and tide. The result of this policy can be witnessed throughout the length of the beach where the state of the defences range from general bad state of repair down to a complete collapse. Only when they become a public safety hazard are sections removed. .

References

Sharmans StoneView in OS Map | View in Google Map

Offshore, just west of East Runtons Wood Hill lies a granite boulder about 5 feet long and 3 feet above the sand. IT can only be seen on very low tides but has been in this position for centuries. It is commonly known as Sharmans Stone reputedly after Sharman Cutler, a local builder from the 18th century, who it is believed was the person who carved the inscription 'SC 1770' into the stone.

Opposite a point between Goss' Gap and Wood Hill lies a large round-backed stone (TG193432). It only appears at low water, on spring tides, half buried in the sand. Made of a hard crystalline rock it is evidently very resistant to erosion, for on its seaward side are some carved initials and a date. It says 'SC 1770' or maybe it is 1773, it is hard to tell.

References

St Georges Rock aka Black MegView in OS Map | View in Google Map

At a point about 250m out to sea and inline with East Runtons Wood Hill there are a group of rectangular blocks which can be seen at low tide poking above the water line with cormorants peching on them. On the First Series Ordnance Survey map of 1838 they are named as Black Meg although they are then excluded on the 1945 edition of the OS map. In modern times they have been referred to as St George's Rock. These are obviously not a natural occurence as they are formed from dressed stone and are probably the cargo of ship that became wrecked at this point. There is no clear evidence for this and little else is known about the stones.

References
Cliff falls looking through towards Beeston Bump
Cliff falls looking through towards Beeston Bump

Images

Below are a selection of images taken from from the photo album for this walk. Feel free to browse through these or click on any image to view a larger version in the Gallery.

Click on an image below to view the Image Gallery

Maps

Below is the route depicted on the OpenStreetMap, Ordnance Survey Map and Google Map. Links to full page versions are found in the Essential Information

Summary of Document Changes

Last Updated: ... 2016-01-15

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