Coastal erosion at Happisburgh, Norfolk
Happisburgh, on Norfolk's North Sea coast, is a village with a population of 1400 people in about 600 houses. The village contains a notable stone church dating from the 14th century, an impressive manor house, listed buildings and a famous red and white striped lighthouse (Figure 1).
Although now a coastal village, Happisburgh was once some distance from the sea, parted from the coast by the parish of Whimpwell, long since eroded away. Historic records indicate that over 250 m of land were lost between 1600 and 1850.
Figure 1 The eroding coast at Happisburgh in Norfolk.(Photo: © Mike Page)
More recently the town was affected by the tragic floods of 1953 that claimed the lives of 76 Norfolk residents. Figure 2 gives an example of the rapid coastal erosion at Happisburgh.
Coastal defences built at Happisburgh have slowed down the rate of retreat. However, large sections are now in disrepair. Sea-level rise and climate change, including increased storminess, may also increase the rate of erosion. Agriculture and tourism contribute significantly to the economy of the village and surrounding hinterland although this is threatened by the receding cliff line that, prior to the construction of a rock embankment at the northern end of the survey site, had claimed at least one property per year plus significant quantities of agricultural land.
Figure 2 Cliff top position in 2004 — this had retreated a further 20 metres in 2007. 1992 aerial photograph © Environment Agency, reproduced with kind permission of the Shoreline Management Group, (Anglian Region).
The cliffs at Happisburgh range in height from 6 to 10 m and are composed of a layer-cake sequence of several glacial tills (Figure 3), separated by beds of stratified silt, clay and sand (Hart, 1987; Lunkka, 1988; Hart, 1999; Lee, 2003). The basal unit within the stratigraphic succession at Happisburgh is the How Hill Member of the Wroxham Crag...