Saturday, 28 January 2017

Hunstanton, Norfolk, UK

Mini January break to walk off the Christmas excess.  Well we were incredibly lucky with the weather, we arrived in Hunstanton around mid day to clear blue shines and warmer than usual winter sunshine.  Walking along the cliff top path from where we had parked the car, the first thing that I noticed was how the cold air was showing up the number of aircraft vapour trails criss crossing the sky.  We all know how much traffic is up in the skies these days but there is nothing like vapour trails to emphasise how much is up there.

Why is there a wolf here, we asked ourselves the same question?  It is all to do with St Edmund who ruled over East Anglia.  He landed on the shores of Hunstanton back in 855 A.D. and has been a part of Hunstanton's Heritage ever since.  The association with the wolf is to do with his family name of Wuffing (Wuffa being the old English name for Wolf).

It is also said that after St Edmunds death his followers were hunting for his head in a forest, as his head and body had been separated.  Later that night St Edmunds voice was heard calling out 'Here! Here! Following the sound of his voice they discovered a wolf crouched with the St Edmunds unharmed head resting between its legs.

Next to the wolf statue are the remains of St Edmunds Chapel constructed in 1272 in memory of St Edmund.  This view of the lighthouse framed by the south doorway of the chapel, is a classic shot.

Now we are standing looking up at the impressive, recently refurbished, lighthouse that proudly stands on the cliffs here at Old Hunstanton.  This current light house was constructed in 1840, but there had been a lighthouse on this site since 1665.  This lighthouse's claim to fame was that it had the worlds first parabolic reflector which was built here in 1776 (a parabolic is a reflective surface used to collect or project energy, such as light).  The lighhouse ceased operation in 1922 and since then has been a private residence and a holiday let.  I have been following the progress of the recent renovations of the light house for holiday let.  If you would like to see the inside follow this link

Here we can see the Trinity House coat of arms on the tower of the lighthouse with the wording 'Trinitas Nunitate'.  'Trinitas in Unitate' translated from Latin reads 'Three In One' this relates to the Holy Trinity.  Trinity House is a charity dedicated to the support and well being of shipping and seafarers.

We are now walking along the path from the lighthouse and alongside the cliff top car park down to the beach here at Old Hunstanton.  Hunstanton is made up of two halves, the village and civil parish of Old Hunstanton and the larger resort of Hunstanton or New Hunstanton.

The first thing we noticed as we stepped onto the beach was the sheer volume of Razorfish or Razor Clam shells littering the beach.  They get their common name from their resemblance to an old fashioned cut throat razor.

Hunstanton is well known for its large expanse of beach when the tide goes out and boy does it go out a long way.

January is a good time of year to spot various types of gulls and waders, although they can be a bit hard to identify without a pair of binoculars.

We have diverted of the beach to climb the sand dunes that line this part of the beach, as you reach the top you can make out Hunstanton Golf Club with a row of beach huts tucked between the golf course and the base of the dunes.

I had mentioned previously of my memories as a young child of how when the tide had gone out, how the sand was left with deep, hard ridges where the tide had moved the deep sand backwards and forwards.  Here you can see them, they seemed really hard to walk on when you were young with little feet.

The iconic cliffs here are made up of three different layers of coloured rock, Carrstone is the dark brown layer at the bottom.  It is essentially sand cemented together with iron oxide (rust). The next layer is red chalk make up of limestone, the red colour is again caused by iron staining.  The largest third layer is the white chalk made up of limestone.  Limestone forms in warm tropical climates, suggesting that the climate in this area was once much warmer than today.

You get a sense of how much of the cliffs are being eroded away from down here by the amount of rock littering the beach at the base of the cliffs.

Walking along the beach we could hear a lot of noise coming from above us and as we looked up we could see a few Common Gulls perched in the crevices of the cliffs.

The tide still seems to be going out.

Not a brilliant photo, but my first spotting of a Redshank, they are resident on the Norfolk coastline all year round.

Here at Hunstanton can be found one of the 1,000 beacons lit to celebrate the Queens 90th Birthday.

Next door to the Beacon and the Lighthouse can be found the old Coastguard Lookout Tower.  The tower was built in 1907 and was a Marconi listening post in World War I and II.  The tower is now a holiday let.

There is a plaque on the wall listing its Royal connections.

The suns starting to drop in the sky now.

It has been a beautiful day for early January and late this afternoon is no different the sea is so calm.

Unfortunately there has not been a pier jutting out to see here since 1978, however the land part still remains, all be it that it has been rebuilt a few times due to fire.  As is a favourite with British seaside towns it houses a large amusement arcade, ten pin bowling and a restaurant/bar.  There is something about walking around the amusements at night when it is riot of colour and noise from all the different machines.  The machines seem to have come full circle, when I was young the majority were fruit machines or shove penny, then they had to move over for the computer games or racing cars or motorbikes and shooting anything in sight.  Now due I guess to most families having computer games at home the fruit machines and shove penny machines are back.

Trump cars now that is something that has been about for years.

Today has not been such a nice day as yesterday, but we still managed to have a walk along the beach towards Heacham.  So rather that then landscape the morning was about bird spotting.  We managed to spot 3 species that we had not spotted before, so not a bad result.  Unfortunately the photos are not brilliant, due to distance and lighting.

The first was an Oyster Catcher these birds either over winter in the UK or remain here all year round.  They are quite distinctive with their stocky black and white bodies and orange legs and beak.

This was quite an unusual site and a first for us, a flock of what looked like Barnacle Geese, they certainly made you look up to see them with all the noise they were making as they flew over.

This wooden breaker gives you a good sense of how much the sand is moved by the tide on this beach, it has almost been buried where as it should be standing around 3 feet above the level of the sand.

This is our first ever sighting of a Bar-tailed Godwit, they breed in the Artic Tundra but overwinter along the coast lines of Europe.

A sunny July day in Hunstanton.  Here we are looking along the seafront from Heacham end of Hunstanton back towards the pier in the very distance.

Due to the rough seas and coastal erosion over the last few years this section of beach is really showing how much sand is being displaced, exposing the rocks below.

The distinctive red and white cliffs at the other end of the seafront heading towards Old Hunstanton.

As we were using the ramp to get from the seafront up to the top of the cliffs we noticed something moving in the undergrowth.  After watching for several minutes we spotted this rat.

It kept going backwards and forwards from we assume a nest with flowers that it kept gathering up one at a time.  We stood watching it for ages, lots of people passed us as we stood there but nobody else seemed to notice it.  If you look closely you can see the rat has a stem of what looks like Kidney Vetch in its mouth.

The striking blue of a stem of Viper's Bugloss part of the borage family.  The flowers go from red when in bud, to pink as they open and then this intense blue when fully open.

We have now left the wild flowers of the verges and are walking through the gardens at the top of the cliffs.  The beds area a riot of colour, here we can see the exotic looking Crocosmia, Montbrecia, belonging to the Iris family, native to Southern and Eastern Africa.

A beautiful orange/yellow Lilly with its striking brown markings at its center.

Another striking blue flower, this time the delicate head of the Spiderwort, native to the New World and introduced to Europe in the seventeenth century.

The North Sea, even on a stormy afternoon creates a lovely backdrop to the beds filled with interesting colours and shapes.

The beautiful structure of the Globe Thistle, native to Europe, Central Asia and South Africa.

(First written 4/8/14)

Last summer we had a trip to Hunstanton on the Norfolk Coast in the UK.  My family and I used to have a two week summer holiday there every year during my early childhood and I have some lovely memories of the place.  This trip was our first visit there in over 10 years as we are currently living abroad, so I was eager to see what it was like now.

Hunstanton developed as a tourist resort back in 1845 when a man named Henry Styleman Le Strange decided to develop a coastal holiday village here, with this triangular green, seen in the picture below, as its focal point.  The Golden Lion Hotel, seen in the centre of the picture, was built in the following year 1846.  Most of the buildings in and around Hunstanton, whether old or new, have lovely character, as many of the are constructed using the local brown carstone, often referred to as gingerbread stone.

The original pier was constructed in 1870, at a length of 830 feet.  The pavilion added to this new pier was constructed in the 1890's, but destroyed by fire in 1939 and was not replaced.  After World War II there was a skating rink and small zoo on the pier, a miniature steam railway ran the length of the pier but was dismantled in 1950.  The pier starred in the film 'Barnacle Bill' in 1956. During the 1960's the seaward end of the pier was no longer used and a two storey amusement building was added at the entrance in 1964.  In January 1978 most of the pier was destroyed in a storm with only a few uprights remaining in the sea.  In 2002 the entire building and the remains of the pier were destroyed by fire.  The building that can be seen today was built in 2003.

Hunstanton really came into its own as a Victorian holiday resort during the late 1800's, especially after the railway station was opened in 1862.

Famous visitors to the town included P.G. Woodhouse and H.G. Wells.

The bandstand which was constructed in 1992, adds additional interest to the green.

As I mentioned previously, I had not visited Hunstanton in over 10 years, and there were two things that struck me when I looked along the beach, the first was how much sand has disappeared from this once very sandy beach.  The sea is very tidal here, when the tide is in, it laps up against the promenade wall and when it is right out you feel like you are walking for miles to get to the waters edge.  When I was a child on this beach the sand often used to hurt your feet as you walked across it as the movement of the sea created quite deep, compacted, ridges in the sand.  Today however there is very little sand left just a lot of stones.

The other thing that struck me was how many people there were on the beach, I don't know that I have ever seen this many.  Having said this before we left the UK, we would never dream of venturing here in the height of summer as the roads were notorious for being busy and lots of delays due to the narrow roads and sheer volume of traffic.

One of the traditions that Hunstanton has held onto is the 'pony rides on the beach' (with ponies to suit all sizes).  Which it appears is as popular as ever and I have to say just as smelly as I remember.

Here you can see 'The Wash Monster', which you can take a trip on along the coastline to see the red and white striped cliffs in all there glory or head out to visit the sandbanks and Seal Island which has a population of between 100 and 500 Common Seals.

Loved this advert for a beach shoe in one of the shops.

Here is the only remains of the Victorian Railway and Station that has now been replaced with a car-park.

I wondered what the meaning of this pub name referred to.  The only thing that I have come up with is that 'Wash' referes to this area of coastline and 'Tope' means to drink alcohol to access especially on a regular basis!!

Parked along the main shopping street was this lovely JBA Motors Falcon V8  kit car, manufactured in Norwich, Norfolk.

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